An incident involving threats against a woman and her family reflect widespread sexual violence and impunity in ethnic areas under military control.
After refusing the physical advances of a Burma Army officer, local witnesses reported that a woman and her family were threatened in the Wan Pai area of Laikha Township, southern Shan State, on Monday night.
Nang Lern, 20, was talking with her parents in their house’s compound when Lt. Sein Min, vice commander of Burma Army Battalion No. 512, confronted her at around 8 p.m.
“Lt. Sein Min walked toward Nang Lern. He then pointed the gun at her lap and ordered her to go with him,” said a local resident who wished to remain anonymous. He believed that the lieutenant was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
“Nang Lern begged him to let her go, but Lt. Sein Min was angry and told her to go with him if she didn’t want to die,” he added. Lt. Sein Min allegedly left the house and, according to neighbors, returned later at about midnight. They saw him use his gun to fire shots upward toward the sky while stating that he was not afraid of anyone.
“The fact that this Burmese military officer openly attempted sexual violence in front of witnesses shows his confidence of impunity under the current system,” explained Nang Charm Tong, a Shan human rights activist. “He must be punished and the Burma Army must be held accountable for such crimes.”
In the 2014 report, “Same Impunity, Same Patterns,” the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) documented 100 crimes of sexual violence by the military against women and girls in Burma’s ethnic areas during the last four years. The report “specifically calls for an end to the prevailing system of impunity that not only enables military perpetrators to evade prosecution, but also fosters a culture of continued and escalating violence.”
The local witness alsoadded that Nang Lek, Nang Lern’s mother, fainted during the encounter and was taken later to the local hospital. Early the next morning, it was reported that Lt. Sein Min offered the family a sum of 300,000 kyats (265 USD) in exchange for them not to press charges. When they refused the money, Lt. Sein Min ordered Nang Lek to leave the hospital immediately.
“Our country has now changed. These kinds of actions are unacceptable,” said Sai Kyaw Zeya, Laikha Township’s parliamentary representative, when asked to comment on the incident.
At the time of reporting, Nang Lern’s case had not yet been brought before a judiciary.
BY SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)