Group says Myanmar army uses rape as weapon of war

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The league’s report, compiled by 12 member organizations spread across the country, said in most cases attacks were carried out by soldiers who were carrying weapons and dressed in uniform. They included officers - such as captains, commanders and majors - and at least one major general.

Many of the rapes were carried out in front of the woman’s husband or others, seemingly as a way to make communities too fearful to support ethnic militias.

“These crimes are more than random, isolated acts by rogue soldiers,” the report’s authors wrote. “Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern: Rape is still used as an instrument of war and oppression.”

The government sees on-and-off conflicts along northern and eastern borders, where armed ethnic groups have long battled for greater autonomy, as one of the biggest obstacles to a planned nationwide cease-fire agreement. The region is home to several strategic development projects, including a gas pipeline that stretches to China’s Yunnan province.

The report said most cases never make it to court, and those that come before military tribunals usually result in immediate acquittals.

The alleged Nov. 11 attack on the 7-year-old is an exception. The soldier accused of raping her, Maung Win Htwe, was ordered to go to trial in a civilian court.

Lawyer Brang Di said the first witnesses appeared at Lashio District Court last week, including the girl, her parents and neighbors in a tiny Shan village near Thein Ni town.

Brang Di said authorities agreed to try Maung Win Htwe in a civilian court only after a loud public outcry. “We are trying our best to have a fair judgment,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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