Human rights groups have alleged that dozens of Muslim women have been raped by state security forces in the northern Rakhine State during counter-insurgency operations there.
Around 30 women were reportedly raped by security forces in a single village on October 19, according to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a Rohingya rights organisation.
Tight military controls in the region, including shutting out international humanitarian organisations, means independent verification has not been possible, reports the Myanmar Times.
Lewa said she had also received additional reports of five girls aged between 16 and 18 being raped in another village on October 25 and two women at another location on October 20.
On October 25, the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) released a statement saying it was “extremely concerned” over at least 10 alleged rape cases that had been documented by civilians in Maungdaw township since the military operation had begun there, including one woman who was three months pregnant and later suffered a miscarriage.
“The Burmese government is deliberately violating international law and committing crimes that it promised the world they would refrain from,” said U Kyaw Win of the BHRN, referring to the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The reports of widespread sexual assaults come as security forces in the area hunt for those behind three deadly attacks on border police posts on October 9, believed to have been carried out by Rohingya insurgents.
A large swathe of northern Rakhine State has been under military lockdown since the October 9 attacks, with local residents reporting extrajudicial killings, torture, large-scale evictions, and the burning and looting of property.
International groups including the UN and INGOs have demanded that the government allow an independent investigation into the series of alleged human rights violations emerging from northern Rakhine State.
Authorities have, however, denied that rights abuses are being perpetrated, Women’s rights organisations have published numerous reports detailing incidents of sexual assault and rape by the Tatmadaw, particularly in ethnic minority areas.
Under the 2008 constitution members of the military have impunity for such crimes, something rights organisations have long demanded should be changed.
“The Tatmadaw have a long and well-documented history of sexually abusing women in areas where they operate. The question is what is [State Counsellor Daw] Aung San Suu Kyi and the government of Burma prepared to do about it because this is a real test of their political commitment to respect rights,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.