Almost 60 percent of rapes reported to police in Yangon Region in the first half of this year involved a victim under 16 years, down slightly on the 70pc recorded last year.

Police figures show 73 cases reported between January and June 30, of which 44 involved children – many under the age of 10.

The total for this year is on track to eclipse 2014, when there were 130 cases, of which 90 involved a child.

The highest numbers of cases occurred in rural or urban fringe townships, such as Hlaing Tharyar, Insein, Taikkyi and Twante.

Police said the high proportion of child victims was because children were more vulnerable than adults, said Police Captain Win Bo from the Yangon Region police media unit.

“They can’t defend themselves and often don’t dare to report [the attack] to their parents because they are scared,” he said.

He said the very young or disabled were particularly vulnerable. He warned parents not to be too trusting of other adults.

“In some cases, the victims were raped by family members or relatives so people should not trust others easily.”

He said that they are trying to combat rape by undertaking education and awareness raising campaigns, such as seminars at schools.

A number of journalists covering the crime beat told The Myanmar Times they doubted the veracity of the figures given by police, who typically want to try and show a decline in rape cases and other serious crimes.

Questioned on this allegation, Pol Cap Win Bo said he would report it “to higher officials”.

Women’s rights activist Daw May Sabe Phyu said the number of official rape cases was far lower than the real amount, but for cultural and economic reasons rather than police fudging the figures.

She said police and the public often blame the victim, so there is little faith in the attackers being brought to justice. The victim or their family sometimes believe that reporting the crime will damage their “dignity” and that it is better to cover it up. Finally, victims are often paid off or police are bribed to stop an investigation.

“In Myanmar, the people and the police are more likely to blame the victims than the criminals,” said Daw May Sabe Phyu, who runs Gender Equality Network.

“Police can’t ensure law and order, so women don’t get the protection they need.”

Seemingly confirming her point, Pol Cap Win Bo said he believed that victims were often part of the problem.

“Women should be aware of their dressing style and behaviour,” he said. “They shouldn’t encourage sexual attraction.”

Activists and politicians have taken up the issue to some extent, with women’s rights groups pushing parliament to introduce a National Prevention of Violence against Women Law.

Meanwhile, Pyithu Hluttaw representative U Thein Nyunt has twice submitted a proposal to introduce the death penalty for sexual abuse of children, citing the growing number of cases, but was voted down on both occasions.