License to Rape Rangoon scrambles for signatures
Rangoon scrambles for signatures
Burma's military government has, since early August, been forcing villagers in southern and eastern Shan State to endorse statements disclaiming charges by human rights activists that the army is employing sexual violence as a weapon of war, reports S.H.A.N. correspondent from the border.
More than a hundred village elders in the townships of Mongton, Monghsat, Kengtung and Kunhing were reported to have submitted their signatures to the statements.
"The Lord Buddha knows I didn't want to sign," said a 54 year old farmer from Kengkham whose two nieces, one 19 and the other 20, were among the raped victims when he and 60-other villagers were summoned to Kunhing, 140 miles east of Taunggyi last month. "I said I was illiterate but then the Burmese officer ordered someone to hold my hand and write my name."
Kunhing is home to battalions 246 and 524 that were reported by Shan Human Rights Foundation to have slaughtered 265 people during the height of the forced relocation campaign in 1997.
According to the sources, the
following are the number of people in each township that had signed
their endorsement under coercion:
1. Kunhing, date not available - 60
2. Monghsat, 20 August 2002 - 40
3. Mongton, 24 August 2002 - 30
4. Maeken, Mongton Township, 26 August 2002 - 15
5. Nakawngmu, Mongton Township, 28 August 2002 - 20
6. Pongpakhem, Mongton Township, 30 August 2002 - 30
7. Kengtung, date and number not available
Myanmar Times, 19-25 August, reports Dr Khin Win Shwe, member of National Committee for Women Affairs & wifeof Gen Khin Nyunt, visited Mongphyak and Kengtung 5-8 August.
Old rape case unearthed by government investigation team
Joint Investigation Team #3 formed after the whirlwind tour of Burma's No. 3 man Gen Khin Nyunt in Loilem District, 9-11 August, uncovered a rape case hushed-up by local military authorities in Laikha, 89 miles northeast of Taunggyi, according to S.H.A.N.'s insider source.
On 27 August, the team made their report to Taunggyi of their discovery as follows:
On 30 July 1997, a Private Aung Win of Company 4, Infantry Battalion 64, deserted after killing Lance Corporal Min Din and Private Thet Oo. Captain Khin Maung Toe and his unit, Company 2, was assigned to track down the deserter and bring him back. On its return, the 6 women who had been taken as guides from the village of Wan Mawn, filed a complaint to the town authorities they had been molested during the operation. Hospital records also revealed that the victims' sex organs were burnt and their pubic hairs pulled out. The affair was later suppressed at the order of Maj Hla Moe, acting Commander of IB 64, said the source.
However, the names of the women, who had taken treatment at the Laikha hospital for 5 days were not disclosed by the investigation team.
Groernnaent spokesman on 3 September confirms 3 teams were dispatched to carry out "independent investigations and it has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the allegations are entirely false."
Shans demand independent investigation
The Shan Democratic Union, an umbrella organization of the overseas Shans, yesterday issued a statement calling for the establishment of a non-partisan fact-finding commission to investigate the charges of Shan Human Rights Foundation and Shan Women's Action Network.
The SDU, pointing out that "the SHRF has been posting reports on human rights abuses, including rapes, in the Shan State every month, for well over ten years," said Rangoon authorities took notice of rapes report only after the US State Department of the United States took issue with them on the matter.
The open letter urges that the ruling military council "charge a commission of independent, neutral, credible and distinguished national and international figures to look into the matter, in a transparent manner, and with guarantees that witnesses will not be intimidated or harmed whatsoever, in any way."
Commenting on the ongoing investigations made by Rangoon, a senior member of a Shan ceasefire group told S.H.A.N., "If there were freedom in the country, people will be willing to speak out the truth." He did not elaborate.