RANGOON — A Burma Army soldier based in Mon State’s Thanbyuzayat Township allegedly beat and attempted to rape an ethnic Mon woman on Saturday night, according to local Mon leaders, who said that the hospitalized victim had filed a lawsuit against the soldier.
The 43-year-old victim was attacked by a soldier of Artillery Battalion 315, which is based in Yaw Tha Yar village in Thanbyuzayat Township, according to Kyae Kyae Nyi, a member of the Mon Democracy Party, and Nai Ong Ma-nge, a central committee member of the New Mon State Party.
They said the woman, a mother of seven, was tapping rubber late at night when a soldier beat her as he tried to rape her, adding that about an hour she was able to finally flee.
A village head later found the identity card of the soldier at the site and went to Battalion 315’s commanders, who told him that they would provide free medical care to the victim if she refrained from filing a complaint with the police, the Mon leaders said.
The victim was brought to Thanbyuzayat Township Hospital but was so badly injured that she had to be transferred to a hospital in the Mon State capital Moulmein, where many local community leaders visited her to offer support.
“Firstly, she told us that she worried too much about her family’s security to sue the perpetrator. But finally she agreed to bring this case to the court,” said Kyae Kyae Nyi. She said local leaders had arranged a lawyer for the victim and on Wednesday she filed a complaint with Thanbyuzayat Township police.
“It is important to bring this case to court because many of our Mon people are afraid of the army and did not dare to do it. We brought in a lawyer for her already,” said Nai Ong-Ma-nge.
Recently, on Dec. 24, a soldier of Infantry Battalion 31, based in Mon State’s Ye Township, allegedly tied up and raped a 13-year-old girl. The Burma Army’s Southeast Regional Command launched an investigation into the case and the soldier has reportedly been detained at his barracks, Mon leaders said on Jan. 15.
The Mon Women’s Organization and the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, however, raised concerns over the case, saying they feared that the soldier would escape criminal punishment.
In cases where soldiers are accused of crimes, including rape, it is common for the Burma Army to apply its own disciplinary processes, which are opaque and deliver lenient punishments.
Despite political reforms and ceasefires with most major rebel groups, the army remains a heavy presence in southern Mon State, where the New Mon State Party until recently fought a low-level insurgency.
Local Mon rights groups said the military had failed to change its practices and reports of sexual abuse continue in areas where troops are stationed to secure new development projects in the resource-rich state.
In mid-January, the Thailand-based Women’s League of Burma issued a report accusing the Burmese military of using rape as a weapon in the country’s various ethnic conflict zones.
The report, bringing together information for a number of women’s groups based in ethnic areas, said it had found more than 100 cases of women and girls being raped by soldiers since 2010.