This report was jointly researched by the SHRF Women’s Desk and SWAN. The SHRF has been producing monthly newsletters documenting the human rights abuses, including rape, committed by the Burmese military in Shan State since 1997. In 1999, the SHRF produced a Burmese language booklet listing the incidents of rape committed by the Burmese military in that year. Members of SWAN have also made a number of presentations at international forums over the past few years exposing the extent of state violence against women in Shan State. However, it was clear that a more detailed and comprehensive report needed to be produced to bring the international community’s attention to the scale of systematic sexual abuse being committed by the Burmese military in ethnic areas.
The need to expose the effects that the continuing civil war in Burma is having on ethnic civilians, particularly women, has become increasingly urgent in the light of recent indications that the international community is relaxing its pressure on the regime due to apparent progress towards political transition. The continuing restriction of access for outsiders to most of the border areas and the lack of freedom of information has enabled the regime to hide the full extent of its ongoing systematic oppression of the ethnic populations in Burma. By hiding the scale of these ongoing abuses, the regime is deliberately obscuring from the international community the urgent need to put an end to the civil war and to engage the ethnic groups in dialogue concerning the country’s future.
Apart from revealing the extent of the sexual violence committed by the Burmese military and the need to restore a process of law that can punish the perpetrators of such crimes, the report also seeks to explore the problems faced by the rape survivors, including community censure resulting from prevailing gender attitudes.
SHRF and SWAN compiled information for this report between January 2001 and March 2002. During this time, 28 women on the Thai-Burma border were interviewed specifically for this report, either by members of the SHRF or SWAN networks, or by members of the Lahu Women’s Organisation. These interviews are reproduced in full as an appendix to this report. A further 145 cases were compiled from the monthly SHRF newsletters. These cases are less detailed and do not focus on the effects of the sexual violence on the survivors. Information from all the 173 cases is summarized in a chart also appendixed to the report.
Although the majority of cases documented took place between 1996-2002, five earlier incidents were also included, as they were compiled through direct interviews with the women involved. For current information on rape incidents in Shan State please refer to the SHRF monthly newsletter found at: www.shanland.org.
SHRF and SWAN wish to thank all those who volunteered their time to assist with the compilation and editing of this report. We are grateful to the Norwegian Human Rights Fund for supporting the production of the report.