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Thousands Take to Streets in Myanmar Protesting Inaction over Rape of Toddler

The assault took place in May in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw but a public campaign escalated last week after the girl's father spoke to local media, venting his anger about the inquiry's progress.

AFP

Updated:July 6, 2019, 6:15 PM IST
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Thousands Take to Streets in Myanmar Protesting Inaction over Rape of Toddler
Image for representation.

Yangon: Thousands of protesters marched in Yangon on Saturday as outrage over the rape of a two-year-old spilled onto the streets following a viral online campaign in a case that has left the Myanmarese society reeling.

The assault took place in May in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw but a public campaign escalated last week after the girl's father spoke to local media, venting his anger about the inquiry's progress. He gave details of how his daughter had returned from nursery with injuries doctors told him were the result of rape.

On Saturday in Yangon, demonstrators descended on the police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the city's north. Many dressed in white, carrying banners in Burmese and English, and chanting for "justice" for the girl as well as better security for the nation's children.

"As a mother of a daughter, I came here to call for the truth," said 31-year-old Ei Mon Ko.

One man was arrested on Wednesday and charged with the attack although there is public scepticism over whether the authorities have the right person.

In a press conference on Friday, the police cited the use of CCTV footage as evidence against the suspect. The nursery has been closed down and six other private kindergartens in Naypyidaw are temporarily shut.

The case has horrified the country, with a Facebook campaign gathering momentum for weeks as people changed their profile photos to call for "Justice for Victoria" — a pseudonym given to the girl. The president's office shared the trending icon on its official Facebook page, while numerous Burmese celebrities have echoed the calls for justice.

But Saturday's protest was the first time the anger spilled offline onto the streets.

"We're reaching the worrying point where no man can be trusted," said 18-year-old student Yamin Eizali.

Child rights experts at NGO Terre des Hommes (Lausanne) said child rape is "very common" in Myanmar, and they hear of about two cases a week in just one Yangon township of 800,000 people. But stigma and families' reluctance to go to court mean most go unreported.

A new child law is soon due to be signed and would allow police to open cases even if nobody presses charges.

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