A new report reveals that Burma’s army has been using rape as a weapon of war against ethnic women. The Washington-based Refugees International (RI) documented 43 rapes of women from the Karen, Karenni, Mon, Tavoyan and Shan ethnic groups. The US State Department found the report “appalling” and credible, according to the New York Times. Veronika Martin, one of the authors of the RI study No Safe Place: Burma’s Army and the Rape of Ethnic Women, told the Times that “Women are raped during forced labor assignments, they are raped while farming, they are raped in their own homes and raped also when they are trying to flee to Thailand.” The report found that almost one-third of the rapes were committed by higher-ranking officials, and in only two cases did the perpetrator receive even a minimum punishment.
The Burmese government has rejected the report and accused the US government of rehashing discredited allegations to attack it. But the State Department has said that its consulate in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai had found evidence supporting the accusations, according to Agence France Presse. The State Department conduced its own interviews in three locations in December to confirm the allegations. Its investigators talked to 12 women who said they had been gang raped by Burmese soldiers during the past five years.
The State Department reported that “all of the victims under 15 appeared severely traumatized by their experiences, were disturbed mentally and spoke in whispers, if at all … “The older women sobbed violently as they recalled horrific incidents of their own rapes as well as inhumane rapes, torture and execution of family members.”
Refugees International has called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to condemn rape and violence against ethnic women by the Burmese military and to insist that Thailand provide a safe haven for women fleeing rape and sexual violence in Burma.