A restaurant owner in Rangoon’s North Okkalapa Township has been sentenced to eight years in prison for raping a 15-year-old girl multiple times, the victim’s lawyer says.
Social workers and the victim’s family members say the sentence by the township court on Monday was too lenient for the crime of sexual abuse against a minor.
Myint Aung, the owner of Cherry Restaurant, was detained in February at the township police station and a trial began in the following weeks.
The 15-year-old girl told The Irrawaddy in February that she had been raped six times by her former employer at Cherry Restaurant. She started working at the restaurant in 2010 when she was 13 years old, and her parents were paid 15,000 kyats (US$16) monthly for her labor.
“Every time after he raped me, he gave me a white pill and told me he would kill me if I told anyone what he did,” said the girl. The case was reported only after she managed to contact her family, with whom she had lost contact for six months.
She was detained at a juvenile detention center for two weeks in February and March after the defendant’s wife, Cho Mar, accused her of theft.
Lay Lay, an activist who works at a child care center in the township that was established by the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has been following the case closely and offering support to the family.
“An underage girl was raped and then forced to take medicine,” she told The Irrawaddy. “But the accused only got an eight-year sentence. It shouldn’t be like that. As far as I know, a rapist can be sentenced to between 15 years and 20 years,” the equivalent of a life sentence in Burma.
Aung Thein, the prosecutor, said a provincial court had the authority to sentence someone to between 10 years and life in prison for rape. “The decision was only eight years’ imprisonment,” he said of ruling in North Okkalapa Township.
He said the case highlighted the issues of sexual abuse and labor exploitation of young girls across the country.
“There are many cases of child abuse that are never even reported,” he said.
The victim was in poor condition during the trial, according to family members.
“My niece has been suffering with an ache in her stomach. She had to go to court in poor health,” her uncle told The Irrawaddy. “The sentence this man received is very small compared to the effects on her dignity, future and mental state.”
Last week, a township court in Mandalay Division handed a life prison sentence to a man found guilty of raping a 34-year-old woman in March.
Burma signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1999, 10 years after the human rights treaty was introduced, but the Southeast Asian country only defines children as below the age of 16.