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A young Muslim woman who claims she was raped by a court official has dispelled reports that her case is linked to recent riots in Mandalay.
Contrary to local media reports citing her testimony, 17-year-old Hay Mar Kyaw told DVB that she believes her case is unrelated to communal conflict in Burma’s second-largest city last week.
Hay Mar Kyaw clarified that there are two entirely separate rape allegations at play: one case, which she filed in May against a court clerk; and another case against two tea-shop owners, which has not been verified.
The latter incident is largely believed to have been the catalyst for two days of turmoil in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, Chan Aye Tharzan, that left at least two people dead and more than a dozen injured.
Reports of Hay Mar Kyaw’s case, which surfaced on Thursday, cast public doubt on the allegations against Nay Win and San Maung, two Muslim brothers accused of raping their Buddhist maid. The brothers and the maid all remain at large and existence of any legal case involving them could not be independently verified.
Hay Mar Kyaw, who claims to know the brothers personally, said that although she is aware of legal charges against them, she does not know if the crime was committed, adding that allegations against the brothers have nothing to do with her case, which remains unresolved.
“It’s not related to my case,” she told DVB on Monday.
Earlier this year, Hay Mar Kyaw’s brother was brought to trial on drug-related charges in Mandalay regional court. She claims to have become acquainted with a clerk, 58-year-old Tin Maung Win, during her regular attendance at his proceedings.
The plaintiff said that on 7 March, 2014, Tin Maung Win offered to help her broker a deal with higher court officials to lessen her brother’s forthcoming sentence. She said that he advised her to travel with him to Pyin Oo Lwin to meet with his peers.
According to her testimony and a letter submitted to the Pyin Oo Lwin police department on 20 May, Tin Maung Win allegedly drugged and raped her on 8 March in a guesthouse. She said she returned to Mandalay a few hours later. An officer at Pyin Oo Lwin’s Myoma police station confirmed that the case has been filed and is under the charge of the station’s chief, Kan Hlaing, who was unavailable for comment.
The accused court official, Tin Maung Win, speaking to DVB by phone on Tuesday, said that he is not acquainted with Hay Mar Kyaw, but that he is aware of the allegations and spoke with Police Chief Kan Hlaing on 21 May regarding the matter. Tin Maung Win has denied all claims of sexual relations with the plaintiff.
While the incident was said to have occurred in early March, police were not immediately notified.
On 10 April, Hay Mar Kyaw’s brother was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Tin Maung Win said that upon hearing the ruling, the boy’s mother, Mar Lar, became irate and threatened the judge, who then asked Tin Maung Win to serve as plaintiff in a case against Mar Lar. Charges against Hay Mar Kyaw’s mother, which included contempt of court and use of taboo language, were filed on 11 April, he said.
Mar Lar countered with corruption charges against Tin Maung Win.
Allegations of rape were registered on 20 May. No arrest was made and no trial date was set.
On the morning of 1 July, Mar Lar said she went to Chan Aye Tharzan Township Court to face the charges against her. She said that a crowd of monks were present at the courthouse upon her arrival, and claimed that they harassed her.
Tin Maung Win confirmed the presence of several monks affiliated with the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, or “Ma Ba Tha”, a well-known clan of nationalist monks, but he denied that they harassed Mar Lar. “Four, five, maybe six monks,” he said.“They targeted me, that’s why some of my monks went to Wirathu and asked for help. Because my monks are angry,” said Tin Maung Win
DVB inquired, based on previous reports, whether Tin Maung Win had solicited protection or assistance from Wirathu, a Mandalay-based monk whose name has become synonymous with anti-Muslim rhetoric and who is affiliated with the Ma Ba Tha and the ultra-nationalist group 969.
“Some monks asked him to help me because this [case] seems to be bullshit,” he said. “They targeted me, that’s why some of my monks went to Wirathu and asked for help. Because my monks are angry, because my morality is clean and my reputation is great, they don’t want me to be a victim in this case.”
Mar Lar said she left the court by noon last Tuesday, and this was verified by Tin Maung Win. She said that she went to a mosque near her home, and then she went to work.
Mar Lar and Hay Mar Kyaw identify themselves as Muslims. They work as vendors on 27th street in Mandalay’s Chan Aye Tharzan Township. Both attested that after leaving the mosque on 1 July, they set up their stall in the afternoon before the neighbourhood’s mostly Muslim population were to break their daily fast at sundown.
At 4:39pm, Wirathu created a Facebook post sharing a blog entry accusing the two Muslim brothers of raping their Buddhist maid. The Facebook post, which contained the phone numbers of the accused, has since been removed. The original blog entry, which was published on 30 June, has also been redacted.
By 8pm on 1 July, Mar Lar and Hay Mar Kyaw both said that police, monks and many lay Buddhists were present on 27th street. By that time, violence had already ensued, and they had closed up shop to seek shelter. They remained in hiding on 27th street throughout the night. Their family was not specifically targeted, they said.
At least five people were injured that night. Riots resumed the following evening, resulting in at least two deaths — one Buddhist, one Muslim, both male.
When the violence subsided, Hay Mar Kyaw and her mother were brought to Rangoon by an activist affiliated with the Myanmar Trade Union Federation, who publicised her story. Reports soon circulated that the alleged victim was claiming to be the impetus for the unrest, and that allegations against the tea shop owners had been fabricated.
When DVB spoke privately with them on Monday night, they both said that those reports were untrue.
“This case wasn’t related to us, it’s just what happened that night,” said Mar Lar.