7. Rights of Women

 

7.1 Background

 

Although the military regime became a party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW) in 1997, it has made no serious commitment to improving the lives of the women of Burma. While the SPDC claims that women’s status in Burma remains one of the highest in the world, UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro warned that Burma is indeed in violation of fulfilling some CEDAW articles. Widespread poverty disproportionately affects women, particularly as they do not receive equal pay for equal work. In addition, at the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy proclaimed, “Violence against women by the State remains the most serious problem faced by women in Myanmar,” (source: "Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women," Fifty ninth session of the Commission on Human Rights, United Nations Economic and Social Council, Agenda Item 12 (a), 27 February 2003).

 

Women in non-Burman ethnic nationality areas are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses and suffer the worst abuse and discrimination.  Health care, including access to family planning methods, and education are severely underdeveloped in these areas. Female illiteracy rates in conflict and remote areas are estimated at between 70-80%. Ethnic women are subject to forced relocations, forced labor, forced portering in war zones, and physical, mental, and sexual abuses. Forced marriage has also been known to occur after a soldier rapes a woman or to secure more loyalty to the SPDC, especially if a woman is from an influential family. Women in conflict areas are so vulnerable to abuse that they may feel they have no choice but to flee, becoming refugees or migrants.

 

Women in Politics

 

Although Burma signed the UN Convention on Political Rights in 1954, males dominate the Burmese political sphere and women continue to be denied full political participation. As girls frequently receive less educational opportunities than boys and are perceived as less intellectually capable, cultural gender stereotypes prevent women from participating in politics. Since 1962, the number of women reaching high-level positions in their careers has declined, and as women are barred from serving in the military, they are effectively blocked from all positions of leadership in the country. There are no women in the SPDC Cabinet, no female ministers, and only one female director general. Even within the state sponsored “women’s committees” women are disproportionately represented. For example, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the National Women’s Affairs Committee are both men and 16 of the 32 members are men. State/division, district, and township level committees are all chaired by men, with the second-level position commonly held by the chairman’s wife.  If women do achieve a political position with some decision-making abilities, it is often because of the influence of their husbands or male relatives. Within local village government, sticking to tradition, most authority figures such as village heads and village council members are men. NLD General Secretary Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explains, “Our women are rarely allowed to achieve decision-making positions even though they are able and well qualified. This means they are neither assured of their right to security nor their right to shape their own destiny.”

 

Many women voiced their desire for democratic change by taking to the streets in protest of the military dictatorship during the pro-democracy uprising of 1988.  During the violent suppression of peaceful protesters, hundreds of women were gunned down in the streets of Rangoon and other towns.  Several women, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of the NLD, rose to prominent political leadership roles in the independent political parties that were formed soon afterwards. 16 female MPs, out of the 485 who were democratically elected to Parliament in the 1990 elections, continue to be denied the ability to carry out their mandate by the SPDC. Since that time, women continue to be systematically harassed, interrogated, and detained for their political beliefs and activities. In June 2003, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand based Burmese activist group, reported that at least 71 women were incarcerated as political prisoners (source: AAPP, 2003). Women in prison face sexual abuse and rape at the hands of the military authorities. Even wives and mothers of male political prisoners have been harassed by Military Intelligence and are left solely bearing the financial responsibility of their family in the absence of their husbands and sons. (Source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003)

 

On 30 May 2003, the government sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), police, soldiers, and hired thugs attacked Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD, and hundreds of their supporters during a peaceful organizing trip in Upper Burma. The SPDC reported that four people were killed and 50 people injured while unofficial sources indicate that the numbers were higher. The confrontation has come to be known as the “Depayin Massacre” or “Black Friday” and there is sufficient evidence which indicates that the attack was well planned and organized by the SPDC and other state authorized parties. During the attack, female supporters were stripped of their clothes, robbed of their valuables, brutally beaten, and some even raped. Eyewitness testimonies reveal that the attackers screamed such derogatory statements as, “Those of you women who have destroyed our race! Those who want to make Kala their husbands! Come and make us your own husbands before you choose the Kala as you husbands!” Kala is a derogatory term used to refer to people of Indian or Muslim decent. In this case, it is a an insult referring to foreigners as the SPDC has often tried to cast a negative light on Aung San Suu Kyi’s marriage to a British man, Michael Aris (source: The Second Preliminary Report, The Ad Hoc Commission on Depayin Massacre (Burma)). Aung San Suu Kyi was re-arrested by the SPDC, as were more than 200 other NLD members including NLD Deputy Chairman U Tin Oo. NLD offices were forced to close and arrests continued after the attacks. At the same time, the attacks illustrated the SPDC’s lack of interest and willingness to enter into a peaceful and meaningful dialogue with the opposition that would bring about democratic change in Burma. (Source: Briefing: Black Friday and The Crackdown on the NLD, ALTSEAN, 24 July 2003)

 

On 16 June, the Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) urged Burma’s Foreign Minister U Win Aung to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from detention as soon as possible. Various human rights organizations and international governments called for an independent inquiry into the events of 30 May. Yet, the SPDC failed to respond and continued to crackdown on the democracy movement throughout the rest of the year. The crackdown included a propaganda campaign in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal character was targeted and she was called a “willful and hard headed person liable to rash judgements followed by blind action,” (source: “Daw Suu Kyi, the NLD Party and Our Ray of Hope (Part 1),” New Light of Myanmar, 5 July 2003). The SPDC claimed that Aung San Suu Kyi had been taken into "protective custody" and would be released as soon as peaceful environment reemerged in the country. Yet, over a year after the event, at the time of this report, the SPDC had failed to release her or to conduct a transparent investigation into the events of the 30 May. (Source: “WLB's Statement on the Occasion of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday,” Women's League of Burma, 19 June 2003)

 

In 2003, women appeared to be taking more leadership roles in pro-democracy groups. In July, a female candidate received the second highest number of votes for the position of chairperson of the Network for Democracy and Development (NDD). At least 30% of the leadership roles in the organization are filled by women, according to NDD. The Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) has also set a goal to fill at least a third of their leadership roles with women for an upcoming conference. While women’s participation in powerful positions within political parties of the opposition movement is marginally better, there still needs to be a concerted effort on all sides to allow those women who are qualified to fully participate in shaping the political destiny of Burma. (Source: Under Pressure, ALTSEAN, July 2003).

 

7.2 Health of Women from Burma

 

The SPDC allocates the majority of State resources to the maintenance of its armed forces which has resulted in inadequate healthcare services for the people of Burma. In turn, women’s access to healthcare is also alarmingly low. Statistics for 2002 indicated that the SPDC spent less than 1% of the GDP on education and health. Women do not have a significant presence in the decision-making bodies of the government, which has resulted in a total lack of consideration of women’s health issues, such as cancer of the uterus and ovaries, osteoporosis and family planning. Mental health issues, such as counseling services for victims of domestic and sexual violence are also not considered by government officials. Cultural taboos and strict government control over the flow of information impede discussion and education about sex or women’s health issues. A report by UNICEF-Myanmar identifies the underlying causes of illness and death among women as lack of “security, access to basic health services, quality of health services, and family and community awareness and participation.” Moreover, a UNICEF – Myanmar report in 2001 indicated that there was only one basic health worker for every 3,400 persons, which translates to 1 health worker for every 4 villages. Because of high costs and the poor quality of care provided at hospitals, most villagers end up relying on traditional healers or volunteer health workers who have limited knowledge and training. Although public hospitals are supposed to be free, in practice patients have to purchase their medications and medical equipment when they go for treatment. It has also been widely reported that patients may have to supplement doctors’ meager incomes with bribes if they are to receive adequate attention and care. As the main provider of birth spacing services and contraception is the high cost private healthcare sector located in urban centers, many women are unable to access this important service. According to a UNICEF report, at least 35% of the population does not have access to reproductive health services. The cost of birth delivery in a hospital has been estimated at 450,000 kyat, which is beyond the reach of most women (a teacher’s monthly salary is approximately 6,000 kyat) (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003).

 

The majority of women do not have access to the technology that screens for breast and cervical cancer, endometriosis or other illnesses that specifically affect women. Nearly 25% of women have no access to antenatal care, with women in rural areas being disproportionately affected, resulting in poor health for both mothers and their babies. Between 70 and 80% of mothers give birth at home, assisted by midwives or traditional birth attendants. Maternal mortality is one of the highest in South East Asia, with approximately 580 deaths per 100,000 live births.  More than half of these deaths take place far from any public health institution, yet over a third take place within public hospitals and clinics due to the lack of equipment to deal with possible complications. Even in public hospitals, midwives often carry out the deliveries (source: Grumiau, Samuel, “Growing Up Under the Burmese Dictatorship," International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, August 2003). The prenatal mortality rate for the babies of adolescent girls is 46-67 per 1000 births, which is twice that of mature women.  The United Nations Population Fund has estimated that 57% of maternal deaths take place at home. This is due to the lack of access to healthcare facilities, the high cost of services, and unsafe abortions (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003).

 

Although more than 20% of women in Burma need birth spacing services in order to protect their own health and limit their families’ size, birth spacing services and contraceptives are available in less than half of Burma’s townships.  As the SPDC continues to restrict the flow of information and fails to provide sexual and reproductive health information to its citizens, women’s knowledge of contraception is limited to their own experiences and that of women in their communities. It has been estimated that only 28% of fertile-age women in Burma use a modern method of contraception, in comparison with 72% of women in neighboring Thailand (source: Belton, Suzanne and Cynthia Maung, “Fertility and Abortion: Burmese Women’s Health on the Thai-Burma Border," Forced Migration Review, January 2004). Few people in Burma use condoms because of costs and social taboos. If a woman is found in possession of a condom she can be charged with prostitution, as it is a common misconception that only sex workers use condoms (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003).

 

Abortion remains illegal, even in cases of rape or incest. Despite this, it has been estimated that unsafe abortions account for 50% of maternal deaths (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003). Burma’s health department ranks abortion as the third main cause of illness, and complications arising from abortions comprise 20% of all hospital admissions (source: Belton, Suzanne and Cynthia Maung, “Fertility and Abortion: Burmese Women’s Health on the Thai-Burma Border," January 2004). Abortions do occur in hospitals, but more often than not women seek the help of untrained practitioners. Women use a variety of methods to induce abortion, including ingestion of large doses of traditional herbs to cause menstruation and deep abdominal massages. Often foreign objects such as sticks, bamboo or other objects are inserted into the vagina. Infections and other complications are highly common leading to infertility or death. Approximately 750,000 abortions are known to occur per year and roughly 14% of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 have had at least one abortion during their married lives. To add to these numbers, post-abortion contraception is usually not provided at hospitals and subsequent abortions are not uncommon (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003).

 

In ethnic minority areas, such as the ethnic border states, there is significantly less access to healthcare than in major urban centers. Women in rural ethnic areas also face the dangers of ongoing armed conflict between ethnic rebel groups and government armed forces which often thwart their movement and abilities to access the existing health care services. In a 2003 report, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions reported that the border regions contain one hospital for every 132,500 inhabitants and one rural health center for 221,000 people (source: Grumiau, Samuel, “Growing Up Under the Burmese Dictatorship,” International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, August 2003). The Women’s League of Burma has reported that in some areas 7 out of 10 women have swollen thyroid glands (goiter), which is easily preventable and treatable. In the remote ethnic Chin State, 80% of women suffer from gynecological problems (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003). Women who are on the run or in relocation sites, suffer from exposure to the elements, lack of clean water and sanitation, not enough food and no medicine, and are thus more likely to contract diseases such as malaria, anemia, hepatitis and dysentery.

 

HIV/ AIDS

 

HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections continue to be a serious threat to the health and safety of women in Burma. High mobility, sex work, trafficking, low utilization of contraception, and a lack of perception of risk all contribute to the growing rise in HIV/AIDS infection. While Burma's health minister claimed, in 2003, that 180,000 people were currently infected with AIDS, UNAIDS estimated the figure was between 170,000 and 420,000. However, researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health indicated that using a "conservative approach" as many as 832,100 individuals could be HIV positive (source: “AIDS in Burma 2003," Irrawaddy, December 2003). The Government has begun to take action on AIDS prevention and education, yet many obstacles remain to the proper dissemination of information, such as language. A member of SWAN (Shan Women Action Network) explained, “The government sends employees to the villages of the Shan people to talk about AIDS. One person from each household must attend these presentations, but they are given in Burmese.” As the Shan language is completely different than Burmese, many villagers may not even understand such discussions (source: Grumiau, Samuel, Growing Up Under the Burmese Dictatorship, ICFTU, August 2003). The ethnic areas of Shan and Kachin State are among the highest prevalence zones of HIV/AIDS infection and one source estimated that up to 65% of sex workers in Shan State are possibly infected with HIV (source: Free Burma Rangers, June 2003).

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that government repression and a lack of honesty about infection rates encourages the spread of HIV infections. The WHO has criticized the SPDC for failing to provide prevention programs for prostitutes and their clients, because its official policy is that men are faithful to their wives (source: Arrested, ALTSEAN, April 2003). As the restricted flow of information in Burma continues to hurt prevention and care efforts, the SPDC does not always give out accurate information about HIV/AIDS and has been known to manipulate awareness campaigns for their own benefit. Women in Karen State have reportedly been told that if they leave Burma they will contract the disease, in order to prevent women from seeking refuge in neighboring countries (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003).

 

Cultural taboos also contribute to the lack of HIV/AIDS knowledge among the populace. HIV/AIDS education is targeted towards married women, leaving many young women and girls uninformed and at greater risk of transmission. While premarital sex occurs, it is culturally unacceptable causing single women to be unlikely to seek out information or condoms for fear of being shamed. In research conducted in the Tak province of Thailand among Burmese migrant workers, it was found that less than 15% of married women had ever seen a condom. Even fewer knew how to use one properly (source: “AIDS Takes the Backseat in Burma: An Interview with Chris Beyrer," Irrawaddy, 20 July 2004). The World Health Organization has said women “...feel subservient; they feel as if they are not trained and have the type of support system that will allow them to speak out. Most don’t feel empowered to insist on condom use,” (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003).

 

There continues to be a deep-rooted attitude that anyone who suffers from HIV/ AIDS has brought the condition upon themselves and does not deserve help. Vicky Bowman, the British Ambassador to Burma, noted in an interview with the Irrawaddy magazine, “I wonder if most people in Burma know, however, that the main cause of HIV infection for Burmese women is being married, whether to a drug user, or to a man who has been with high-risk groups like sex workers, either here or overseas.” Both de-stigmatization and compassion are still needed to fight the disease in Burma. (Source: “An Interview with Vicky Bowman: The British Solution," Irrawaddy, Vol. 11. No.4, May 2003)

 

7.3 Women and Forced Labor

 

Burma ratified Article 11 of the ILO convention No.29 in 1955; the article states that the use of compulsory labor must be confined to males between the ages of 18 and 45 and only used under very limited circumstances. In addition, the SPDC passed a law in October 2000 banning forced labor under Section 374 of the Penal Code. Despite these laws, the SPDC not only continues to use forced labor but does not hesitate to use women in all kinds of forced labor, such as building railways, hydro-electric dams, building and maintaining military supply roads, digging ditches, breaking stones and portering for troops in war zones. As forced labor is particularly prevalent in rural areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, ethnic women are routinely taken for forced labor duties, including teenage girls.  It is common for households to send women to fulfill forced labor quota requirements if the men in the household are busy doing other work, such as farming, that is critical to a family’s survival.

 

Forced labor, in particular forced portering, puts women at great risk of sexual violence. It is common practice for military troops to use female porters as “comfort women," in which after hauling heavy military equipment during the day women are raped by troops at night. If a woman tries to escape such a situation she risks being starved, beaten, tortured, or killed. In addition to being vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse during forced labor, women most often do not receive adequate food, water or medical treatment. This combined with the physical strain of forced labor puts their health at risk. Women who are pregnant are not exempt from forced labor assignments. Generally it is possible for people to pay another person to go in their place, but women who cannot afford to do so must risk their own health and that of their unborn child to carry out what are often arduous tasks. (Please see chapter on forced labor for more information.)

 

Women and Forced Labor - Partial List of Incidents for 2003

 

Karen State

 

On 13 March 2003 SPDC troops from LIB 599 demanded 600 porters, both male and female, to carry military food supplies to Ko La Wah Lu camp in Mon Township, Karen State. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 2 June 2003, SPDC troops from IB 92, based in Kaw Thay Der, Kler Lar of Tantabin Paw Ta Tu Township in Toungoo District, forcibly seized 250 villagers including men, women and children.  The villagers were forced to porter for the military and carry the troops’ food rations from Kler Lar up to Tha Aye Hta and Wah Soe village, where their frontline camp was located. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 11 June 2003, combined SPDC troops from IB 92, led by Win Htun, and IB 39, led by Win Soe, forcibly seized villagers from Wathokho, in Tantabin (Tawtatoo) Township. The villagers, numbering 29 people, including 4 women, were subsequently forced to carry items for the SPDC troops to Tha Aye Hta and Wah Soe, where their camp on the Karenni State border was located. The 4 women were:

 

(1) Naw Poe Wah with her suckling baby;

(2) Naw Eh Moo Say Lay Wah with her suckling baby;

(3) Naw Moo Paw with her suckling baby; and

(4) Naw Lah Moo with her suckling baby.

 

The SPDC troop’s (Sa Ba Ha) military strategy, in order to control (Ta Pa Ka) Southern Command, included forcibly collecting 200 porters from the villages in the Kler La area and forcing the villagers to carry things from Tha Aye Hta up to their front line camp on the Karenni State border at Pimukho. As the villagers were forced to continuously carry things back and forth from Kler La to Pimuhta, some could no longer bear the abuse and managed to escape by fleeing to the Wah Soe area. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 9 July 2003, SPDC troops, from IB 92 base in Kaw Thay Der and led by warrant officer Htun Wae, forcibly collected villagers from Kaw Thay Der village in Tantabin Township of Taungoo District and ordered them to carry their military ammunition up to their frontline camp at Naw Soe. The female villagers included:

 

(1) Naw Ma, age 30;

(2) Naw Ah Sei, age 26;

(3) Naw S'pyah, age 15;

(4) Naw Sheh Ni, age 21;

(5) Naw Sa Ri, age 13; and

(6) Naw Moo Paw, age 15. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 23 July 2003, SPDC troops IB 29, led by Warrant Officer Htun Wai, forced Kaw Thay Der villagers to carry military supplies to Naw Soe, Htaw Ta Tu Township, Toungoo District, in Karen State. Those villagers included the following women:

 

(1) Naw Blu Doh, age 23;

(2) Naw Mer Poe, age 25;

(3) Naw Sa Gay, age 28;

(4) Naw Eh Dee, age 19; 

(5) Naw Htoo Lweh, age 18; and

(6) Naw Neh Ni, age 23.

 

In the same day this troop again forcibly collected 47 porters, both men and women, in Kaw Thay Der village and ordered them to build a fence for their camp. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 10 September 2003, SPDC troops from IB 26 base in Kaw Thay Der, led by Officer Htun Kyaing, forced 5 women and 2 men from Kaw Thay Der village in Htaw Ta Htoo Township of Taw Oo District to porter military equipment up to their Naw Soe camp. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 13 September 2003, the same troop (IB 26) and Officer Htun Kyaing again forced 4 women villagers from Kaw Thay Der to carry their military equipment up to their Naw Soe camp. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 15 October 2003, a group of SPDC troops, from IB 73 and headed by Officer Aung Nyunt Win, forcibly ordered 6 women and 14 men from Hoo Mu Der village in Taw Ta Htoo Township of Taw Oo District to do construction work at their military camp.  That same day the troop also forced 4 women and 11 men from Klaw Mi Der village to carry their military food supplies up to Pet Let Wa. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 29 October 2003, the same SPDC troops, from IB 73, based in Klaw Mi Der village in Taw Ta Htoo Township of Taw Oo District, and led by officer Aung Nyo Win, demanded 10 villagers from Hoo Mu Der village, including 8 men and 2 women, to cut bamboo for them. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 1 November 2003, SPDC troops from IB 73 base in Klaw Mi Der of Htaw Ta Htoo Township in Taw Oo District, commanded by Major Aung Nyunt Win, forcibly collected women and children from Kheh Der, Hu Mu Der, Ler Kla Der and Klaw Mi Der villages. The villagers were ordered to contribute labor for the reconstruction of the Klaw Mi Der and Peh Leh Wah military base camps. At the same time, this troop forcibly extorted 12,000 kyat each month from the 4 villages of Kheh Der, Hoo Mu Der, Ler Klah Der and Klaw Mi Der. Moreover, on 4 November 2003, this same troop extorted 10,000 kyat from Hoo Mu Der villagers as well. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

On 2 November 2003, SPDC troops from LIB 20 Column 2 controlled by Officer Htay Win and active in the Shan Gyi area, forcibly collected 2 villagers from each of villages of Taw Ku and Zee Pyu in order to perform “massage” for troops at Pa Yah Ywa village. On 4 of November, these same troops ordered that the 2 persons from each village be rotated and replaced by 2 new villagers every 2 days. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

Mon State

 

SPDC's military battalion, LIB 273 forced the majority women in Yebyu Township to provide labor in the construction of embankments for dikes in their township area of Tenasserim Division, in the southern part of Burma. Lt. Col. Mee Sar from LIB 273 demanded that the village chairmen from 4 villages in the surrounding area contribute villagers on 20 July to perform unpaid labor in the construction project.  Soldiers took villagers from half of the households in the 4 villages.

 

As the majority of men were busy working their own farms, women had to provide the labor and work at the construction site. Women from the villages of Sin-swe, Ye-ngan-gyi, Paya-thon-zu, and Sin-chaung were forced to construct the embankment. Besides taking villagers for forced labor in the embankment construction, the battalion also stole cattle and other farming equipment used in cultivation from the villagers. The villagers were also forced to work on the military’s farms. (Source: The Mon Forum, Issue No.7, HURFOM, 31 July 2003)

 

Shan State

 

It has been reported that young girls in eastern Shan State have been forced to provide entertainment to SPDC military officers. Before their much celebrated water festival, girls attending various schools and colleges are forced to practice dances.  Instead of freely enjoying their New Year festival, they are later forced to perform for the pleasure of military officers and entertain the officers as the officers see fit.  The girls don’t receive any compensation for their performances. (Source: Free Burma Rangers, June 2003)
 

7.4 Violence against Women

 

Women in Burma continue to be subjected to various forms of violence perpetrated against them by both their own communities and the military government. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was ratified by the SPDC in 1997, and the government is therefore bound to make attempts at reducing gender-specific violence. However, there is continuing evidence from both local and international NGO’s, as well as the U.S. Government, that the military regime specifically targets ethnic women and uses rape to control ethnic minority populations, and effectively turns women’s bodies into battlegrounds. Such violence is a violation of the following rights and freedoms: right to life; right not to be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; right to equal protection according to humanitarian norms in time of international or internal armed conflict; right to liberty and security of person; and right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health.

 

In May 2002, SWAN and Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) released a report entitled License to Rape, which documented the widespread and systematic rape of at least 625 girls and women in Shan State by soldiers from 52 military battalions between 1992 and 2001. Not only were the women and girls raped, some were tortured over a period of months and 61% were gang-raped. One fourth of the rapes ended in murder, and many of these crimes took place within military bases and in forced relocation sites. Out of the total 173 documented incidents, there was only one case in which the perpetrator was punished. More commonly, the complainants were fined, detained, tortured or even killed by the military if they tried to seek justice. Given the extreme brutality of the rapes (which included beating, mutilation, and suffocation), the fact that 83% were committed by officers in most cases in front of their own troops, and the impunity with which they were carried out, the report shows how rape is both condoned by the government and used as a weapon of war in order to terrorize and subjugate the ethnic Shan.

 

Even though this report was later corroborated by a U.S. Department of State investigation, the SPDC called the women's accounts of rape fabrications. Far from trying to prevent such atrocious attacks, it was widely reported and documented by organizations such as SWAN, that the military went into villages and forced people to sign petitions stating that the rapes did not occur. Men are unable to protect their wives, mothers and daughters from such rape, as they often flee as the army approaches or risk charges of collaboration with rebels or risk being forced into the Army. The frequent rape of girls and young women is particularly demoralizing to ethnic communities, as it conveys the notion that the community is unable to protect even its most vulnerable members.

 

In April 2003, Refugees International released a report, No Safe Place, independently confirming License to Rape and provided further evidence that larger numbers of women and girls from other ethnic minority groups are also targeted and raped by SPDC soldiers in a pattern of abuse. Forty-three cases of rape or attempted rape of women from the Karen, Karenni, Mon, Tavoyan, and Shan ethnic groups were documented and 75% of women interviewed said they knew someone who had been raped. In only two of these cases were the rapists ever punished. An author of the report, Veronika Martin of Refugees International noted, “Rape is widespread and committed with impunity, both by officers and lower ranking soldiers. The culture of impunity contributes to an atmosphere in which rape is permissible.” While several cases from 2003 have been recorded, it is important to note that the vast majority of rape cases go unreported and undocumented because of a lack of access to victims as well as shame, fear, and cultural constraints against the frank discussion of rape.

 

Most recently an April 2004 report published by the Karen Women's Organization (KWO) documented recent, widespread abuses against Karen women and girls by the Burmese Army. The new report entitled Shattering Silences documented 125 cases of rape perpetrated by soldiers over the period of eighteen months. High-ranking officers committed half of the rape cases documented, 40% were gang-rapes, and in 28% of the cases the women were killed after being raped. This report reaffirmed that the Burmese military is clearly targeting women and girls from a multitude of ethnic minority groups for rape in order to “reward” troops for fighting, terrorize entire communities into submission, and to control and exploit the resource-rich ethnic states.

 

While both License to Rape and No Safe Place called for an outside independent inquiry into the cases of rape perpetrated by the military, the Government continually refuses to cooperate. Prof. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma, has not been allowed access to conflict areas in Shan State so that he may corroborate information provided to him about Burmese Army rapes in his own previous interviews with refugees in Thailand. At the same time, the presence of international NGOs in Shan State has not curtailed the regime's troops from continuing to commit sexual violence. Gang-rape of villagers by soldiers occurred in the township of Murng Hsat at the end of May while members of the International Committee of the Red Cross were conducting one of their periodic field missions. In the midst of SPDC denials, more rapes continue to be reported.

 

SWAN has documented the rape of a further 138 women and girls in Shan State by the SPDC military since License to Rape was compiled. Of the cases this year, seventeen were girls under 18: two of these girls, aged 10 and 13, were gang-raped so brutally that they died shortly afterwards of their injuries. Another girl of 13 was gang-raped and beaten so badly that her face became permanently disfigured and she suffered permanent psychological damage. SWAN also warned that there continued to be impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes. Of the incidents reported in 2003, no one was punished. In only one case did the rapist provide monetary compensation to the victim, in exchange for her dropping the case. (Source: SWAN Monthly Newsletter, SWAN, September 2003)

 

Throughout 2003, there was ample evidence that the SPDC tried to cover up incidents of rape by their troops to prevent international monitors from discovering the evidence. Before a visit of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team to Laikha town in Central Shan State on 9 December 2002, village elders were threatened by military authorities. From 2-12 December, the ten-member ICRC team conducted a ten-day assessment visit to Central Shan State, traveling by road east from Taunggyi to Loilem, Namzarng, Murng Nai and Laikha.  Two days prior to their visit to Laikha, police and military authorities ordered some local teachers, headmen and ex-government officials to come to the Laikha police station. Once at the police station the villagers were ordered to form a so-called civilian “committee” which would accompany and liaise with the ICRC. The members of the “committee” were instructed to record all questions asked by ICRC members, and threatened to be “careful” when answering any questions. A representative of SWAN indicated, “It is very clear that the military regime wants to use the presence of ICRC in Shan State to help deny the charges that they are licensing rape of ethnic women.” The representative further added, “But if they really have nothing to hide, why are they asking villagers to be “careful” when answering questions?” (Source: SWAN Monthly Newsletter, SWAN, 6 January 2003)

 

The military regime continued to obstruct justice in these rape cases. People throughout Central and Southern Shan State have been forced to sign documents that state that Burmese troops had not committed any sexual violence in their areas. In early February, local military officers threatened to cut out the tongues and slit the throats of villagers who dared speak out to the ICRC during their visit to Shan State in January 2003. Village and village tract headmen were threatened with large fines and up to 5 years imprisonment if members of their community spoke about abuses to the foreign investigators. These were not idle threats as on 2 February, SPDC troops beat two displaced villagers in Laikha Township for speaking about abuses to ICRC officials (source: Charm Offensive, ALTSEAN, January-March 2003). As ICRC conducted missions to Shan State throughout the year, the teams reported the high presence of military personnel and the reluctance of villagers to cooperate or speak with them. It was also reported that local military authorities and the USDA trained and instructed villagers in Shan State and other areas, on how to lie to international monitoring organizations. These trainings were often accompanied with threats of physical harm. There is no protection mechanism provided for survivors and/or witnesses who dare to testify against the military, and there is nowhere for the rape survivors to turn to inside Shan State for any medical or social support, let alone for legal recourse. Some rape survivors have fled to Thailand for their own safety (source: Stop License to Rape in Burma, SWAN, 17 March 2003). (See chapters on freedom of expression or freedom of assembly and association for more information.)

 

Women outside of the ethnic border-states and areas of armed resistance are also subject to sexual violence perpetrated by state sanctioned personnel. According the U.S. Department of State, eyewitnesses reported government-sponsored attackers raped several female democracy supporters during the 30 May attack on the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi, also known as the Depayin Massacre. In general, it is unsafe for women to travel at night without a male escort. Employers of women who work at night must provide some form of transport to return workers to their homes. Even taxis are reportedly dangerous for women at night, who risk both robbery and rape. Sex workers traveling at night must typically pay substantial additional fees to taxi operators or risk being raped, robbed, or turned over to the police. Sex workers arrested by police are sometimes raped and robbed while in custody. There are also no laws against sexual harassment in Burma. (Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 25 February 2004)

 

Domestic violence against women; including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, is also a significant and increasingly prevalent problem in Burma. Most people have little knowledge about domestic violence and other gender-based human rights problems. Domestic violence is considered a private matter between a husband and wife and cultural taboos often thwart women from reporting incidences of abuse. Pervasive discrimination against women by the military government encourages people to accept domestic violence in the home and community as normal. Under an oppressive government that uses force to control the general populace, citizens become accustomed to the idea that physical power is an effective way to control others and it helps to justify domestic violence. Burmese living in refugee camps are especially susceptible to domestic violence.  According to Earth Rights, “They have limited contact with the outside world, no way to make a living, no land, no livelihoods, no income. People are bored, they are anxious because they have no money to buy food and clothing, and they see no change in the future. For the men, who are, according to stereotypes and social roles, supposed to provide economically for their families, it can create a lot of frustration. This frustration and feeling of powerlessness can lead to a desire to take control over something, anything. Sometimes, violence within the family becomes the way men try to deal with their frustration and try to feel like they have some control over something in their lives.” (Source: “Facing Violence Amongst Ourselves: Domestic Violence in Refugee Communities," Earth Rights International, 2003)

 

The human rights abuses that women experience often occur simply because they are women. Women who have been raped are sometimes punished and even killed by their own family members.  A woman interviewed by Earth Rights International revealed the story of one such victim who had been raped by her brother’s friends. “After knowing this, the parents felt so angry with the daughter that they beat her to death, put her body into a big bag and threw it into the river. She did not get any mercy even though she told them that she had been raped. The parents did not accuse their son.” Men may believe that it is their right to control their wives through violence, and women are criticized for divorcing abusive husbands. (Source: “Facing Violence Amongst Ourselves: Domestic Violence in Refugee Communities," Earth Rights International, 2003)

 

Physical Violence against Women - Partial List of Incidents for 2003

 

Karen State

 

Pregnant woman abused by SPDC troops

 

On 15 June 2003, the Burmese Army's troop LIB 703 Column 2, led by Major Shwe Win and Company Commander Tun Tun Win, misfired at soldiers from their own side from LIB 703 Column 1, led by Major Tun Tun Naw. After fighting, they came directly into a nearby village in the Pa’an District and told the villagers they had fought with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) troops. Once inside the village, they tied up some of the residents and proceeded to severely beat and torture them.  The villagers were accused by the troops of having connections with resistance groups. The SPDC looted villagers' belongings and slaughtered domesticated animals for meat, without paying any form of compensation. The troops also threatened to burn the village to the ground if any more clashes with the KNLA occurred. Although it was a Sunday, and villagers had collected for worship, the troops accused them of gathering in order to fight. None of the locals dared to speak out about the events. That evening, troops accused a villager of having contact with the KNU and kicked his pregnant wife twice in the stomach. Because of the injuries she sustained in the attack, the pregnant woman fled to hideout in the jungle as an IDP. (Source: Department of Information, KNU, 2003) 

 

Shan State

 

Two women beaten unconscious and their motorcycle stolen

 

In the middle of 2003, 2 women were beaten until they lost consciousness and robbed of their motorcycle by SPDC troops from LIB 331 in Tachileik Township, Shan State. One of the women later died of her wounds sustained from the beating.

 

On 22 August 2003, Naang Seng (age 17) and Naang Long (age 17), from Saai Murng quarter in Tachiliek Town, were going to their pineapple orchard by motorcycle when they were stopped by a group of 3 SPDC troops near the orchard located about 2 miles north of the town. As the women stopped their motorcycle, the SPDC troops beat and kicked them and wrested the motorcycle away from them. The troops repeatedly beat and kicked the women severely, causing them to lose consciousness.

 

Some villagers from Pong Lo village, which was not far from the site of the incident, found the 2 unconscious women and took them to the local hospital. Although the women regained consciousness after being treated at the hospital, 1 of them, Naang Seng, was so seriously wounded in the head that she died at the hospital on the same night. The parents and relatives of the 2 women, together with village and community leaders, later lodged a complaint with the SPDC authorities at the Tachileik Township Office. There was no progress however with regard to the case. (Source: SHRF Report, February 2004)

 

(See section on Rape and Sexual Violence- list of incidences for sexual violence against women.)

 

7.5 Trafficking of Women

 

"They are victims of physical and sexual abuse, of cultural prejudices, and have to deal with marital instability and the adverse impact on their children."

 

- Jean D’Cunha of the United Nations Development Fund for Women on why the personal costs of migration for women is far higher than for men. (Source: Macan-Markar, Marwaan “Migrant Convention Not a Magic Solution,” Irrawaddy, 14 February 2003)

 

Women comprise a large percentage of persons trafficked out of Burma, and are the most vulnerable to exploitation. Women from ethnic minority groups, including Shan, Karen, Rohingya, and Mon, are at an even greater risk of becoming the victims of trafficking. Women are trafficked from Burma into neighboring countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan as well as Middle Eastern countries.  They can be found doing manual labor, working in factories, domestic work, and working in the sex industry. Internal trafficking also occurs from poorer agricultural areas to urban centers, mining areas, areas near military bases, and cities along trade routes and the border where prostitution flourishes. While ultimately the cause of such trafficking is the desperate economic situation in Burma, Deep Ranjani Rai of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women noted that the attitudes of women’s families also adds to the cycle of migration and exploitation. A woman’s family may pressure her to earn more in order to contribute to the family’s finances. "We hammer the states all the time, but families have a greater influence over these women than other factors [government or laws]," she pointed out. "Often, the women who go abroad have no respite, because the families at home keep demanding money." (Source: Macan-Markar, Marwaan “Migrant Convention Not a Magic Solution," Irrawaddy, 14 February 2003)

 

The SPDC continually claimed that it was making progress fighting human trafficking; announcing the arrest of 417 human traffickers between July 2002 and 21 August 2003. In July 2002, a Working Committee for Prevention against Trafficking in persons was established.  The SPDC has further declared that 82,251 citizens had been educated about issue of human trafficking (source: Under Pressure, ALTSEAN, July–September 2003). Conversely, many contend that the SPDC’s measures against trafficking are really attempts to deter migration out of the country and to prevent information about human rights abuses from being reported to the outside world. The SPDC’s deputy intelligence chief, Maj. Gen Kyaw Win said part of the SPDC’s “Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign” would include efforts to “teach people about negative consequences of working abroad.” Likewise, the SPDC is creating “Human Trafficking Prevention Committees” in many states and divisions that collect data about people between the ages of 16 and 25 and thoroughly check people traveling to border areas. Concern has been raised that such committees are being used to hinder the movement of and the freedom of expression of women. These committees ultimately treat female victims like criminals, instead of pursuing the traffickers and addressing the root causes of trafficking. Moreover, it has been reported that restrictions on women’s movement has done little more than to make travel more costly (source: Abused Bargaining Chips: Women’s Report Card on Burma, ALTSEAN, March 2003).

 

There is no law in Burma that specifically prohibits the trafficking of persons, although the Penal Code prohibits kidnapping.  However, the law is not effectively enforced. In fact, there is widespread complicity among local and border officials who profit in the form of bribes. In more recent years, the government has made it difficult for single females to obtain passports and there are regulations preventing girls under the age of 25 from crossing the border without a guardian accompanying them. The fact that the majority of women and girls lured or forced across borders do so without passports makes this regulation totally ineffective in the prevention of trafficking (source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 25 February 2004). In September 2003, the U.S. Department of State reported that Burma was 1 of 15 countries to be placed on Tier 3, the lowest of US government standards, for its failure to comply with the minimum standards of 2000’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  The US government condemned the SPDC for its failure in the “elimination of trafficking, and failure to make significant efforts to do so.” (Source: “Progress in the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons,” U.S. Department of State Press Statement, 10 September 2003)

 

Women Trafficked to Thailand

 

Trafficked women are often deceived by promises of good jobs in areas such as restaurant work, only to end up in the sex industry. Researcher Pimpawun Boonmongkon of Mahidol University in Thailand found three main trafficking patterns in Mae Sot, Tak Province, a point of entry for Burmese into Thailand. Young Burmese women either fell prey to lying agents, were lured by acquaintances, or were even sold to brokers by their own relatives. Women suffering from personal problems were especially easy victims. Some trafficked Burmese became 'rental' wives of local men before being forced later into prostitution. Burmese women working in the sex industry in Thailand often face aggressive sex, gang rape and unprotected sex that causes physical and mental trauma. They are also at high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases because they lack access to health services, education, and empowerment to enforce condom use. (Source: “Shattered Dreams’ to Educate Migrants," The Nation, 12 November 2003)

 

In 2003, Thai policy towards migrants became increasingly strict which has reportedly caused more women migrants to turn to sex work. It was reported some women who were trafficked to Thailand in order to do factory work have been turning to prostitution as labor laws were tightened. During crackdown on illegal migrant workers during the year, recruiters reportedly traveled to factories and workers’ barracks in Mae Sot in order to entice young women to enter the trade with promises of higher wages and brothel owners’ close relationships with Thai authorities. Women lacking other forms of income during immigration crackdowns are especially vulnerable. Even female workers who hid in the nearby jungle waiting for the factories to reopen were targeted. (Source: Manning, Kevin R., “Wooing Women Workers," Irrawaddy, 1 October 2003)

 

Police accepting bribes and lending their complicity to the sex trade can also end up facilitating it. “Police are known to sell girls to brothels after they arrest them," said Moe Swe of YCOWA. Young Burmese women arrested in Bangkok have been approached by brokers and immigration officials en route to the border area near Mae Sot and given the choice of becoming sex workers or being deported. A 1993 report by Asia Watch indicated, “The deportation process in many cases… becomes a revolving door back to the brothels.” (Source: Manning, Kevin R., “Wooing Women Workers," Irrawaddy, 1 October 2003).

 

While factory wages for illegal Burmese migrants average roughly 2,000 baht per month with 12-hour workdays, a woman can earn 250 baht from one hour of sex with a client. After deductions for their living expenses, prostitutes can earn an average of 6,000 to 10,000 baht per month. By comparison, inside of Burma garment factory workers earn a mere 8,000 kyat (US $8 or 320 baht) to 20,000 kyat (800 baht) per month. Some women who have steady factory jobs choose to become prostitutes part-time for extra income, noted Dr Cynthia Maung, who treats sex workers at her health clinic in Mae Sot. Most of the women who turned from factory work to brothel work hoped to save enough money for their families so that they could then return home. (Source: Manning, Kevin R., “Wooing Women Workers," Irrawaddy, 1 October 2003)

 

Women Trafficked to China

 

Thailand is not the only bordering country that receives trafficked women who ultimately end up working in the sex industry. China’s one-child policy has resulted in a shortage of women in many rural villages in the eastern part of the country and many poor village men cannot afford to pay the price of a dowry. It has been reported that these men are increasingly employing brokers in both China and Burma to find them a wife.  The buying of Burmese wives has become a thriving business along the border. As women and girls are drawn to the border in search of work and in order to escape poverty, the brokers reportedly have an easy time finding recruits.  However many women reportedly end up fleeing the harsh and isolating conditions of their new Chinese homes and ultimately traveling thousands of miles to return to towns along the border on the Chinese side where they end up working as prostitutes. (Source: Seng, Naw, “One Way Ticket," Irrawaddy, 1 January 2004)

 

In early 2004, the Irrawaddy magazine reported the story of a Burmese woman named Nandar who was lured by a female Burmese broker at the age of 17 from Mandalay to the Chinese border. The broker promised her a restaurant job paying 30,000 kyat (US $30) per month in Muse, a Burmese town opposite the Chinese town of Ruili. However, once the pair arrived at the border there was no job. Nandar was then sold to a Chinese trafficker who, after drugging her and a group of four other Burmese girls, took her deep into China. Nandar said she was sold to a 50-year-old Chinese man for 18,000 yuan (US$ 2,180) but she received none of the fee. The other girls went for between 5,000 and 20,000 yuan, depending on their youth and beauty. Nandar spent three years in the Jiangsu Province, as the wife of a Chinese farmer, and after she could no longer bear the conditions and a failed suicide attempt she fled back to the border. (Source: Seng, Naw, “One Way Ticket," Irrawaddy, 1 January 2004)

 

For Burmese women who go to China, returning home is excessively difficult. Re-entering Burma to live or visit family is nearly impossible as they face imprisonment for leaving the country illegally. Mya Maung, a former employee of Save the Children, asserted that the Burmese authorities arrested two Burmese girls who had fled their Chinese husbands in 2003, as they re-entered Burma. Both were sentenced to long prison terms for illegally exiting the country. Many Burmese women are caught in limbo in towns such as Ruili, left with no choice but to enter the sex industry because of the lack of other work opportunities. Such women then become vulnerable to HIV/ AIDS infection as well as heroin addictions. (Source: Seng, Naw, “One Way Ticket," Irrawaddy, 1 January 2004)

 

Sex Workers in Burma

 

As the economy continues to spiral downward and ordinary people are unable to feed themselves, women inside of Burma are turning to the sex trade to supplement their families’ incomes. Women inside Burma who engage in prostitution usually do so on a part-time basis to supplement their primary work. At the same time, some are relying more heavily upon it in economically hard times, as they feel that sex work provides a better pay rate and better working conditions than other forms of employment as a laborer or factory worker. Following the onset of US sanctions in July 2003, the garment industry was highly affected and the SPDC claimed that women who lost their jobs in the garment factories were driven into prostitution. Yet, the expanding sex industry existed long before the US sanctions were imposed. Several reports following the SPDC’s claims indicated that women had been driven to prostitution because of the SPDC’s economic mismanagement. Although prostitution is illegal and punishable by three years in prison the industry continues to grow. Female prostitutes are often subjected to abuse when arrested or while incarcerated. (Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 25 February 2004)

 

Prostitution flourishes in urban areas, along trade routes, and on international borders with large numbers of sex workers found concentrated in large cities. Reportedly, young girls were commonly seen standing on street corners, in popular nightclubs, and in hotels looking for clients in Rangoon. Some sex workers who cater to higher paying clientele are provided with an apartment, telephone, and their bosses arrange their clients over the telephone. Young women who work on the streets in Rangoon face exploitation by sex bosses, referred to as ‘pha-gaung’ in Burmese. Exposed on the streets, women are extremely vulnerable to other abuses and must often pay off the local authorities in the form of cash bribes as well as sex. In response, some women in Rangoon have reportedly formed their own working group. (Source: Hongsar, Banya, “Young Women Prop Up the Regime," Kao Wao News, No. 57, 16 November 2003)

 

A newer phenomenon of the “fashion show” also provides an avenue for women to earn easy income through sex work. Fashion shows have reportedly become a popular nighttime diversion for wealthy businessmen in downtown Rangoon.  One advertising executive told a reporter from the Irrawaddy, “When we are worried or sad, we go to the pagoda. When we are happy, we sing karaoke and we watch fashion shows." The women who work the shows by parading down the catwalk to Western pop tunes are paid by men for their company, and may offer sex services for payment after the show. Some dancers have said that they are pressured by their managers to bring in a certain amount of money every night, which ultimately means having sex with men for cash. (Source: O’Connell, Chris, “Burma A La Mode," Irrawaddy, 1 October 2003)

 

Concurrently, the rate of HIV infection in Burma continues to grow as the sex industry does. Sex workers infrequently carry condoms in an attempt to avoid arrest by the secret police. If a woman is seen purchasing or possessing condoms she is usually suspected of prostitution, as it is still uncommon for contraception to be utilized in Burma. According to a study by the Burma Center Netherlands, 52% of all female sex workers in Burma were HIV positive. The same report indicated that HIV prevalence among commercial sex workers tested in Rangoon and Mandalay increased from approximately 4% in 1992 to 26% in 1997. General rates of HIV can easily increase as clients pass the virus onto their wives, just as some sex workers may infect their own husbands. Due to the lack of substantial HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs, and the Government’s attitude toward women’s purchasing of condoms, HIV/AIDS continues to be spread to the public through the sex industry. As a result, women not only endure economic hardships, but they are also exposed to grave health risks.

 

The Imperial Beer Shop in Tavoy

 

It April, it was reported that in a bar in the city of Tavoy in southern Burma, men could easily buy alcohol and sex. The “Imperial Beer Shop," located near the Launglone transportation terminal, was able to openly operate as a brothel with the co-operation of local authorities and Military Unit No.19 of the Burmese Army who reportedly accepted 500,000 kyat per month in bribes from the owner of the business. The nightspot employed roughly 18 girls between the ages of 18-20 years from Rangoon and other Burmese cities. While ordering drinks customers were free to fondle the girls who cost 5,000 kyat for one service at a table and are available for sex services after negotiation. (Source: “Sex and Drink in the City," Kao Wao News, No. 42, IMNA, 7 April 2003)

 

Trafficking of Women - Partial List of Incidents for 2003

 

Trafficked woman granted asylum in Australia

 

In April 2003, it was reported that a Burmese woman trafficked into the sex industry in Australia was finally granted refugee status.  The woman was originally from Shan State and had been raped by the SPDC as a young girl.  She had been trafficked first into Thailand, and then eventually onto Australia. (Source: ALTSEAN Report Card, April 2003)

 

Twenty-nine sex workers arrested in police raid

 

On 3 May 2003, 29 Burmese women were arrested in the city of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand and charged with selling sex services.  None of the women had work permits or visas, and many were trafficked from Shan State.

 

After police raided a karaoke restaurant at around midnight, some women broke into tears saying that they did not want to be sent back to a life of poverty in Burma.  Police said that they believed the women were tricked into working for the restaurant, and later forced to provide sex services.  “Working in Thailand allowed them to make money which they sent back to their families. In Burma they were jobless and had no income,” said Police General Suthep Detraksa.

 

Activist Ben Sawasdiwat, organizer of Traf Cord, the northern Non-Governmental Organization working on the human trafficking issue joined the police raid and noted that the situation of human trafficking for sex purposes in the North of Thailand was growing out of control. “In this case, we will force police to file a lawsuit against the restaurant’s owner in order to stop the cycle of human trafficking, or at least decrease it,” said Ben.

 

Many brothels in the North of Thailand hide behind the front of restaurants and cafes, while trafficking in women from Burma to provide sex services for their clients.  As the economic situation in Burma worsens, there is an ample supply of women desperate to get out. (Source: “29 Alien Sex Workers Arrested in Police Raid," The Nation, 4 May 2003)

 

Migrants and traffickers arrested in jungle 

 

On 25 June 2003, 88 illegal Burmese migrants, including 35 women, and 2 traffickers were arrested by village security forces in Mae Sot, Thailand.  The group was apprehended while trying to cross the Tha Nong Thong Chai mountain range en route to Kamphengphet Province, Thailand. Most were planning to travel on to Bangkok by road after emerging from the jungle, said an official from the Mae Sot district office. The arrested migrants were deported back to Burma by Thai immigration.

 

The migrants had paid the traffickers in advance for their trip; 6,000 baht (US$ 143) for the Mae Sot to Kamphengphet leg, and an additional 2,000 baht if they chose to continue to Bangkok by car.  As the Thai authorities increased the number of roadblocks between the border town of Mae Sot and Bangkok in 2003, the jungle route became favored by traffickers. Comparatively, in 2002 the whole trip could have been made by car for a 4,000 baht fee. The need to trek across the mountains led to a doubling of the cost in 2003, claimed officials in Mae Sot.

 

Nearly all of the Burmese migrants had borrowed money in order to pay for their trip, hoping that they would obtain good-paying jobs in Bangkok and be able to quickly pay off their debts. "The money I used to travel to Bangkok was borrowed in Burma because I could not find enough money to feed my family. Now I am in custody and the interest is growing day by day," said a tearful father of 5.

 

An NGO official noted that solving the human trafficking problem in Thailand is difficult because the root of the problem is the lack of economic opportunities and depressed wages in Burma. Traffickers are attracted by the fees they receive from the migrants, who in turn fulfill the demand for cheap labor sought by entrepreneurs in Thailand. However, if convicted the traffickers face prison terms of up to 10 years. (Source: Shin, Aung Su, “Migrants and Traffickers Arrested in Jungle," Irrawaddy, 25 June 2003)

 

7.6 Rape and Sexual Violence - Partial list of incidents for 2003

 

Rape and Murder

 

Karen State

 

Pregnant woman with 3-year-old daughter raped and murdered

 

On 6 February 2003, a member of the Burmese People’s Militia raped and killed a pregnant Karen woman after throwing her 3-year-old daughter into a stream to her death in Theyetchaung Township, Tenasserim Division in southern Burma.

 

According to a local villager, a woman named Naw Ka Myit Cho, the 23-year-old daughter of Saw Hsa Sit and Naw Kya Mit from a relocation site beside the Mergui-Tavoy road in Theyetchaung Township, disappeared after returning to her deserted village in order to tend to her fields. On 14 February, villagers found her body outside of Htee Oo Ooo (Hpabyoke), the deserted village. 

 

It was later learnt that a man named Maung Aye, member of Pe village’s Pyithusit (the “People’s Militia” supported and armed by Burmese Army troops), raped Naw Ka Myit Cho at the outskirts of Ler Kwe Dot (Sinzwe), a relocated village. After raping the woman, Maung Aye took her to Htee Oo Ooo village and slashed her to death.

 

Furthermore, the Pyithusit member threw the victim’s 3-year-old daughter into Pi stream and ran off with 40,000 kyat and 3 gold necklaces. Naw Ka Myit Cho was 3 months pregnant at the time.

 

Village elders reported the case to the headman of Pe village and to Pe’s Pyithusit commander. However, they have not received any reply to their complaint, nor heard of any measures taken against the culprit. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, February 2003)

 

Girl raped and murdered after her father shot by DKBA troops

 

On 6 August 2003, combined DKBA troops from Central Security led by Moe Kyo, and troops from No. 555 led by Pah Daw Bo, came into Htee Kli Tha village and shot and arrested a villager.  The 46-year-old resident of Si Paht Day Kee village, Saw Ta Ku Ku, was wounded by both small and heavy guns (RPG-7). Then Moe Kyo raped and killed the man’s 17-year-old daughter, Naw Mu Kut. Finally the troops burned down Saw Ta Ku Ku’s hut containing 8 baskets of paddy, and looted another 10 baskets of rice as well as all of his pigs and chickens. Saw Ta Ku Ku has not been released since being arrested. The KNU reported that this was the first time rape was committed by DKBA troops in the Pa-an District. (Source: Department of Information, KNU, 2003)

 

Mon State

 

Woman raped during pipeline guard duty

 

In late February 2003, a 17-year-old Mon woman was raped while guarding the Kanbauk-Myaingkalay pipeline. She was substituting for her husband who was fishing that day. (Source: HURFOM, June 2003)

 

Shan State

 

One woman killed, two others raped, in Shan State

 

On 13 August 2003, a woman was killed while 2 others were raped in the forest over the course of 2 nights by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB 64 in Murng-Kerng and Lai-Kha townships, Shan State. While the 3 women from Saa Le village in Murng Yaai village tract, Murng-Kerng Township, were traveling to their farm, they came across a patrol of 15 SPDC troops from Lai-Kha-based IB 64, led by Major Tin Aung Soe. The 3 women were:

 

(1) Pa Pong, age 50;

(2) Naang Mint (not her real name), age 18; and

(3) Naang Zing (not her real name), age 17.

 

The SPDC troops accused the women of being the wives of Shan soldiers and arrested and captured them. Once they stopped for the night in the forest, somewhere in Murng-Kerng Township, the troops killed Pa Pong and dumped her body down into a pit. Then the troops proceeded to rape the 2 other women throughout the night.

 

The next day the SPDC troops continued their patrol back to Lai-Kha Township and shot dead a villager’s buffalo they found on the way. The troops stopped for the night again to smoke the meat of the buffalo, and again raped the 2 women all night long. The following morning, the SPDC troops put the smoked meat into their backpacks, released the women, and continued back to their base.

 

Villagers claim that at least once a month a patrol of SPDC troops from IB 64 patrol the area between Murng-Kerng and Lai-Kha towns, staying 1-2 nights in the forest to hunt villagers’ cattle for meat, and regularly abuse the villagers they came across. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, January 2004)

 

Fifty-eight-year-old woman raped and strangled to death

 

On 4 October 2003, at 7:30 pm, Corporal Nay Win and his soldiers, under the leadership of Battalion Commander Myo Tint, from Burma Army LIB 549 and under Military Operations Command-12, arrested and raped a woman. Naw Kyin Shwe (age 58) was raped by the soldiers in At-then-goe village, Htee Swah village tract, Ta-nay-cha Township of Pa-an District, Karen State. After raping Naw Kyin Shwe, they took out both her eyes and strangled her to death nearby the LIB 549 base. (Source: CCB, 2003)

 

Two sisters raped and murdered in front of their father in Shan State

 

On 16 October 2003, 2 sisters were raped and their bodies were dumped into a hole in the ground while their father was tied up to a tree by SPDC troops.  The SPDC troops from LIB 515 perpetrated the violence at a remote farm south of Wan Zing village in Wan Zing village tract, Kae-See Township of Shan State.

 

Lung Loi Thawn (age 60) and his 2 daughters, Naang Khin (age 22) and Naang Lam (aged 19) were reaping rice at their remote farm in Wan Zing village tract when a patrol of SPDC troops from Lai-Kha-based LIB 515, led by Commander Hla Khin, came to their farm. The SPDC troops proceeded to tie Lung Loi Thawn to a tree and then raped Naang Khin and Naang Lam. After raping the 2 women for some time, the troops left the farm, taking the women with them into the forest.

 

Because Lung Loi Thawn and his daughters had not returned, some of their relatives came to look for them and found Lung Loi Thawn tied up to the tree at his farm. Unfortunately, they were unable to find the 2 women that same day. After a few days, some of the villagers who had continued to search for the 2 sisters detected a foul smell coming out of a hole in the ground in the forest. Upon closer inspection, they discovered the sarong that one of the women was wearing on the day of the incident, caught on a root just inside in the mouth of the hole. However the hole was so deep and narrow that no one was able to go down into it in order to look for the bodies of the women.

 

The villagers then came to the conclusion that after raping the women to their satisfaction, the SPDC troops might have either dumped them into the hole alive or first killed them and then dumped their bodies into it. (Source: SHRF Report, February 2004)

 

Husband tied up while wife raped and killed

 

On 26 November 2003, a displaced woman was raped and killed while her husband was tied up by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB 64 at a remote farm in Wan Thi village tract, Lai-Kha Township.

 

Naang Sa (age 20) and her husband, Zaai Leng (age 23), were originally from Zizawya Khe village in Wan Thi village tract which had been forcibly relocated in 1996-97 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops. On the day of the incident, Naang Sa and Zaai Leng were transporting rice from their remote farm and were taking rest in a farm hut when a patrol of about 40 SPDC troops from column 3 of IB 64, led by Commander Myint Soe, came across the couple.

 

The SPDC troops seized and tied up Zaai Leng outside the farm hut and gang-raped Naang Sa inside of the hut. Afterwards, the troops left the farm taking Naang Sa with them for some time. Zaai Leng then managed to untie himself and searched for his wife, but he was not able find her anywhere in the area.

 

Zaai Leng later returned home and reported the incident to the village leaders. After some discussion, several village elders and leaders along with Zaai Leng went to the base of IB 64 to inquire about his wife.  The guards at the entrance gate did not allow the villagers entry and told them that none of the troops there had been going out over the last 2-3 days because they were conducting important meetings.

 

The villagers could do nothing further but return quietly to their village. However, 3  days later Naang Sa’s body was found floating in an abandoned well, locally known as Nam Waw Tawng Kuay or Nam Waw Mon, in the area of her farm. (Source: SHRF Report, March 2004)

 

A woman raped and killed in Kun-Hing

 

In the afternoon of 12 December 2003, Naang Mai (female, age 35), of Wan Lao village went alone to look at her farm as well as gather wild vegetables along the way when she ran into a patrol of about 40 SPDC troops from IB 246.

 

The SPDC troops forced Naang Mai to go with them until night fell when they stopped for the night at a deserted village (relocated), Naa Mon, in Wan Lao village tract. Naang Mai was raped by the SPDC troops all night and her cries were occasionally heard by some other guides.

 

At daybreak, the SPDC troops beat Naang Mai to death and dumped her body into an abandoned well at Naa Mon and continued their patrol towards Saai Khaao village tract. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, August 2004)

 

A handicapped woman gang-raped causing death in Lai-kha

 

One night in late 2003, a group of soldiers from LIB 515 gang-raped Pa Ong (age 40), a mentally handicapped woman, outside Maak Laang village in Naa Mang village tract, Lai-Kha Township. The troops had gone to the village to steal villagers’ livestock and seized Pa Ong, dragged her out of the village and gang-raped her. Pa Ong was found lying outside and brought back into the village by some sympathetic villagers. She managed to tell the villagers that she had been dragged out of the village and raped by the Burmese soldiers, using the gestures of her hands to help describe the incident. She died 4 days later.

 

The villagers were sure that the perpetrators were SPDC troops from LIB 515 because several villagers saw them roaming the streets on the night of the incident. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, June 2004)

 

Rape

 

Shan State

 

Christian student raped at checkpoint while on her way to school

 

On 15 January 2003, an 18-year-old Christian Lahu student was raped while bicycling to school.  The girl left her home early in the morning in order to attend school.  When she arrived at the Mine Pyin checkpoint, a soldier of the Burmese Army Unit Mine Pyin Riflemen, named Myit Naing, raped her at the tent of the gate. The girl, a 10th standard high school student, was unable to continue her schooling after the incident, as she was unable to sit for the 10th standard exam. (Source: Free Burma Rangers, June 2003)

 

Burmese army defectors testify to continuing impunity for rape

 

On 17 January 2003, 3 soldiers who defected from the Burmese Army at the Thai-Burma border testified to Shan Women's Action Network members that their commanding officer boasted to them about raping women.

 

The soldiers, age 17, 19 and 26, who had defected with their weapons from Company 2 of LIB 226 across the border from Piang Luang into the northern Chiang Mai province of Thailand, testified that their commanding sergeant Myint Htay had boasted to them about having raped "5 or 6" women in Shan State.

 

The 3 soldiers, all forcibly recruited into the SPDC’s army within the past year, had been stationed at the border for only a few months, after undergoing training near Kengtung.

 

"If officers feel comfortable boasting to their troops about raping women, it is clear that the culture of impunity for sexual violence in the Burmese Army is still in place," said Hseng Noung of SWAN. (Source: SWAN Monthly Newsletter, SWAN, 20 January 2003)

 

Four women returning from planting rice raped in Murng-Kerng

 

On 23 January 2003, 4 women from Wan Pek village in Ham Ngaai village tract, Murng-Kerng Township, who were returning from planting rice, were raped all night long by a group of 15 SPDC troops.  The troops, from LIB 514, were standing guard on the way back to the women’s village. The 4 victims were:

 

(1) Naang Purng (not her real name), age 38, single;

(2) Naang Em (not her real name), age 32, married with 1 child;

(3) Naang Mung (not her real name), age 35, married with 1 child; and

(4) Naang Lu (not her real name), age 26, married with 1 child.

 

On the day of the incident, the women had gone to plant rice as hired hands at a rice field some distance from their village. They were returning home at about 5 o’clock in the evening when SPDC soldiers stopped them along their way.

 

When the women did not return home in the evening their husbands and relatives went to report this to their village and community leaders. However, no one dared to go out and look for the women, as there were SPDC troops guarding the road in the direction the women had gone.

 

The women were raped by all the SPDC troops throughout the night and were only released at about 6:00 am the following morning. After the women returned from their ordeal and had related their plight to their husbands and relatives, everyone went to report the incident to the village and community leaders.  The leaders then led the villagers to the base of LIB 514 and complained to the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Win Tint.

 

The battalion commander, however, claimed that the perpetrators could not only be SPDC troops, but also rebel troops such as SSA-N (Shan State Army - North), a ceasefire group, or SSA-S (Shan State Army - South), a non-ceasefire group. The commander said that he would make the necessary enquiries and let the villagers know who the real culprits were. He promised that if it indeed were his troops he would take serious actions against them, and with that he dismissed the villagers.

 

After sometime passed and no progress was heard of in the case, the villagers and their community leaders went to inquire at the LIB 514 base. They were told not to return again and that they would be informed if the culprits were found. However, there was still no news about the case by late March 2003. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, April 2003)

 

Military gang-rape occurs as International Committee of the Red Cross visits Shan State

 

On 30 January 2003, the same day as a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was visiting Central Shan State, a woman was gang-raped only a few miles away by SPDC troops, local villagers reported.

 

The incident occurred in a village near the town of Laikha, when a patrol of troops from a military base at Kho Lam detained the 35-year-old Shan woman inside her own home. In the presence of her 4 children, she was gang-raped by 8 soldiers.

 

The ICRC, which spent several days in the Laikha area, was conducting its second visit in 2 months to Central Shan State in order to assess the conditions of the local population. Their policy is not to publicly expose human rights violations, but to raise issues confidentially with relevant authorities.

 

"We are very disturbed that such abuses are continuing under the very noses of international monitors," said Nang Mo Lao of the Shan Women's Action Network. "It throws into serious doubt the regime's sincerity about reform." (Source: SWAN Monthly Newsletter, SWAN, 11 February 2003)

 

Displaced villagers raped while forced to porter for SPDC troops in Kun-Hing

 

On 9 February 2003, 4 displaced villagers, including 1 man and 3 women, were forced to porter and carry meat for SPDC troops from IB 246 at Paang Wat village (relocated) in Ho Yaan village tract, Kun-Hing Township. The 4 displaced villagers were:

 

(1) Zaai Num, male, age 20 (not his real name);

(2) Naang Maai, female, age 40 (not her real name);

(3) Naang Suay, female, age 15 (not her real name); and

(4) Naang Leng, female, age 16 (not her real name).

 

These 4 villagers were originally from Mai Silee village (relocated) in Kaeng Lom village tract, but had been forcibly relocated in 1997 to Ka Li village relocation site in Kun-Hing Township by the authorities, then called SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council).

 

It is common practice for displaced villagers to return to their old grazing fields, located in their former village.  Here they can find abundant grass and water, and can leave their cattle for sometime, returning every few days to care for them.

 

On the day of the incident, the above-mentioned villagers returned to their old village, Huay Aw (relocated), in order to tend to their cattle. They came across a group of SPDC soldiers who had slaughtered 2 buffaloes and were cutting up meat from the carcasses.

 

The encounter was so sudden that the villagers had no time to escape and they were subsequently forced to serve as porters and carry the buffalo meat for the SPDC troops as they set off to resume their patrolling of the area. When they reached the place originally called Paang Wat village in Ho Yaan village tract, they stopped for the night.

 

After the SPDC troops roasted and ate the meat, they tied up the man, Zaai Num, and raped the remaining 3 women. 5 officers raped the women throughout the night, until all 4 of them were released the following morning at about 8:00 am.  The women were then warned by the troops not to speak of the incident, and the soldiers threatened to come after them and kill them if they did.

 

A second lieutenant, who led 18 SPDC troops from IB 246, raped the women with his other officers. 2 of the offending officers' names were Soe Myint and Maung Cho, known by the villagers simply as a 2-striped Sergeant and 1-striped Sergeant respectively, probably Corporal and Lance Corporal. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, April 2003)

 

Woman raped while soldiers restrain her husband

 

On 5 April 2003, a captain raped a 20-year-old woman in Shan State while another soldier restrained her husband. On 7 April, the woman and her husband reported the rape to SPDC authorities in the area. However, after no action was taken they began to fear for their safety and fled across the border to Thailand. (Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 25 February 2004)

 

Girl gang-raped in Tachileik while gathering bamboo

 

On 6 April 2003, while gathering bamboo shoots to eat in the forest near Saw Kong village in Murng Phong village tract, Tachileik Township, a woman was gang-raped by 5 SPDC soldiers from LIB 526.

 

On the day of the incident 3 women from Saw Kong village, including Naang Sao (age 19), Naang La and Naang Seng, went together to gather bamboo shoots in the hills outside their village. As they were digging bamboo shoots, a group of 5 SPDC soldiers suddenly approached them.

 

All 3 women were frightened by the site of the approaching SPDC troops and fled. While 2 managed to escape, the third, Naang Sao, was unfortunately captured by the troops. The SPDC troops raped Naang Sao in turns in the bamboo forest where they had caught her. After all 5 of the SPDC troops had raped the girl to their satisfaction, they left Naang Sao alone in the forest.

 

Upon hearing of the incident from the 2 women who had escaped, some villagers from Saw Kong village gathered together and went in search of Naang Sao. The villagers found her sitting alone and crying in the forest where they consoled her and later took her home.

 

Although villagers of Saw Kong had submitted letters of complaint to the SPDC authorities in Murng Phong village tract and Tachileik town, they had not yet received any response at the time this report was received in July. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, August 2003)

 

Laborer raped by SPDC corporal

 

On 14 April 2003, SPDC troops from LIB 349, headed by Major Myint Htun, entered the U Bo Chaung area in Nyunglebin where villagers were forced to pan for gold. A section commander of the troops, Corporal Saw Aung, pulled a woman down to the ground and raped her. The woman, Ma Soe Soe, had 2 children and lived in Shan Kyay section of Shwe Kyin Town. After being raped, Ma Soe Soe went to Major Myint Htun and complained about the incident, requesting that action be taken against the offending section commander. Instead of taking action Major Mying Htun gave the victim 1 sack of rice and 10,000 kyat, while at the same time threatening her not to pursue the case any further. (Source: KORD, 2003)

 

Young girl gang-raped by police

 

On 19 April 2003, while returning home after visiting relatives, a young girl was gang-raped by police in Arakan State.  The 23-year-old victim, Rohima Khatun, from Yaung Chaung village in Buthidaung Township, was being accompanied home by her 62-year-old maternal uncle, Moniruz Zaman, at the time of the incident. The pair was walking home on foot from Razar Bill village in Rathedaung Township after visiting their relatives.  When they reached at a bushy area near Khadir Para village of Buthidaung Township, they came upon 3 policemen from Tuor Para police camp, who were searching for some criminals.  Two of the police officers separated Moniruz Zaman from his niece by taking him away to the nearby jungle and tying him to a tree with a rope. At the same time the remaining policeman took the victim to an isolated place and forcibly raped her. Afterwards, the other 2 policemen returned and also raped the girl in turn. 

 

After the rape the uncle was released and the police forced the pair to sign a blank piece of paper.  They were threatened with dire consequences if they complained about the incident.  The niece and her uncle managed to return home at about 4:00 in the afternoon that day. The day following the rape, the victim along with her uncle and the Village Peace and Developing Council (VPDC) Chairman of Yaung Chaung village went to the office of Military Intelligence (MI-18) in order to report the incident.  The offending police officers were called to appear at the MI-18 office on 20 April.  However, the culprits failed to appear and the case was deferred to 26 April for settlement. (Source: Kaladan Press, 12 May 2003)

 

Two Li Shaw women raped by SPDC troops

 

On 8 May 2003, SPDC troops based in Namtu Township in northern Shan State raped 2 women who were returning home from the weekly market.

 

Two SPDC soldiers from IB 22 based in Namtu had been sent on duty to Mai Wee Township in northern Shan State. On 8 May, the soldiers came across the 2 ethnic Li Shaw women, Aye Sila (age 20) and Ann Lee (age 26) who were returning to their farms near Pang Low village. The troops dragged the women into the jungle while covering their faces with T-shirts and raped them.

 

After raping the women, the 2 soldiers threatened to kill them if they told their parents or their village headman about the rape. A few days later, their fathers went to report the rape to the commanding officer of IB 22 in Namtu. However, until now the 2 soldiers have not been punished. (Source: Palaung Youth Newsletter, Issue #3, PYNG, August 2003)

 

SPDC rapes 2 Palaung women while walking home

 

On 28 May 2003, at about 7:30 pm, approximately 30 SPDC troops, from IB 23 based in Namhsan Township, Shan State, raped 2 Palaung women named E Khay and E Shi La, when the women were returning from Namhsan to their village of Ru Long.

 

The township officer reported this incident to the commander of IB 23, Col. Than Tun.  The colonel replied, “How can I punish my soldiers if you do not know who the commander is, what the troops’ names are and do not have any witnesses? You have tried to accuse the Tatmadaw without any fact. If you don’t have any witnesses, don’t accuse the Tatmadaw or you will die. Get out of here now!” (Source: Palaung Youth Newsletter, Issue #3, PYNG, Aug. 2003)

 

Villagers gang-raped by military while ICRC in Shan State

 

In late May of 2003, in eastern Murng Hsat Township, located about 40 km from the northern Thai border inside Shan State, IB 221 from the Burmese Army began a new forced relocation program. SPDC troops uprooted over 1,300 villagers from 11 villages. Three of these villages were burned to the ground. Villagers were rounded up and tortured under the guise of discovering information about Shan resistance activities. Women were repeatedly gang-raped by the military. These atrocities occurred while the International Committee of the Red Cross was conducting one of their periodic field missions to Shan State. (Source: SWAN Monthly Newsletter, SWAN, September 2003)

 

Arakanese woman gang-raped by SPDC

 

On 1 June 2003, a 25-year-old Rohingya woman from San Nyin Way (Lambabil-East) village, Buthidaung Township, of Arakan State was gang-raped by 3 SPDC soldiers from Battalion No.556. Village elders reported the incident to the battalion, but no action was taken against the perpetrators. (Source: ALTSEAN Report Card, ALTSEAN, April 2003)

 

Five daughters of displaced farmers detained and raped in Nam-Zarng

 

On 28 June 2003, 5 daughters of displaced farmers, between the ages of 13 and 16, who were helping their parents at a farm in Nam Wo village (relocated) in Nawng Hee village tract, Nam-Zarng Township, were arrested and detained.  They were raped for 2 days and 2 nights by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB 66. The girls who were raped included (not their real names):

 

(1) Naang Seng, age 16;
(2) Naang Naang, age 15;
(3) Naang Mya, age 13;
(4) Naang Zing Mya, age 13; and
(5) Naang Law, age 14.

At the time of the incident, some displaced farming families were taking turns helping each another cultivate rice and soy beans on farms in the area of their former village, Nam Wo.  They had been forcibly relocated in 1996-97 by the authorities’ troops, then known as SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council).

On 28 June, a patrol of about 40-45 SPDC troops from IB 66, led by Commander Kyaw Myint, came and surrounded several families of farmers at their camp where they were temporarily staying together.  The SPDC troops ordered the farmers not to leave, and as they surrounded the camp they picked out 5 young girls among the farmers.  The troops then led the girls away some distance.

The girls were raped repeatedly over the course of 2 days and 2 nights by the SPDC troops before they were released and allowed to return to their parents, who were being detained with the other farmers at their camp. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, August 2003)

Woman raped and her father beaten, while husband forced to attend people’s militia training in Shan State

In early August 2003, a woman was raped by SPDC troops from IB 64 at a rice field near Ta Maak Laang village, about 4-5 miles north of Lai-Kha town. Later the woman’s father was beaten by the same troops until he lost consciousness, at their house in Maak Laang village.

Naang Nyo (not her real name, age 20), had gone to tend the family’s rice field outside their village alone, since her husband was forced by SPDC authorities to attend a 45-day people’s militia training. Many other people in Lai-Kha Township were also forced to attend. Sometime in early August 2003, when Naang Nyo was tending to the rice, 3 SPDC troops from IB 64 found and gang-raped her at the edge of the field.

Roughly 3-4 days later, the same SPDC troops came to Naang Nyo’s house in Maak Laang village at about 6:30 in the evening. They informed Naang Nyo that her husband wanted to smoke and told her to fetch 50 rolls of cheroot cigarettes and follow them immediately.  They promised her that she could return soon after.

Naang Nyo did not dare to go, and so her father told the SPDC troops that it was already quite late and pleaded with them to let her go the following morning. The SPDC troops became angry and one of them struck Naang Nyo’s father harshly in the back with his rifle butt, causing him to fall prone to the ground and lose consciousness.

The SPDC troops left immediately after beating Naang Nyo’s father. Naang Nyo then ran and called for help, and some villagers and their leaders came to her house. Naang Nyo’s father was treated by some of the village elders and he regained consciousness after about 20 minutes. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, December 2003)

Lahu woman gang-raped by soldiers at her farm

On 16 August 2003, Captain Aung Chan Win and his troops, from Burma Army LIB 519, came and stayed at Nam Yon village, Mong Tong (Mine Ton) Township, in Shan State. At that time, a farmer and his wife were planting rice in their hillside field. Capt. Aung Chan Win and his troops approached the couple and fired shots at them. While the farmer fled out of fear, his wife, a 30-year-old Christian Lahu woman, was unable to escape because the soldiers had caught her by the hand. Then, Capt. Aung Chan Win questioned her about her husband and accused him of being a soldier for the Shan State Army (SSA). He slapped her face and said, “Your husband is a Shan State Army soldier, tell us about that.” The woman replied that her husband was just farmer. Then, the captain continued to slap her face and raped her. After he raped her, his 20 soldiers raped to her one by one.

 

Later the troops returned to the village. The woman was unconscious when other villagers came to search and care for her. Capt. Aung Chan Win threatened the village headman by saying, “Nobody must talk about this incident. If other people find out about this I will punish you and your villagers.”  Thus, the villagers were too afraid to report the rape. (Source: Free Burma Rangers, 2003)

 

Displaced women raped while gathering mushrooms in Kun-Hing

 

On 21 August 2003, 3 displaced women from Ka Li village relocation site in Kun-Hing Township were raped by 4 SPDC troops from IB 246, led by Commander Tin Win, in the forest north of their village.

 

The 3 women, Naang Nguay (age 21), Naang Non (age 30), and Naang Poi (age 18) (not their real names), were originally from Loi Khio village in Loi Khio village tract, Kun-Hing Township, which had been forcibly relocated to Ka Li village relocation site in 1996 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops.

 

The women were gathering mushrooms together in the forest north of their village when the above-mentioned SPDC troops suddenly appeared and raped the women at gunpoint. After raping the women, the troops warned them not to tell anyone about it, or else they would come clandestinely and shoot dead their entire families.

 

The women had accordingly kept it secret until 28 August 2003, when a neighbor friend named Naang Awng came and asked Naang Non to go with her to gather mushrooms. In order to prevent other women from meeting the same fate, Naang Non related her plight to Naang Awng.

 

For some time after the incident, none of the women in the village dared to gather mushrooms in the forest by themselves, without being accompanied by at least 4 or 5 men. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, December 2003)

 

Drunken soldiers including captain rape wife in front of husband

 

On 28 August 2003, at about 2:00 in the afternoon, a group of 5 drunken SPDC soldiers, led by Captain Hla Than, came across a couple fishing.  The husband and wife were fishing at a river near Myaing Ka Lay village in Karen State.  The soldiers proceeded to arrest the pair and rape the woman in the presence of her husband.  The woman was released later that evening, but by 4 September the husband was still being held in custody. (Source: MAN, 6 September 2003)

 

SPDC forces young females to pay in order to cross checkpoint

 

During the first half of 2003, a Lahu woman who fled from Mongton in Shan State to Mae Sai, Thailand reported that women and girls under 25 years of age were not allowed to cross the border at the Mong Hsat, Mongton, Mong Pyaand and Tachileik checkpoints.

 

However, SPDC troops give permission to women under 25-years old to cross the checkpoint if they pay a 50,000 kyat bribe to border authorities. Some young female who are related to members of the SPDC are also allowed to cross with a special card.

 

Furthermore, young girls who do not have the money to pay a bribe can still cross the checkpoints if they are willing to “perform” in front of the soldiers. Reportedly girls are being forced to do things that they don’t want to. (Source: Palaung Youth Newsletter, Issue #3, PYNG, August 2003)

 

Rape in Murng-Paeng

 

On 4 December 2003, Naang Phawng (not her real name) (age 19), from Yaang Maai village, Yaang Maai village tract, Murng-Paeng Township was collecting wild vegetables near a rice field about 1 mile east of her village, when a group of 5 SPDC soldiers from IB 43, led by Commander Aung Myint Htun, came towards her and called her to them.

 

As Naang Phawng got near them, Commander Aung Myint Htun ordered 2 of his troops to go and stand guard in different directions, and dragged her into a nearby bush and raped her. After raping Naang Phawng to his satisfaction, the commander ordered the 2 soldiers who were with him to rape her as well.

 

Naang Phawng was released after being raped by 3 SPDC soldiers and she came directly back to her village and related her plight to her parents and village leaders. But no one dared to lodge a complaint with the military authorities for fear of reprisal. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, April 2004)

 

7.7 Interviews

 

Interview #1

 

Name:                          Naw Sa Thaw (not real name)

Age:                             30 years

Religion:                       Animist

Village:                         AAA village, Pa’an District, Karen State

Occupation:                  Field farmer

Number of family:         4 persons

 

Q: Could you please tell us about the entering and looting by BA troops in your village?

A: On 14 June 2003, the BA troops from LIB 703 led by officer Tun Tun Win entered AAA village. In the village his soldiers looted 3 packets of smoke and 5 packets of cooking sweet powder (Ajinomoto), and also stole one chicken and one pyi of rice, which were altogether worth 1,000 Baht.

 

Q: Did they do anything to you while attending in your house?

A: When a soldier came into my house he took off his pants. I was afraid of him if he would rape me and then I took up my baby and ran away to the neighboring house.

(Source: Free Burma Rangers, 2003)

  


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