Nearly 100 women have been killed by security forces loyal to Myanmar’s junta since the military orchestrated a power grab nearly 11 months ago, a group promoting gender equality in the country said Tuesday as former female prisoners said sexual abuse of inmates was routine.
According to the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), a total of 94 women were killed by police or soldiers during anti-junta protests, interrogations, and troop offensives since Feb. 1, when the military deposed the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government in a coup.
In the months that followed, the military has killed at least 1,380 civilians and arrested nearly 8,300 others, mostly during widespread peaceful demonstrations, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The military has also launched offensives against multiple armed ethnic groups and prodemocracy militias in the country’s remote border regions.
Among the women killed was Chin Chin, a 23-year-old woman with the anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia in Sagaing region’s Kalay township who was shot in the head during a military raid on Nov. 18.
Chin Chin’s father told RFA’s Myanmar Service he was devastated by the sudden death of his daughter, a university student.
“We couldn’t think of anything to do [at the time] and held out hope that she must be still alive,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We didn’t know where to go to get the body or who to turn to for help. We just hope to collect her remains one day when we get back our freedom and bury her properly.”
Fighting between the military and the PDF continues in and around Kalay, preventing the recovery of her body, and Chin Chin’s father said he hopes to one day hold a funeral for her in accordance with ethnic Chin tradition.
According to the WLB, some of the 94 women were killed during the brutal suppression of anti-coup protests. Young women such as Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing and Kyai Zin were shot in the head during such crackdowns in the capital Naypyidaw and Mandalay in the early weeks of the political crisis.
Junta spokesman Deputy Information Minister Zaw Min Tun on Tuesday called the WLB’s figures false.
“We have issued statements in most cases, regardless of whether it was the death of a woman or the death of a man who were carrying out acts of violence,” he said.
“Some organizations have made all these allegations, but they are not true. They are baseless. They have no evidence.”
At risk in captivity
The AAPP says that the military has arrested more than 2,000 women since the coup and that some of the 94 deaths documented by the WLB include those killed in captivity.
Ma Myo, who was released from detention after 45 days in solitary confinement in Yangon’s Insein Prison, told RFA that all women who are arrested must first pass through interrogation centers, which she called “a living hell” because of the treatment she received.
Ma Myo said that after arriving in prison, she was subjected to torture and sexual abuse, which she said staff “seemed to believe they had the right” to inflict on detainees.
“The way they treat women prisoners is not right. I always told them whenever I spoke with them – even while I was in solitary confinement – that their actions were in violation of women’s rights … and they would say we couldn’t talk about human rights in a prison,” she said.
“They said we were under their jurisdiction and that we could not look back or talk back to them like that. I think they have an inferiority complex, and they think they have the right to hit anyone in a prison uniform.”
She said that among the female prisoners arrested for protesting the coup were “girls as young as four and as old as 60.”
Other women released from detention as part of a Sept. 28 general amnesty told RFA that police and army officers who carry out interrogations are regularly under the influence of alcohol and are known to sexually abuse female detainees.
WLB Joint Secretary General Nang Moe Moe said that one day, members of the security forces must be held accountable for the violence they have committed against women in Myanmar.
“The military is committing truly heinous crimes against humanity … and horrible war crimes,” she said.
“The world is witnessing all of these crimes and the situation is unacceptable. There must be accountability.”
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