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In Burma, Rape is Rife

on July 6, 2011

Earlier this month fighting erupted between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State in northeastern Burma. The fighting marked the end of a 17-year peace agreement between two parties and is part of a trend of increased conflict between the Burmese army and ethnic minority 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 and girls have been raped by Burmese army soldiers since the beginning of June. Four of 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 have been documented. PHR’s recent report, Life Under the Junta, found that 2.8% of 603 households surveyed in Chin state reported that a member of the household was raped by a Burmese soldier between March 2009 and February 2010. The Shan Women’s Action Network, the Karen Women Organization, Women’s League of Chinland, and Refugees International have also published reports documenting rapes of ethnic minority women by the Burmese army.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the preeminent 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 to live in peace, who only want to assert their basic human rights. Especially in the areas of the ethnic nationalities, rape is rife."

Although the army command has been accused of encouraging rape outright, concrete evidence remains elusive. It is clear, however, that soldiers are raping women, and this must stop. The Burmese government should take action to prevent soldiers from committing rape and should prosecute and punish those who carry out or condone these crimes. Systematic and widespread sexual violence in the context of the continuing assaults on ethnic minorities in Burma constitute crimes against humanity. PHR continues to call for an international Commission of Inquiry to investigate these horrific acts of violence against civilian populations.

Places: Burma