Myanmar army uses rape as weapon of war - WLB | Asia Pacific

Myanmar army uses rape as weapon of war - WLB

Myanmar army uses rape as weapon of war - WLB

Updated 16 January 2014, 12:37 AEDT

Myanmar's military has again been accused of using rape as a 'weapon of war' in the country's ethnic regions.

A report by the Thailand-based Women's League of Burma says it's documented more than 100 cases since the 2010 civilian elections.

Myanmar has denied its Tatmadaw (military) is using rape as a means of war, with a presidential spokesman saying if soldiers committed rape, effective action would be taken against them.

However, the WLB says the military culture of impunity has not changed.

The WLB based its report on incidents documented by the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, the Shan Women's Action Network, the Karen Women's Organisation and the Karen Human Rights Group.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Naw Wah Kushee, joint general-secretary of the Women's League of Burma

WAH KUSHEE: In this report we gathered the information collected by our member organisations, which focusses on the sexual violence by the army since the 2010 election. We documented 104 women subjected to sexual violence by the Burma army.

The cases involved 59 women in Kachin state, 35 women in Shan state and 9 women in Karen state. So most of the cases are linked to the military offensives in Kachin and other states in 2011. The incidents took place nearly in every ethnic areas, where conflicts are taking place - for example, in Kachin state, where the offensive is going on, and in Karen state. These are only three areas that we covered so far, but there are other areas. So in this report, we have only 104 cases from the three states.

LAM: So is the violence mainly perpetrated against tribal groups in remote parts of Myanmar?

WAH KUSHEE: We can see sexual not only in one area, it's nationwide, mostly in yes, ethnic areas where armed conflict is taking place. And also, soldiers who raped women, they won't get any punishment and they continue to do it with impunity. Most of the cases are also committed by the military top officers - so this is why there is no punishment for those who rape women and this system of impunity continues, even after the new government has taken over.

LAM: So you're saying these incidents are not isolated or random ones, that there is a culture of rape in the Myanmar military, where soldiers act with impunity?

WAH KUSHEE: Yes. Because soldier who raped women never get the punishment and they continue to do it with impunity, even after the (2010) elections and the new government has taken over.

Ten years ago, we released a report named 'System of Impunity' - a report about sexual crimes committed by the Burma army in ethnic areas. And we called for an end to the system of impunity. But again, today, we want to point out that sexual violence is happening in Burma, under the new government, since 2010 elections. So the same things continue, we don't see much change because the women of Burma continue suffering, even under this government.

LAM: And your report says the Myanmar is still using rape as a weapon of war - can you explain that, please?

WAH KUSHEE: Yes. Because when women are raped, they're also isolated in the community, there is a stigma. The women, after they were raped, they become traumatised, like mentally traumatised, and they're looked down in the community. It's not in one area or one state. It's happening in different ethnic areas. So, they try to terrorise, intimidate women, so that the women won't be able to support or dare to support the ethnic armed groups.

From our documentation, we also found that women were also raped they were accused of supporting the armed groups. This is why they're using this to terrorise and intimidate the ethnic women. And they're using it mostly in the conflict areas.

LAM: The Myanmar military has responded to your report - it says it's not official policy to use to rape as means of war - and if they're any rape cases, they should be reported and the military will take action. As far as you know, is that happening?

WAH KUSHEE: Our organisation and member organisations have published more than five reports on sexual and when we went to the UN, we gave information, but no investigation was made.

The military officers themselves rape the women, which encourage soldiers to do the same thing.

LAM: What would you like the international community to do?

WAH KUSHEE: To establish genuine democracy in Burma and the government has to acknowledge responsibility for the past human rights abuses, to end the long suffering of the women of Burma.

And also judicial independence has to be guaranteed by the Constitution and the judicial system needs to be reformed. Until the military is placed under civilian control through a constitutional amendment, these kinds of sexual abuses against ethnic women will not stop. This is why we'd like to request the international community, to pressure their government, to review their engagement with the military regime, and at the same time, also continue support those who're doing this kind of work (NGOs and civil society groups), who continue fighting for their (the women's) rights.

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