Myanmar’s junta killed nearly 500 women in just over 2 years

Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government marked International Women’s Day Wednesday with a bleak statistic.

It said 483 women across the country have been killed by the junta in the 25 months since the military seized power from the democratically elected government.

The joint statement by the National Unity Government’s Ministry of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs and the National Unity Consultative Council’s Coordinating Committee on Gender Policy said the junta had also detained 3,125 women, 11 of whom received the death sentence and 15 life imprisonment.

Troops sexually assaulted 122 women, according to the statement, which said the National Unity Government would fight for justice for women whose rights were violated.

In one of the latest incidents, junta troops raided Tar Taing village in the seat of Sagaing region on March 1, killing at least 17 civilians — three of whom were women.

A friend of one of the women’s families told RFA Burmese that soldiers brutally gang raped Pan Nwe, Pan Thwal and Swe Swe Oo before ending their lives.

“All three females were found with their blouses and longyis tattered. We found signs that they had been raped. There were bruises on their breasts. Their vaginas were swollen and bleeding. One woman was found with an onion stuffed into her vagina,” said the friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal.

“There are no words to explain how I feel about these heartless military soldiers. We are all grief-stricken. We have called on the international community to help us again and again. We’ve produced evidence of our tragedies. But there has been no response to our requests and I no longer want to ask for any help.”

Call for international cooperation

Nang Moh Moh, secretary general of the Women’s League of Burma, said international cooperation is key to ending the junta’s violence against women.

“On International Women’s Day, I’d like to say that the junta is majorly responsible for the threats to safety and security for women and children,” she told RFA. “It is necessary for all of us, including the international community, to work together to end the junta’s use of sexual assaults, rape and violence against women as weapons of war.”

Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe, the National Unity Government’s minister for women, youth and children affairs, said that the shadow government is compiling documentation of the junta’s imprisonment, sexual assaults and killings of women to hold the military accountable for its crimes.

“We are submitting this evidence to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar of the United Nations and will take action through international courts to serve justice for the victims,” she said.

Calls by RFA to junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun regarding the NUG’s statement about the targeting of women went unanswered Wednesday.

Women of the opposition

People across Myanmar have been marking International Women’s Day by holding discussions on gender equality and women’s rights.

The country’s women have been very active in both non-violent protests and armed rebellion since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup.

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, 20, died two weeks after the coup, the first protester to die at the hands of the military regime. She was shot in the head during a demonstration in Naypyidaw on Feb. 9, 2021 and succumbed to her injuries on Feb. 19. Two days after her death tens of thousands of mourners and protesters took to the streets of the capital for her funeral procession.

Jewel, a female member of the Pazundaung-Botataung Protest Movement Committee, told RFA that she and other women working to end military rule will not back down from their fight, despite junta tactics designed to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition.

“We are deprived of basic human rights in our country … and our lives can be taken away by the military forces as if we were livestock,” she said.

“We cannot accept this power grab by the military dictators, so we risk our lives to protest as much as possible, no matter how dangerous the situation, because we are determined to strike until the end.”

Since the coup, the junta has repeatedly ignored the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Myanmar signed on July 22, 1997.

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