Khaing Roe La |DMG
12 September, Rathedaung
Civil society organisations assisting a mother of four from Ugar village in Arakan State’s Rathedaung Township want the woman to be afforded due process under the law after she filed a lawsuit against three Myanmar Army soldiers whom she accuses of raping her.
DNA found on the body of the woman matched that of samples taken from the three men, who were in Ugar village on the day the alleged gang rape occurred, with one of the soldiers confessing to the crime, Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun from the Tatmadaw True News Information Team told RFA.
The military had previously called the claims “fabrications” meant to “mislead the public,” in a statement on July 2 following what it said was an investigation into the alleged incident.
Last week, however, the military changed its tune.
“First we conducted an internal investigation into those soldiers. They denied the allegations. But then we got other evidence that prompted further investigation. In the second investigation, one of the soldiers confessed. So we have formed a court-martial and are taking action,” Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on September 11.
Advocates for the victim are pushing for trial in civilian court, noting the lack of transparency that often accompanies military courts-martial.
“The military should reveal the names of the perpetrators and their ranks in a transparent manner,” said Daw Mya Thuzar, a lawyer from Legal Clinic Myanmar’s Arakan State branch.
“I would like to ask the military to punish the offenders in accordance with the law and transfer them to a civilian court,” she told DMG. “Only when the perpetrators are transferred to the civilian court will the rape victim see truth and justice.”
Rakhine Women’s Network chairwoman Daw Nyo Aye echoed that sentiment.
“The military confessed to the rape case as we consistently monitored them to uncover the truth. We are not satisfied with their handling of the case. We will continue monitoring the military as to how they investigate the case,” she said.
DMG phoned Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun and Brig-Gen Ye Yint Aung of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team seeking comment on the case, but they could not be reached.
“The female victim filed a case against the perpetrators at Sittwe Myoma police station, but the military said it would take action against the offenders at the court-martial,” said U Zaw Zaw Min, a Higher Grade Pleader from the Arakan Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Association. “I think it is against the direction of what people want. The case must be transferred to a civilian court in order to ensure justice for the victim.”
A Myanmar military battalion reportedly entered Ugar village at about 6 p.m. on June 29 and found the woman and her relatives hiding in a bomb shelter at their home during what the Tatmadaw described as “clearance operations” against Arakan Army troops in the area. Three soldiers threatened the woman at gunpoint and raped her in a nearby house, the victim told the media.
The victim filed a case against the three servicemen under Sections 376, 366 and 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure at Sittwe Myoma police station on July 10.