Chin Activist Testifies at UN on State-Sponsored Rape in Burma

A young Chin woman activist from Burma spoke today at a United Nations conference in New York, on state-sanctioned rape in Burma.

Cheery Zahau, Co-ordinator of the Women's League of Chinland, presented evidence of the widespread, systematic use of rape by the Burma Army throughout the country. She referred to past reports of the use of rape in Shan, Karen, Karenni and Mon states, and presented fresh evidence of rape in Chin State.

She highlighted 38 cases of rape by the Burma Army against Chin women, five of which involved girls under the age of 18, including a victim of 12 years of age. Almost half were gang-rapes.

"Often the rapes have been carried out with extreme brutality and in some cases they resulted in the death of the victim. In one case, a woman was stripped naked and hung on a cross, in a deliberate act of mockery against her Christian religion," said Cheery Zahau. "This indicates that sexual violence is being deliberately used as a weapon to torture and terrorize local ethnic populations into submission."

"There is a collective understanding among the troops that they can rape with impunity," she continued. "About a third of the rapes were committed by officers, sometimes in their own army camps."

The conference was organised by the US-UN Office, at the 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Cheery Zahau urged the United Nations Security Council to continue to address the crisis in Burma, and called on China and Russia to reconsider their position and support a resolution on Burma, which they vetoed in January. She urged India to reconsider its policies of economic and military engagement with the Burmese regime.

"We are convinced that only genuine political change to democracy, restoration of the rule of law, establishment of a civilian government through free and fair elections, and a withdrawal of Burma Army troops from ethnic areas will bring an end to the systematic sexual violence in Burma," said Cheery Zahau.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said: "We are delighted that Cheery Zahau was chosen to speak at this conference. We stand fully behind her and other such brave activists who are involved in the difficult and dangerous work of documenting gross violations of human rights, and informing the world.

"The Chin people are among the most forgotten people in the world, and we will do all we can to raise awareness of their plight. The grotesque use of rape as a weapon of war by the regime in Burma must be brought to an end."