Myanmar's soldiers used mass rape against Rohingya women on a far wider scale than previously thought, according to two new independent reports.
- Two independent reports reveal systematic sexual assault and rape of Rohingya women by Myannmar soldiers
- Some victims as young as 14 subjected to gang rape
- Calls for tougher international approach to Myanmar
Human Rights Watch said Rohingya women reported "hundreds" of rape cases, but these were likely only a small fraction of the actual number, its survey of aid groups working in Bangladesh's refugee camps revealed.
Separately, the rights group's investigators interviewed 52 women and girls from 19 separate villages.
Twenty-nine had been raped, and every victim except one had been gang-raped.
Each victim reported they were assaulted by Myanmar's security forces, investigator Skye Wheeler said.
"All the women we spoke to were raped by men in uniform of the Myanmar security forces, almost all soldiers," she said.
Ms Wheeler said she found the testimony of one young rape victim particularly confronting.
"One girl, no more than 14 or 15, had this really bad scar on her shin and knee," the investigator said.
"She said that soldiers dragged her out of the house, tied her to a tree and around 10 of them raped her from behind.
"She was really clear and well-spoken, and had such a presence about her, and it was awful to think this happened to such a young person."
Testimonies gathered by aid group Save the Children detailed similar stories of violence and violent sexual assault.
Together the reports painted a pattern apparently repeated across numerous villages in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state, where until recently most Rohingya had lived.
Soldiers entered townships, shot or beat males, then violently attacked women and girls.
Among the victims quoted in the Save the Children report was a 16 year-old, who told aid workers that soldiers took her and two other girls into a house.
"They hit me in the face with a gun, kicked me in my chest and stamped on my arms and legs. Then I was raped by three soldiers," the girl said.
Despite also suffering broken ribs from being kicked, the adolescent had not sought medical treatment on reaching Bangladesh, telling the aid workers she felt "too ashamed".
Aid agencies have said they faced major difficulties in properly treating sexual abuse victims in the crowded camps because they were unwilling to discuss their stories in front of family, for fear of being shamed and ostracised.
World must toughen its response
The reports are expected to intensify calls for an independent investigation of the Myanmar military's vicious response to Rohingya insurgent attacks in August, which has so far driven nearly 610,000 Rohingya muslims to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Earlier in the week, the UN's special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, said sexual violence was "being commanded, orchestrated and perpetrated by the Armed Forces of Myanmar".
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was troubled by what he called the "credible" and widespread reports of atrocities after meeting Myanmar's democratic leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi and its chief of army.
Myanmar's military has previously cleared itself of any wrongdoing, in a report posted on the Facebook page of the Army's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Ms Wheeler said there was ample evidence to warrant the international community toughening its approach to Myanmar over its treatment of the Rohingya, which it terms "illegal Bengali migrants".
"UN bodies and member countries need to work together to press Myanmar to end the atrocities, ensure that those responsible are held to account," she said.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, with widespread reports of mass rape by Myanmar soldiers.
The Red Cross, UNHCR, Care, Oxfam and Save the Children are launching fresh appeals for funding, amid fears the world is moving on from this still unfolding human suffering.