In Burma, Rape is Rife

Earlier this month fighting erupted between the Burmese army and theKachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State in northeastern Burma. Thefighting marked the end of a 17-year peace agreement between two parties and ispart of a trend of increased conflict between the Burmese army and ethnicminority groups throughout eastern Burma. 

Civilians in Kachin State are suffering the effects of the recent conflict.According to the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), 18 Kachin women andgirls have been raped by Burmese army soldiers since the beginning of June. Fourof the rape victims, ranging in age from 15 to 50-years-old, were also killed.

KWAT accused the Burmese army of using rape as a weapon of war in a press release issued last week.

This isn’t the first time that rapes by Burmese army havebeen documented. PHR’s recent report, Life Under the Junta,found that 2.8% of 603 households surveyed in Chin state reported that a memberof the household was raped by a Burmese soldier between March 2009 and February2010. The Shan Women’s Action Network, the Karen Women Organization, Women’sLeague of Chinland, and Refugees International have also published reportsdocumenting rapes of ethnic minority women by the Burmese army.

Aung San Suu Kyi, thepreeminent pro-democracy leader in Burma, said in a speech last month,"Rape is used in my country as a weapon against those who only want tolive in peace, who only want to assert their basic human rights. Especially inthe areas of the ethnic nationalities, rape is rife."

Although the army commandhas been accused of encouraging rape outright, concrete evidence remainselusive. It is clear, however, that soldiers are raping women, and this muststop. The Burmese government should take action to prevent soldiers from committingrape and should prosecute and punish those who carry out or condone thesecrimes. Systematic and widespread sexual violence in the context of thecontinuing assaults on ethnic minorities in Burma constitute crimes againsthumanity. PHR continues to call for aninternational Commission of Inquiry to investigate these horrific acts ofviolence against civilian populations.

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