The father of a Myanmar toddler who was allegedly raped at an unlicensed nursery school in May has called on authorities for a speedy resolution to his daughter’s case and raised questions about the accuracy of video coverage related to the crime, amid growing public dissatisfaction with police over the handling of the case.
Thousands of citizens have taken to the streets since last week to rally for justice for the girl and for the perpetrator’s arrest.
The toddler, who has not been publicly named, was two years and 11 months old when she was allegedly assaulted on May 16 at the private Wisdom Hill school in Zabuthiri township of Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.
Her father, who declined to give his name to protect the family’s identity, told RFA’s Myanmar Service on July 1 that police are taking too long with their investigation.
“It is very strange that it’s taking so long,” said the father, who declined to give his name to protect the identity of his family.
“In the beginning we didn’t even contact the media,” he said.
“We just filed a report at the police station and expected that the culprit would be questioned in a few days or a week. Our child was not lost in a field or at a fairground. It had happened in a very short span of time. We put her on a ferry bus, she went to school, and then she came back home in the afternoon. So now, we are beginning to feel there is some insincerity or something weird going on.”
On July 4, police arrested 29-year-old Aung Kyaw Myo, a driver at the school who goes by the name Aung Gyi, charging him with rape based on the school’s CCTV video footage, an identification by the victim, and the presence of semen on his underwear.
The girl’s father also raised questions about the video footage, pointing out its shortcomings.
“When we had the chance to see the video recordings later, we found there were three lapses of about five to 10 minutes, and we also learned that the video was not the original, but a copy downloaded by the school,” he told RFA.
“Because there were no eyewitnesses, we were hoping this CCTV tape would be of some help, and we were relying on that,” he said.
“We want to see justice as soon as possible — the real truth about what happened,” he said. “I want the real offender to be revealed.”
As a precaution, authorities have closed down other unlicensed nursery schools in Naypyidaw.
Doubts about rearrest
Aung Gyi’s rearrest created an uproar among Myanmar social media users who have raised doubts about the move because police had already arrested and investigated Aung Gyi but released him for a lack of matching DNA evidence.
On Monday, Judge Nyo Htay of Naypyidaw’s Dekkhinathiri District Court Deputy assured the public that he would hear the case and issue a decision according to appropriate legal procedures, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
“We are trying to run a court system that is dedicated to revealing truth and that people wish to see,” he was quoted as saying. “I promise solemnly that you will be well satisfied with the court’s decision.”
Win Ko Ko Thein, a deputy director of the Ministry of Health and Sports who has spoken out publicly for justice for the girl, was detained by police Tuesday in Naypyidaw on defamation charges for criticizing authorities’ handling of the case on social media.
“We have charged this man under Section 34(d) of the Electronic Transactions Law because he wrote posts about Victoria’s case on social media that could tarnish the reputation of Myanmar,” said deputy commander Aung Naing Oo of the Pyinmanna Myoma Police Station in Naypyidaw.
The official, known as Thetka Moe Nyo on Facebook, has been released on 10 million kyats’ (U.S. $6,350) bail, but if convicted, he will face up to three years in prison.
‘Justice for Victoria’
Citizens and the media learned of the assault from a Facebook post that went viral, and by late May a “Justice for Victoria” campaign — using a general name and not the toddler’s real one — had been formed to put pressure on authorities to find the girl’s assailant. The campaign later expanded into a call for an end to sexual violence against children.
During the past week, thousands of people have participated in demonstrations in Naypyidaw, Yangon, Manadalay, Pyay, Sagaing, and Monywa, calling on officials to deliver justice for the girl, an end to child sex abuse, and the arrest of the true perpetrator of the crime. Another rally is scheduled to take place in Kachin state’s capital Myitkyina on Saturday.
Children accounted for nearly 65 percent of Myanmar’s total 1,583 sexual assaults in 2018, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. So far this year, they have been involved in nearly 68 percent of the 619 reported rape cases.
Those found guilty of the crime can be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison.
The Independent Lawyers Association of Myanmar (ILAM), Myanmar Lawyer’s Association (MLA), the Myanmar Media Lawyer’s Network, and the Union Lawyers Association announced Wednesday that they are seeking assistance for DNA tests from Thai and U.S. lawyers in an effort to help solve the crime against the toddler.
The groups said they will work with the American Bar Association (ABA), the ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative, ASEAN Lawyers for Freedom of Expression, and Thailand’s lawyers association.
“[The] four lawyers associations are going to ask out Thai counterparts for help regarding DNA tests,” MLA spokesman Kyee Myint said.
“We will work with U.S. and Thai lawyers associations too. … Our lawyers will work on the case so we can appeal to the court to test [the DNA] it again. If the court allows, we will use our resources for [new] tests.”
Reported by Thiha Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
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