The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) is extremely concerned as reports are emerging of Burmese soldiers raping Rohingya women in Maungdaw as part of a crackdown on the city in response to an attack on the border police earlier in the month. At least ten cases of rape against Rohingya women have been documented by civilians in Maungdaw since the army entered the city. These reports, while difficult to independently verify, contain strong evidence and beg for further investigation. The BHRN was able to interview one woman who claims to have been beaten and gang raped by two Burmese soldiers while she was 3 months pregnant on the 11th of October. The rape and assault resulted in miscarriage, which was reported by a doctor who examined her inside Bangladesh, where she managed to flee when BHRN interviewed her.
“The Burmese government was the 150th country to sign the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, but has failed to even attempt to fulfil this agreement. This issue is not new to Myanmar, and yet it has never been adequately addressed. The Burmese government is deliberately violating international law and committing crimes that it promised the world they would refrain from,” explained Kyaw Win of BHRN.
The woman, whose identity is being withheld, stated that she was in her village in Maungdaw on the 11th of October when 30-40 soldiers entered. The name of her village is also being withheld to avoid making her identifiable. Her husband, along with the other men in the village had fled at this time, reportedly fearing mass arrests and torture of soldier-aged males by the Burmese police and military. She said that two of the soldiers entered her house and became aggressive towards her. She asked them to leave and they beat her with sticks and also punched and kicked her. As the soldiers made clear they intended to rape her she begged them to stop and informed them that she was three months pregnant. She said the soldiers then raped her brutally and left. A few days later a rumor spread that the army would be returning to the village and she fled along with a small group of Rohingya civilians to Bangladesh. She has since been taken in by locals in an undisclosed location and a doctor has examined her, corroborating that she had been raped, beaten, and that these events resulted in miscarriage.
In light of this evidence it appears the Burmese army is in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1820, regarding the protection of women and girls in conflict zones. Reports indicate that the Burmese army is giving impunity to soldiers who are committing sexual assault and raping women. The use of rape in war is considered a Crime Against Humanity and in clear violation of Rome Statute Article 7(1), The Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Article 3, and The Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Article 5. As these reports emerge it is imperative that the international community take them seriously and seek to investigate them as such.
As the crackdown and military presence in Maungdaw continues the BHRN is concerned that reports like this will continue to surface unless the matter is properly addressed by the Burmese Government and Military from the top down.
The BHRN calls upon the Myanmar Government to investigate all claims of sexual assault, torture, and rape by Burmese soldiers and hold all responsible parties accountable. The BHRN also calls on the Burmese Government and military to allow all aid into Maungdaw, as well as access to journalists and NGOs, so that unnecessary suffering can be ended and all future events can be monitored transparently. The use of sexual abuse and rape as a weapon in times of war and conflict has been an unfortunately common occurrence in Myanmar, and without being properly addressed it will only continue – horrifically damaging the lives of innocent women and men who are victims of rape and sexual assault and drawing concerns about the credibility of human rights reform within Myanmar.