Shan teenager ‘gang-raped by troops’

A 16-year-old girl from the Palaung ethnic group in Shan state was blindfolded and raped by six Burmese troops tasked with security close to her village, a relative of the teenager has said.

The victim, who has not been named for safety reasons, encountered a troop patrol as she walked from Hpanlan village in Shan state’s Kunhing township to Nanmawngin village, the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) reported.

The incident happened in early February but “as rural villagers, they dared not report the case,” the girl’s relative told SHAN.

During the walk, the teenager encountered a group of six soldiers from the Burmese army’s Light Infantry Battalion 574. “She was blindfolded and raped by the soldiers one after another,” the relative continued. All they knew about the identity of the troops was their battalion number.

It follows an incident in November last year in nearby Mong Nawng township, about 30 miles northwest of Kunhing, in which a disabled Shan woman was tied up and raped by a Burmese solider.

The incident was immediately denounced by the Thailand-based Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN), who said that a major build up of troops in the volatile northeastern state was partly to blame for rising levels of violence against civilians.

SWAN’s landmark ‘License to Rape’ report in 2002 documented how the Burmese army had used rape of women as a “weapon of war” in conflict-torn ethnic regions. It said that the ruling junta “is allowing its troops systematically and on a widespread scale to commit rape with impunity in order to terrorise and subjugate the ethnic peoples of Shan state”.

Of the 173 incidents of rape between 1996 and 2001 that the report documents, around 61 percent were believed to be gang-rapes, while a quarter resulted in deaths.

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