Three soldiers who raped a woman in northern Rakhine state earlier this year were each sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labour on Friday by a military tribunal in Sittwe.
The victim, a 36-year-old woman from Uga, a village in Rathedaung township, was raped by the three soldiers on June 29. She later fled to Sittwe, where a women’s advocacy group helped her to file criminal charges with the police.
The military announced on July 2 that the reported rape was a fabrication intended to turn the public against the armed forces. Months later, however, it admitted that the soldiers had confessed to the crime and said they would be duly punished.
The military soon came under fire again, however, after it revealed the name of the victim, even as it continued to protect the identities of the perpetrators.
At the time of the rape, the victim’s village was deserted except for the woman and her daughter, who had just given birth. The rest of the village had fled when a unit of soldiers arrived, but the woman had stayed behind to take care of her daughter.
The woman was separated from her daughter and taken to another house, where she was told she would be shot as a rebel if she didn’t satisfy their needs.
“When I asked them what their needs were, they said ‘your body’. When I tried to run away, they held me down at gunpoint. Then they threatened to stab me with a knife, and they raped me,” she told Myanmar Now in an interview.
Afterwards, her assailants took her to another soldier who appeared to be of higher rank. This soldier gave her 20,000 kyat (roughly $15), which she tried to refuse but was forced to take, she said.
“Don’t let anyone know about this. If you do, we’ll kill and burn all your family members,” she recalled the higher-ranking soldier telling her.
Fifteen minutes after she returned to her home, one of the rapists returned to get her daughter, saying she needed to be interrogated.
With her mother’s help, the 19-year-old daughter escaped unharmed, and the next day, the two women fled to Sittwe with the week-old infant.