Statement by the Women’s League of Burma
High-level intimidation of Chin women activists exposes systemic impunity for military rape
The high-level intimidation of Chin women activists opposing military sexual violence shows clearly the systemic impunity protecting Burma Army rapists.
On June 10, 2014, a soldier from Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion no. 269, stationed at Razua, in Matupi Township, Chin State, attempted to rape a local Chin woman, aged 54, badly injuring her. When the police handed over the perpetrator, Myo Thura Kyaw, to the Razua military base, many local people worried that proper justice would not be served. They began questioning his whereabouts and demanding transparent prosecution under a civilian court. In a similar case last year, a soldier from the same base who had attempted to rape a 14-year-old girl was let off without punishment.
To push for justice, leaders of the Razua women’s group applied for permission to hold a peaceful protest, but were refused. Straight after this, the Burma Army Tactical Commander in Matupi, the highest military official in southern Chin State, travelled to Razua together with leading township administrators to try and put a stop to the protest. They summoned community leaders and threatened violence if there were protests, and also threatened to stop development support.
The Razua women bravely went ahead with their protest on June 23, as did communities in Matupi on June 24, but the leaders are now facing charges in Matupi for illegally holding the protests, on the orders of none other than the Chin State Chief Minister. Each week the Razua women leaders have to travel to Matupi, over a day’s journey from Razua, to register at the court while awaiting trial.
It is extremely disturbing that the backlash on these women activists has not only come from the military establishment, but also from the so-called civilian administration, from the township level right up to the Chin State parliament. This reveals clearly the continuing pervasive power of the military at every level of government in Burma, and highlights the urgent need for structural reform to curb this power, in order to protect women from military rape.
Tin Tin Nyo, General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB), said: “Changes to the 2008 Constitution must take place immediately, to remove the blanket amnesty to all former military regimes for their previous crimes, and to bring the military under civilian control. If the military remains outside the law, the women of Burma will continue to endure systematic rape committed with impunity.”
Burma signed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2014 but has clearly instigated no changes to the prevailing system of impunity.
We demand that the charges against the women and youth leaders of the protests calling for an end to sexual violence against ethnic women are dropped immediately. We also demand that all Burmese government forces withdraw from ethnic nationality areas, and reiterate our calls for the issue of military sexual violence to be addressed as a priority in the current peace negotiations. This is urgently needed to ensure the safety of women, and to begin a process of genuine peace building and political reform.
Tin Tin Nyo + 66 (0) 81 032 2882
Mai Len + 95 94 004 73167