A Ta’ang ethnic armed group has given $600 to a Shan teenager who tried to kill herself after being raped by one of its soldiers, and gaoled the soldier for just three years.
The 15-year-old victim from Panglong in Namtu Township had drunk pesticides after she was raped at her family’s home in late January when the girl’s parents were out. According to a local source who didn’t want to be named, Aik Htwe, a soldier in the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), was known by the victim.
During the rape, the girl screamed and alerted her neighbours, who surrounded the house, arrested the soldier and informed the leaders at his camp near the village of what he’d done. A TNLA officer summoned the headman of the village where Ta’ang and Shan live and warned him not to leak information about the rape to the media.
According to another woman who requested anonymity, the victim fled out of shame and trauma after the rape and attempted suicide. “Her aunt saved the girl’s life. And now her family is afraid she’ll try to kill herself again.”
After the news leaked, TNLA spokesperson Maj Tar Aik Kyaw promised to investigate the matter.
Locals told SHAN that the TNLA had initially tried to give the family $170 as compensation for the rape, but they wouldn’t accept it. After they complained to the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) leadership in Namtu town, the TNLA increased the amount to $600 and sentenced the rapist to three years in prison.
“Our representatives attended the last day of the court hearing… Now the case is closed,” SSPP spokesperson Maj Sai Than Aung told SHAN. Both armed groups are members of the Northern Alliance and are fighting together against the Restoration Council of Shan State and the Burma Army.
A villager told SHAN that the TNLA never pays for their meals when they eat at a resta urant. The village leaders always have to cover their bill. “The TNLA controls Panglon and the soldiers commit human rights violations, but the villagers are afraid to complain about it,” said the person, who asked that their name not be used.
Maj Tar Aik Kyaw said if anyone has a problem with their soldiers, they can complain to the armed group’s Justice and Public Affairs Centre.
But an activist asking that her name not be disclosed said that victims are often too afraid to seek justice when they’re raped by soldiers.
“Women in northern and southern Shan State are constantly worried about their safety because of the many armed groups and soldiers. During the armed conflict in Shan State, human rights violations, including sexual assault, are becoming more frequent. To prevent sexual assaults on women, armed groups must abide by a (strict) military code of conduct.”
A spokesperson for the Ta’ang Women’s Organisation said rapists must be severely punished under the law. “Whoever or whatever armed organisation… We won’t accept any abuse of women.”