Myanmar explodes in anger over police disclosure of child rape victim’s name

The Myanmar Police Force is facing backlash from a furious public after disclosing the name of the toddler-aged victim in a high-profile rape case on Thursday.

Police used the girl’s name at a press conference broadcast live on the Facebook pages of several local news outlets.

A few hours later, police posted eight photos from the investigation further identifying the child and her parents, her parent’s occupations and the family’s address.

An enraged public immediately began excoriating police in the post’s comments section. Some users reported the page for violating Facebook user policies. After about an hour, the post had disappeared.

It is unclear if it was taken down by police or removed by Facebook. A spokesperson for the police force could not be reached.

The three-year-old girl was allegedly raped on 16 May at Wisdom Hill, a private primary school in Naypyidaw. The following investigation and lawsuit quickly garnered national attention.

Across the country people rallied for the victim and her family online, slapping stickers on their cars that said “Justice for Victoria,” a slogan using a pseudonym to protect the girl’s identity that became a national campaign to raise awareness for child sexual assault more generally.

The identities of the family members have also been kept confidential.

Under Myanmar’s 2019 Child Rights Law, the identities of all underaged victims and offenders are confidential. Violations carry a maximum one-year sentence and fines.

The child’s parents are talking to legal experts while deciding how to respond, her father told Myanmar Now.

“I don’t even know what to say anymore. What are the police trying to do to our family? Why are they repeatedly hurting us?” he said.

Facebook commenters have demanded top officials be fired.

“The people with the highest responsibility for law enforcement have knowingly violated the law,” one Facebook user wrote. “Firing them is the only punishment equal to their offence.”

“Shame on you, Myanmar Police Force,” has become the case’s new rallying cry online.

Ywet Nu Aung, the victim’s lawyer, believes the decision to reveal the girl’s name came from high up in the force.

“Officers above the rank of major did this,” she told Myanmar Now. “They, themselves know if this was done on purpose or not.”

Several news outlets, including Myanmar Now, cut their live feeds of the press conference when the girl’s name was revealed.

Thousands of protestors march to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) office in Yangon on 6 July to demand justice be served in the ‘Victoria’ child rape case. (Photo: Shwe Paw Mya Tin)

Defendant discharged

Police charged the school supervisor’s 29-year-old driver, Aung Kyaw Myo—widely known as Aung Gyi—with the crime and arrested him on 30 May. The trial began in July.

After five months of hearings at the Dekkhina District Court in Naypyidaw, judges suspended the trial on Wednesday, citing a lack of evidence, though seven witnesses had yet to testify.

None of the witnesses that did testify had implicated Aung Gyi

Tun Khine, president of the Myanmar Computer Professionals Association, testified that the prosecution’s key piece of evidence, a hard disk with CCTV footage from the school, was not installed in the school’s security camera system on the day of the crime.

Aung Gyi was being held in prison while the trial was ongoing. He was released after the trial was suspended.

Many believe Aung Gyi is being scapegoated to protect the school supervisor’s two sons. The supervisor is married to a police officer.

Police on Thursday stood by their charge, complaining that judges had suspended the trial without hearing from all witnesses.

The defendant’s lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said he was happy for his client but disappointed the truth was not unveiled.

“The inability to find the real culprit is unfair to Victoria,” he told Myanmar Now.

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