When Unarmed Women Are in the Hands of Armed Men
covering burma and southeast asia
Friday, April 20, 2018

When Unarmed Women Are in the Hands of Armed Men

By SAW YAN NAING Monday, November 7, 2011

Victims of war—ethnic Karen women and children wait for medical treatment in January 2010. (Photo: AP)

“I was terrified. I kept screaming, and then he threatened to punch my baby through my stomach if I didn't stop,” said a pregnant woman from Kachin State, describing her rape at the hands of a Burmese government soldier.

“I was so afraid. All I could do was cry while he brutally raped me,” she said, sobbing.

The woman was speaking to women's rights researchers who had traveled to war-torn Kachin State to produce a documentary about sexual violence perpetrated against women in the conflict zone. She was just one of 18 women known to have been raped by Burmese soldiers in the state, where the Burmese army is mounting a major offensive against the Kachin Independence Army.

The documentary, produced by the Thailand-based Women's League of Burma (WLB) and titled “Bringing Justice to Women,” makes harrowing viewing.

“If possible, I want legal action taken against the military government in Burma,” said the woman, not looking very hopeful that that would ever happen.

Kachin State is not the only place in Burma where ethnic women are targets of sexual violence. In neighboring Shan State, rights activists reported that four ethnic Shan women, aged between 12 and 50 years old—including one women who was nine months' pregnant—were raped by soldiers in July.

The film highlights the ongoing systematic use of rape as a weapon against ethnic minorities in areas of renewed military conflict in Kachin, Karen and Shan states, one year after Burma held its first election in more than two decades.

At a time when Naypyidaw is stepping up its efforts to win international legitimacy, the film, using interviews with rape survivors, community members and women’s rights groups, provides compelling evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity by the government's army continue unabated under the new military-backed “civilian” regime.

Moon Nay Li, a spokeswoman for the Thailand-based Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT), told The Irrawaddy, “In the war zone, women are most vulnerable and their lives and safety are at risk. Some are raped then killed by the government army.”

“The situation is getting worse instead of better, especially in ethnic areas, after the general election in 2010,” she added.

Civilians routinely become victims of forced labor, torture, rape and murder in Burma's conflict zones. The fact that such abuses have not stopped despite the supposed transition to democratic rule means that it is too early to be optimistic about recent political developments in Burma, according to Moon Nay Li.

With no signs of improvement in the army's human rights record, the WLB has renewed calls for a UN-led Commission of Inquiry (CoI) leading to the referral of Than Shwe, the chief of the ex-military regime, and other former leading generals to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

One reason the army continues to commit rampant human rights abuses is that for decades it has acted with impunity. In fact, Burma's 2008 Constitution guarantees the country's military leaders immunity from prosecution. Under Articles 443 and 445 of Chapter XIV of the Constitution, members of the current regime cannot be held accountable for their wrongdoings in the past.

Article 443 states that “the preparatory work done by the [regime] before this Constitution comes into operation, to bring the Constitution into operation, shall be deemed to have been carried out in accord with this Constitution.”

“No proceeding shall be instituted against the [ruling military council] or any member thereof or any member of the Government, in respect to any act done in the execution of their respective duties,” according to Article 445.

According to Moon Nay Li, the 2008 Constitution, which was written by handpicked representatives of Burma's various social and ethnic groups, serves only to protect those who have committed crimes in ethnic regions, and offers no security to ordinary citizens.

The WLB's documentary therefore argues that the only way to achieve justice in Burma is by calling on the government to implement the terms of UN resolutions demanding an end to acts of sexual violence carried out with impunity by members of the Burmese armed forces.

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Madeline Owen Wrote:
Wow. This really shines a light on how bad the world is getting. I can really feel for these women, for the same thing has happened to me in the past. I pray for all the women everywhere. Good Luck Everybody else!

bwanyunt Wrote:
I love to see current approach made by DASSK for the sake of poor people. It's not definitely please the exiles (lip servicing so called pro-democracy people). Zaganar may be loughing at those people from exiles. The steps taken by Thein Sein is still not enough, but as long as Thein Sein & DASSK understood & pecefully compromised for that change is acceptable. They're trying a different approach, give them a time please. Sorry Mr & Mrs Exiles, you're out of ring now and continue enjoying your life!

Ohnpanmaung Wrote:
Americans are "concerned" about large number of people raped and killed cruelly by the very people they are try to link up! What any decent person or government should do is called condemnation and the correct action is not promising to get in bed with them but to further isolate and punish until they stop.

But then again the raped people cannot even look up to the people's champion NLD as they are busy praising the leader of the rape gang.

Major exile news outlets will do well to concentrate on condemnation of the act of rape and murder than getting busy giving " kudos" to the leader of the rape gang as well. Oh sorry this one is a moderate. He just sat around when the monks were beated to deth.

Sai Suriya Wrote:
Once again it is totally unfair to blame on the majority of innocent Bamar but they have the responsibilities and duty to clear the misfortune fallen upon them. All bamar lumyo has to prove and work harder to gain the trust and confidence of all ethnics group. At this point --- every ethnics group has a sentiment of hatred towards Bamar. Trust this and hope all the bamar will work hard to clear the bad name brought by small xenophobic generals.

kerry Wrote:
How can anyone in the world take seriously a government that freely conducts a war against women, and refuses to free political prisoners?

How can ASEAN even think of giving such a 'government' Chairmanship?

Baby steps needed, but for God's sake - stop the killing and war crimes!

myat moe Wrote:
This is only a political madness by the military junta trying to silence the ethnic resistance by using force and fear tactic. It's not going to work as before. What is the Rubber stamp parliament doing about it, Nothing! In the future, The commander; architect of this war crime and atrocity will take off his uniform and become a law maker in the new burma political puppet show. Welcome to the new era of democracy in burma. good luck.

Maung Kyaw Nu,A former prisone Wrote:
How to stop these kinds of uncivilised war crimes. The war criminals should be booked for trail. Save the innocent women.

Norman Hla Wrote:
US special envoy (only lip service) delays our Spring uprising in Burma but US will be sure to support Israel to attack Iran for nuclear weapon aim due to US interest in middle east although rejection from Russian and China for Israel military intention. Because Iran nuclear threat is to US civilians(human) and Burmese ethnics and Syrian are not US civilians(not human). We, Burmese are asked to wait the repeated same results(time)of game(hide-and-seek))created by "than shwe" between Obama and than shwe. Sorry, we, ethnics are very poor to serve US envoy with special dinner from Tax payer's money again and again for than shwe's game. Please, US military plane should allow than shwe to go to US for any game permanently(do not let than shwe to come back Burma).

Wallace Hla Wrote:
With all the documented evidence of what is happening in Burma, US special envoy Derek Mitchell and his colleague Michael Posner, Asst. Secretary ( Bureau of democracy, human rights and labor ) had the nerves and galls to make a press statement that they had concluded a very productive and informative visit to Burma that lasted four days and met with a range of senior government officials as well as members of civil society, opposition political leaders, and representatives of the international community. Instead of taking this rare opportunity of visiting the conflict zones on a fact-finding trip, they chose to be wined and dined and were satisfied with whatever lies the Burmese government wanted them to hear and report back to their government. I thought I had seen the last of the likes of Gambari and Ban Ki Moon but it seems that I’m wrong, seeing there are many of the same caliber to replace them, ending any hopes of the sufferings of the ethnic minorities of Burma.

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