A civil court in northern Shan State on Tuesday sentenced a Burmese government soldier to 13 years in prison for raping a minor.
Private Kaung Bo Bo of the 567th Infantry Battalion was found guilty by Muse District Court on two charges for the rape and kidnapping of a 14-year-old Kachin girl in Kutkai Township on 16 May.
Speaking to DVB by telephone on Tuesday, the victim’s lawyer, Roi Seng, said, “The defendant was given the maximum punishment of 10 years for rape and an additional three years for kidnapping by the court.”
The victim in the case is a mentally handicapped girl, she said, adding that her family originally filed charges at the Kutkai Township police office two days after the incident.
She said the military insisted on conducting its own tribunal to investigate the case and eventually sentenced Kaung Bo Bo to one year in prison – not for rape, but on charges of leaving his barracks without permission.
Pressure from family members and outrage from media and civil society organizations prompted the military court to agree to hand over jurisdiction to a civil court. The trial began on 19 September.
The family of the young woman is now demanding compensation, saying that she has been suffering mental trauma since the ordeal.
Lon Ngoi, a spokesperson for the Kachin Literature and Culture Body, which is based in northern Shan State and has been actively involved in the case on behalf of the rape victim, said, “It is not that we intend to ruin his [the soldier’s] life, but that we believe passing effective punishments on these type of offenses will make other potential perpetrators reconsider their actions.”
Traditionally, servicemen in the Burmese armed forces who commit offences – even against civilians – are only ever tried in military courts. Lon Ngoi said the Muse case was transferred to a civilian court after the family and civic groups reached out to 567th Infantry Battalion officers and senior regional commanders.
According to the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, 73 cases of rape have been documented in Kachin and northern Shan states since fighting broke out in 2011 between Burmese government forces and the Kachin Independence Army. However, it said, only three or four of these cases have reached trial, as the others were settled either with intimidation or a small amount of compensation.