Saying the Burmese military is using rape as an instrument of systematic repression against ethnic minorities, the US on Tuesday urged the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to conduct an investigation into such cases.

“We want the UN secretary-general to do a very thorough investigation into the cases (of rape by the Burmese army) we receive and report back to the general assembly so that we can be prepared to take action,” Kristen Silverberg, assistant secretary for International Organization Affairs, told The Irrawaddy after a panel discussion on the issue at the UN.

“We have documented evidence of little girls in Burma as little as eight years old, ten years old being subject to rape by Burmese soldiers. So we want the international community to focus on this issue,” Silverberg said.

The United States plans to introduce a resolution during the current session of the UN General Assembly “condemning the use of rape as an instrument of state policy.” The draft of the proposed resolution does not name any nation, but it targets countries like Burma and Sudan where the US says there is strong evidence of their security forces using rape as a tool of repression against targeted communities.

Referring to the panel discussion on “Rape as an Instrument of State policy,” Silverberg said:  “We have seen in Burma as these experts described today the systematic use of rape and sexual violence against ethnic minorities as a way of intimidating the communities as a part of the government’s campaign of violence against them.”

Silverberg said the US has also urged Ibrahim Gambari, the UN Envoy on Burma, to raise this issue with the Burmese military junta during his upcoming visit to the country.

In the panel discussion, L. Dwelling, the joint general secretary of the Women’s League of Burma, alleged that there was a pattern of sexual and gender-based violence against women dissidents in central Burma during the recent crackdown.

“We have reached a conclusion that it is state policy in Burma to allow soldiers to commit rapes against women and girls. The government is fully aware of the numerous reports about this issue.”

Urging the international community to protect the women and children of Burma, Dwelling said: “Our reports show that sexual and gender-based violence are happening across the country-in Shan, Karen, Mon, Chin and other ethnic areas-and that the circumstances under which they take place are disturbingly similar from one area to another.”

Lway Aye Nang, a presidium board member of the Women’s League of Burma, in her presentation reminded the international community about security council resolution No.
1325 on women, peace and security.

“We at the Women’s League of Burma believe that it is time that the international community lives up to its responsibilities towards the people of Burma. We call for the full implementation of Resolution 1325 in all efforts to promote peace and reconciliation, democracy and respect for human rights in Burma.”