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    Burma Military Investigates Alleged Rape of 13-Year Old Girl

    Burmese
    soldiers march during ceremonies on March 27, 2010, marking the 65th
    anniversary Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw. Soldiers from the Burma Army have
    been accused of sexual violence in the country’s border areas. (Photo: The
    Associated Press)
    By Lawi
    Weng
    January 8,
    2014
    RANGOON
    The Burmese military has launched an investigation into allegations that a
    soldier raped a 13-year-old girl in the country’s southeast, amid continued
    reports by civilians that sexual abuse by armed forces remains a dire problem
    despite political reforms.
    A soldier
    from the Burma Army’s Infantry Battalion 31 has been accused of raping the girl
    at her home in Kawzar sub-township, Mon State, while her parents were away. He
    was reportedly visiting the house to pick up dry vegetation to build thatched
    roofs for his battalion’s housing.
    The girl
    was discovered by a community leader, who brought her to a local hospital. “The
    girl told me that her hands were tied and she was raped,” he told The Irrawaddy
    on Tuesday, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. He said a
    medical examination confirmed the rape.
    The
    community leader added that the victim’s family reported the incident to their
    village head, but was threatened by the concerned battalion to keep quiet and
    given compensation of 500,000 kyats (US$500) in return for cooperation.
    The New
    Mon State Party (NMSP), the main ethnic rebel organization in Mon State, sent a
    complaint letter about the case to the state’s highest government official,
    Chief Minister Ohn Myint.
    Kyi San,
    an NMSP leader at the liaison office in the state capital Moulmein, said the
    southeast regional command of the government military had launched an
    investigation.
    “We heard
    the colonel general staff officer is traveling to begin an investigation today
    in southern Ye, he said, referring to the township where the girl lives.
    The
    government army and local authorities, including the police, have been accused
    of 127 cases of sexual abuse over the past 15 years in Kawzar sub-township
    alone, according to the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM).
    Only one
    former military colonel has been punished, the rights group said, citing a
    colonel who was notorious for crimes against ethnic Mon and Karen women and
    girls.
    These
    allegations mirror similar reports of rape in many of Burma’s frontier areas,
    which saw decades of conflict between the government army and ethnic armed
    groups under the former military regime. Rights activists say women have been
    routinely raped by government soldiers, and less frequently by rebel soldiers.
    Despite
    political reforms and ceasefires with most major rebel groups, the Mon human
    rights foundation said the military had failed to change its practices.
    Although the NMSP has signed a ceasefire and hostilities have largely died
    down, reports of sexual abuse continue in areas where troops are stationed to
    secure new development projects in the resource-rich state.
    “Sexual
    abuse of underage children should warrant a major punishment,” said Aue Mon,
    coordinator of the human rights documentation program for HURFOM. “There should
    not be impunity for this type of crime, or it will set a precedent that allows
    more sexual abuse by the military.”

    He added,
    “It will be difficult to build trust between the army and civilians if the
    military continues to act with impunity. It will be difficult to build trust
    between the army and ethnic people in the country.”