Woman files rape case against three Tatmadaw soldiers

A Rakhine woman has filed a case with Sittwe police against three Tatmadaw soldiers she says gang raped her when occupying her Rathedaung township village of U Gar in June. 

The woman, a 34-year-old mother of four, said that after soldiers entered the village around 6pm on June 29 firing shots, most villagers fled. She stayed behind, she said, to protect her daughters – one of whom had just given birth six days prior. 

She said the soldiers began inspecting each house. By about 11pm four of them, hearing her daughter’s baby crying, came to inspect her house.

There was something “suspicious” about her national identity card, they told her. Then they dragged her to an empty, neighbouring home and threatened to kill her if she resisted being raped. 

“They said I could run and be shot or I could give them my body,” she told Myanmar Now. “They said they’d shoot me and call me a rebel if I tried to run. As they were threatening me, three of them began to sexually assault me.”

After the three men raped her they gave her 20,000 kyat ($14.58) and told her not to speak about what had happened, she said. Then they returned and asked to “interrogate” her 19-year-old daughter, who had just given birth. 

“They took my daughter to that house and one of the soldiers tried to rape her at knifepoint. I told my mother-in-law about my incident and begged her to prevent my daughter from going through the same thing,” the woman said. 

She said the soldiers let her daughter go when the woman’s mother-in-law came storming toward the home. 

“I’m more than willing to tell the truth since the case is filed, and so I’m sharing the truth with complete confidence,” she said.

She filed rape, abduction and criminal abettment cases on Friday, July 10 at Sittwe Police Station No.1 under sections 376, 366 and 114 of the Penal Code, respectively, according to Mya Thuzar, a friend who helped file cases. The charges carry sentences of up to ten years in prison. 

Nyo Aye of the Rakhine Women’s Network, said the woman traveled secretly through nearby villages to get to Sittwe, the state capital, fearing the soldiers might find out. 

She said several different women’s aid groups in Sittwe helped the woman file the case, and that it took several weeks to get her psychologically ready to go through with it.

The case has been filed but the woman said she is still living in terror. 

“I am worried about my safety and my family’s safety. How could we ever feel safe?” she said. “I really am scared.”

The military on July 2 called her claims “fabrications.”

It said troops hadn’t arrived in the village until around 7pm on June 30 and that they left by 8pm, camping that night in Thayet Taw, 250 metres (820 feet) north of the village. Troops returned to the village at about 6am the following morning looking for rebels, it said.

Myanmar Now was unable to reach representatives of the military’s True News Information Team or Rathedaung township security minister general Min Than for comment.

On June 23 the military announced new operations against the rebel Arakan Army (AA), which is fighting for greater autonomy in the region. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled towns and villages since. 

Between late 2018 and the announcement of the new operation, fighting between the military and the AA had already displaced more than 156,000 in the region, according to the Sittwe-based Rakhine Ethnic Congress.

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