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Myanmar Rohingya Soldiers Leave Trails of Rape Crimes

It has come to light that Myanmar police forces have raped women in various Myanmar villages and Bangladesh refugee camps. The Myanmar military conducted an investigation and concluded that its soldiers had not raped Rohingya women, but Associated Press Bureau Chief for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Kristen Gelineau discovered dissenting truth. AP published anonymous stories – identifiable by first initial due to fear of death – from 21 women who shared their stories of being raped by Myanmar soldiers.

In her report, Gelineau documents sexual assaults on 29 women and girls aged 13 to 35 from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which occurred between October 2016 and September 2017. Their stories include descriptions of assailants’ uniforms and indicate that the Myanmar forces use rape as a tool of terror. Gelineau also describes how the Rohingya region of the Rakhine State does not allow journalists, which makes it nearly impossible to independently verify each woman’s report, yet she noticed patterns between each account.

Rakhine’s Minister for Border Security in the country’s northern districts, Colonel Phone Tint, denied allegations of rape during a government trip in September, The Independent reports.

“Look at those women who are making these claims – would anyone want to rape them?”

Myanmar’s rape rate increased 42 percent from 2013 to 2014.  A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, All of My Body Was Pain highlights the sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls in Burma. This report was based on 52 interviews with women in Rohingya, including 29 rape survivors, and information from 17 humanitarian organizations providing services for women and children at refugee camps. The data in this report further confirms the AP’s findings.

“Human Rights Watch has found that the violations committed by members of Burma’s security forces against the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State since August 25 amount to crimes against humanity under international law,” says the report.

The HRW also found that these uniformed soldiers raped and sexually assaulted the women and girls during attacks on villages. Furthermore, two-thirds of the survivors the HRW interviewed did not report their rape because of the negative stigma, lack of assurance for retribution, and unaffordable medical fees. All but one of these assaults were gang rapes, and the soldiers sometimes killed family members, beat and humiliated their victims, and verbally abused them.

In addition to these reports, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, told the Security Council on December 12th that every woman or girl she spoke with either endured brutal assault or witnessed sexual violence. These stories indicate violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. In light of this information, Myanmar’s representative noted the country does not condone human rights abuses and said the country would take action against offenders if the government receives concrete evidence. Patten urged the Security Council to hold perpetrators accountable, create safe conditions for survivors, and swiftly end these violent acts.

Although Myanmar officials consistently deny or overlook widespread rape in Rohingya, reports indicate the country deals with significant human rights violations and acts of violence against women and children. These atrocities will only continue if the country does not develop measures which hold these victims accountable.

Featured Image by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations on Flickr

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