By KYI WAI
The Irrawaddy News
LAPUTTA — Reports of rape and other abuses of women are surfacing as communities in Burma’s Irrawaddy delta continue to recover from May’s Cyclone Nargis.
Women were particularly vulnerable in the cyclone and its aftermath, when social order broke down. Many complain their plight was ignored by local authorities and the military.
One 20-year-old woman from a village in Laputta District said three men who responded to her cries for help the day after the cyclone raped and tried to rob her.
One villager reported seeing two men armed with knives rape a 15-year-old girl before drowning her. “I was afraid to try and help the girl and I pretended to be dead,” he confessed.
The rapes and killing continued weeks after the cyclone, as devastated communities tried to restore normal life, according to villagers.
A resident of Gyin Yah village in Laputta District said that a month after the cyclone he had discovered the body of a teenage girl who had been raped and killed, then dumped in a rice paddy.
Some villagers accused military authorities of trying to prevent news of rape and pillage becoming public. Villages allowing news of the abuses to escape were threatened with destruction, sources said.
One man from Kyane Gone village in Laputta District said a soldier had tried to drag away his daughter as they waited for aid at a military base. He had complained to an officer, who had angrily sent him away.
A woman survivor from Sate Gyi village in Laputta Township said: “I don’t dare return to my home. I’m the only woman survivor and would be the only woman among eight men.”