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State Violence against Women: Burma 2002

In pdf

 

REGIONAL CONSULTATION WITH THE UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

 

SRI LANKA, 30‐31 AUGUST, 2002

ORGANISED BY ASIA PACIFIC FORUM ON WOMEN, LAW AND DEVELOPMENT, LAW & SOCIETY TRUST

 

State Violence against Women: Burma 2002

REPORTED BY WOMEN’S LEAGUE OF BURMA (WLB)

 

Burma is a country which has been ruled by a series of Burman‐dominated military regimes since 1962. The Burmans are the majority ethnic group in Burma. The whole population, especially those living in the ethnic areas have long suffered from the impact of civil war, which started in 1948 shortly after the country had gained independence from the British. Suffering of women has increased in the past ten years, as the Burmese regime has intensified its militarization and anti-insurgency campaigns in the ethnic lands.

 

In this context, please let me tell you the story of Naang Hla, an ethnic Shan girl from Burma. “Naang Hla was 16 years old, had been married for 3 years, and was 7 months pregnant. She lived with her husband in a small hut on their farm near a small village in Central Shan State. In August 2001 Burmese troops from Light Infantry Battalion No. 246 came into their farm. They beat, tortured and questioned her husband. They blindfolded him with a towel and tied him to a tree. After beating him, the soldiers took Naang Hla into the hut and beat her with a stick, threatening her with their

guns. They pushed at her body and face with their guns until her nose bled. Then, even though she was seven months pregnant, they raped her, one after the other. All 10 soldiers raped her while others stood outside the hut, laughing when she cried and shouted. They had tied her husband near enough to the hut to hear everything happening to his wife. They treated her as though she were not a human being. They raped her from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. As the nightmare went on, she lost consciousness several times. When they finished with her, they took her husband away. He never came back.”

 

This kind of incident happens almost every day in the ethnic areas in Burma. Burmese soldiers show up at a village, loot the houses of anything of value, rob the villagers of their cattle and then cast their eyes on the women or girls who haven’t managed to flee in time. Next follows hours, sometimes days, even months, of individual or gang rape. The women are always threatened to be killed if they report their case to the authorities. All courts and juries are controlled by the military. Naang Hla managed to get out alive. Many don’t. Lack of legal action against the perpetrators who committed the sexual crimes, and the increased militarization in Burma have let nearly all the perpetrators in their army free. This has made the women more and more vulnerable to rape.

 

Map A shows the locations of sexual violence committed by the Burmese Army in Shan State from 1996 to 2001. The red dots indicate approximate sites of sexual violence. This information is from the recent report, Licence to Rape. It gives detailed information of the rape of an estimated 625 women and girls in the last five years. However, it is certain that the real number of women raped is much higher.

 

This is not only happening in Shan State, but also in other ethnic states of Burma.

 

Map B shows the locations of sexual assaults in Karenni, Karen and Mon States. This data is from the Karen Women’s Organization ‐‐ also a member of the Women’s League of Burma. This shows that from March 1997 to February 2002 there were reports of 28 cases of rape which occurred in Karen State. Again, these are only the cases that were reported. The youngest victim was 9 years old and the oldest was 50.

 

No. of women & girls raped: 41

No. of women under 18: 10

No. of women gang raped: 14

No. of women killed after rape: 27

 

Also, in Karenni State, the Karenni News Agency of Human Rights has reported that from 1996 to

March 2001, it received 14 reports of rape cases committed by the troops of Burmese in Karenni State.

 

No. of women and girls raped: 23

No. of women gang‐raped: 9

No. of girls under 18 (reported): 7

 

Sexual violence committed by the Burmese troops does not only happen in the areas of conflict. It is also common in the areas where ethnic armies have made ceasefire agreements with the Burmese regime. For example, in Mon State, where the main Mon armed political party, the New Mon State Party, entered into a ceasefire in 1995.

 

The information about Mon State was provided by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland,

 

From August 1997 to October 2001:

No. of women and girls raped: 25

No. of women gang‐raped: 9

No.of women tortured & raped: 8

 

The practice of rape by the Burmese Army is continuing until today. Reports of sexual abuse by the Burmese troops have been flowing in since the report “Licence to Rape” was released. There have been 6 reports of rape cases involving 7 women and girls in the last three months, after the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi on May 6, 2002, which was supposed to signal political change in Burma.

 

Recent cases after Aung San Suu Kyi was released

No. of women and girls: 7

Arakan State: 1

Karen State: 1

Karenni State: 1

Mon State: 1

Shan State: 2

Tennessarim Division: 1

 

Although the systematic rape of ethnic women has been on a widespread scale, the Burmese military regime has kept on denying all their sexual crimes until today. It has even manipulated the presence of UN agencies, ICRC and international NGOs in Shan State as evidence that the sexual crimes did not take place. In fact, most of the rapes have been taking place in areas of conflict where these agencies are not allowed to operate.

 

The Women’s League of Burma is working directly for and with the ethnic women from Burma, and we would like to request our sisters in the Asia‐Pacific region and throughout the globe to look beyond Rangoon at what is really happening in the ethnic states of Burma.

 

We need your support to stop this systematic rape in Burma. Your support is crucial for the lives of women there.

 

We deeply appreciate the support that Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy has shown us in past years by sending letters of allegation to the Burmese military regime regarding sexual and gender‐based violence against women.

 

In conclusion, we would like to make the following recommendations:

 

To Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy:

  • · To specifically use the data in the report “Licence to rape” and other data we have compiled about sexual violence committed by the Burmese military in her main report to the Commission next year.
  • · To conduct a fact‐finding mission to the Thai‐Burma border in the near future and submit a special report to the Commission for Human Rights on the issue of state violence against the women of Burma.

 

Our recommendations to the regime in Burma:

  • · To immediately implement a nationwide ceasefire in order to stop increased militarization and anti‐insurgency campaigns in the ethnic states;
  • · To begin tripartite dialogue with representatives of non‐Burman ethnic nationalities and the democratic opposition on the country’s political future
  • · To stop sexual violence against ethnic women and girls

 

Our recommendations to the Governments of countries neighbouring Burma

  • · To give protection to refugees from Burma fleeing human rights abuses including sexual violence and to allow them access to refugee camps and UNHCR and humanitarian aid agencies
  • · To give safe refuge and freedom to operate to organisations who are monitoring the issue of sexual violence committed by the regime in Burma and seeking to assist the survivors

 

Especially in the case of women from Shan State , we would like to recommend to the Royal Thai Government: To give protection to Shan civilians along the ThaiShan border by allowing them to cross the border into Thailand and to access refugee camps and UNHCR.

  • · To allow Shan asylum seekers access to humanitarian aid agencies based in Thailand.
  • · To exercise particular caution in relation to the deportation of Shan migrant workers as many are genuine refugees.
  • · To not repatriate Shan women into the hands of the Burmese army.

 

Finally, our recommendation to our sisters in the Asia Pacific and throughout the globe:

 

We urge you to organise campaigns in your countries and through your networks to support our demands for political change in Burma. We urgently need your support to protect our sisters inside Burma from the ongoing nightmare of sexual violence that they are suffering.

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