Military personnel convicted in a rape incident in Myanmar have been sentenced. It has been described as a historic moment in the country. Punishment in rape cases is difficult in almost every society, but the accused here were military personnel. In Myanmar, soldiers have been accused of rape in the past. Such charges were common during military action against Rohingya Muslims. There was a general perception that army men are above the law. But the latest decision of the court is expected to change this thinking.
The victim of rape was Thein Nu (not real name). She was not silent on this. He fought a long battle to get justice. After all, they have won it now. Three rapist soldiers have now been sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment. Social activists have expressed hope that after this decision, many more rape victims can also come forward to get justice and challenge the thinking above the army law.
Thein Nu is 36 years old. She is the mother of four children. She hails from Rakhine province. The crime with them happened in June this year. This province has been the center of a fight between the army and a rebel organization called the Arkan Army. The Arakan Army is fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine Province. It is alleged that in this province, the army also committed acts of rape for the purpose of suppressing the rebels.
After the court’s decision on Friday, Thein Nu said that a similar incident has happened to many women like her. The army denied it when Thein Nu charged it. On the contrary, the army had accused them of fabricating a fake case. This case became very publicized. In Myanmar society, rape is considered a stigma on the victimized woman. Thein Nu’s alleged infamy was so much that her husband stopped talking to her. Now happy with his victory, Thein Noo says that he is still not convinced that the military tribunal has given the verdict in his favor.
Although Thein Nu and many social activists are calling the decision a historic moment for the country, many observers say that one must wait before making such a conclusion. Phil Robertson of the American human rights organization Human Rights Watch told a news agency that it was not yet clear whether the military was truly ready to face the alleged crimes of its personnel. The experience of the past is that the army denies such allegations and on the contrary, the accused make a defamation suit against the victim. Robertson said that therefore, on the basis of just one case, there would be no trust that the Army’s attitude had changed.
The incident of rape of Thein Nu took place during a fight with the rebels. According to their details, firing started in their village in the evening. Theun Nu hid in her mother-in-law’s house with her daughter. Many other women were also hidden there. At midnight, soldiers forcibly entered her house. He was then raped by three soldiers. Thein Nu says that a senior officer was also present there, who could have stopped the crime if he wanted. Therefore Thein Nu says that he should be punished as well. The military tribunal has accepted a hearing petition against him.
The organization called Arakan Women’s Network provided legal assistance to Thein Nu to fight this case. Thein has been sheltered by the same organization for the last six months. One of its officials told a news agency that this decision has created hope for all the victims who have been victims of such incidents in different areas.