A male teacher at a Mandalay school has been charged with allegedly raping a 5-year-old female student in 2016, several local news outlets reported on Sunday. The news has prompted online accusations that the school and its principal, a senior Buddhist monk, hid the allegations from the alleged victim’s family and from authorities for more than two years.
On March 10, teacher Hla Myo was charged under sections 376, 377, and 340 of the Myanmar Penal Code for allegedly committing the crimes of rape, unnatural sexual offenses, and wrongful confinement, Aung Myay Tharzi Township police chief Zaw Naing told The Voice.
The police chief explained that the alleged victim had been a boarding student at the Phaung Daw Oo Integrated Monastic Education School and had limited contact with her family during the school term. She was only able to tell her father about the alleged abuse when the term ended earlier this year. When the father heard his daughter’s account, he removed her and her sister from the school and filed a police report. The police investigation began on Feb. 23.
However, U Nayaka, a senior monk and the school’s principal and founder, told The Voice that he had known about the rape allegations since 2016 but decided they did not merit informing the police.
“We investigated these events three years ago. Firm proof was not found,” the monk said, adding that if the girl had really been raped, she would have informed the school clinic.
“If this really happened, there are clinics within the school. There are doctors here. There are no records in the school clinics of her going to the doctor… We’ve known since then that this wasn’t true.”
U Nayaka said he believes that the allegations resurfaced last month “because of a personal grudge.” He further dismissed the allegations in a video interview with the Irrawaddy.
Win Nyunt, a school spokesperson, echoed the monk’s claims, telling Coconuts: “I think [the alleged victim and her family] are trying to lower the reputation of the school. It’s not true.”
He also claimed that even though the school’s leadership never took the allegations seriously, U Nayaka still fired Hla Myo in early February, when news of the alleged rape became public, in an effort to protect the school’s reputation.
“The sayadaw [senior monk] didn’t try to defend him. He fired him well before this case was opened,” Win Nyunt said.
The apparent fact that U Nayaka employed an accused rapist for more than two years and never reported the allegations to police or to the alleged victim’s family has incensed some netizens.
Hla Myo, who had previously shared poetry on his Facebook page multiple times every day with his nearly 500 followers, has been silent since March 11. The comments under his previous posts have become a forum for netizens to trade accusations and rebuttals of his guilt.
Coconuts has reached out to a school employee who worked in the alleged victim’s dormitory at the time of the alleged assault. She did not immediately respond.