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Arakanese woman publicly humiliated for being a ‘traitor’

Daw Soe Chay, a woman living in Ywa Thit ward in Myebon Township, said that on the afternoon of 12 September she was paraded through the town, accused of being a "traitor". (Photos provided to DVB)

Daw Soe Chay, a local woman living in the Ywa Thit ward of Arakan State’s Myebon Township, said that on the afternoon of 12 September, as she was returning home from market, a group of men on motorbikes pulled up alongside her, and began berating her and accusing her of “giving rations to Bengalis [self-identifying Rohingya Muslims].” She said they then punched and kicked her, and cut off her hair.

Daw Soe Chay was then paraded through the village with a cardboard placard around her neck, which read: “I am a national traitor.”

Speaking to DVB, Daw Soe Chay said, “On that day, I was on my way home after buying some betel and dried anchovies at the market. Some men were following me on their motorbikes. Then they grabbed me and asked who I was giving these things to. I replied that I was taking them to my village. Then they beat me up. They punched me and hacked my hair off. Then they tied me with a rope and hung a sign around my neck. I had to walk around the town shouting, ‘I am a national traitor.’”

She added: “I am wracked with pain. They took all my money so I have nothing to eat now. I feel so ashamed.”

According to Myebon Myoma police, three suspects have been apprehended and are currently being questioned.

“The abused woman reported the incident,” said a police officer at Myebon Myoma police station. “We have already questioned the woman and filed a case under three charges: Article 354 [of the penal code] – assault on a woman with intent to deny her modesty; Article 323 – for punching and kicking her; and Article 500 – defamation.

“We are questioning three persons. Each of the three charges is a bailable offence, so they have been granted bail while the investigation continues.”

DVB was unable to make contact with the three defendants.

Mya Thazin, a representative of Legal Clinic Myanmar (Rakhine Office), said, “We are trying to make contact with the victim. She has been abused both mentally and physically. We wish to offer her emotional support and provide her legal aid.”

Tensions are running high in many towns across Arakan State due to the most recent flaring of conflict between Arakanese Buddhists and members of the self-identifying Rohingya community. Since 25 August – when militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army staged a coordinated assault on some 30 police posts in northern Arakan State – it is estimated that some 400 people have been killed and at least 400,000 displaced from their homes.