Myanmar’s police force became the collective punch line for tens of thousands of the country’s Facebook users this week after attempts to defend their efforts to solve the child rape case at the center of the #JusticeforVictoria movement were met with derision.
In a post on Wednesday night, the Myanmar Police Force fired back at critics — one of whom they arrested — detailing their attempts to acquire and submit forensic evidence to the Naypyidaw court. In less than two days, the post had garnered more than 56,000 (and counting) laughter emojis.
The emojis are being widely seen as expressions of doubt over the department’s veracity, if not competency, in a case that has seen an explosion of public concern over the nation’s approach to child abuse issues.
ျမန္မာနိုင္ငံရဲတပ္ဖြဲ႕အေနျဖင့္ Victoria အမႈႏွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ ေဆးစာျပန္ၾကားခ်က္၊ CCTV မွတ္တမ္း၊ ဓါတုေဗဒဆိုင္ရာ…
Under that increasingly harsh spotlight, police have reacted with defensive zest, accusing some netizens who have commented on the case of negatively impacting their reputation, provoking protests and illegally raising funds.
In their Wednesday post, they revealed they had arrested a deputy director at the Ministry of Health for just that earlier that day.
“There are some that are negatively impacting the Myanmar police’s reputation through accusations, inciting protests, soliciting illegal donations ‘for Victoria’. As a first step, we are investigating the owner of [Facebook account] Thakka Moe Nyo and taking further action in accordance to the law,” the police stated.
Myanmar authorities hauled in Dr. Win Ko Ko Thein, the man behind the Thakka Moe Nyo account and a de facto leader in the #JusticeforVictoria, for questioning.
According to updates on his Facebook page — made after he was released on bail of 10 million kyat (about US$6,600) — authorities confiscated his phone, effectively cutting him off from his finances because his bank account is linked to his number.
“Please lend me money if I can’t access my funds,” Dr. Thein told his followers.
He faces defamation charges under section 34(d) of the 2004 Electronic Transactions law; if convicted, he could be sentenced to three years and prison and a fine.
Dozens of comments were left on Thakka Moe Nyo’s Facebook page, with netizens expressing their support for the movement and the activist, stating that they stood with him.
The official announcement by the police dealt another seeming blow to the #JusticeforVictoria campaign in that AYA bank, the institution where the donations were being collected, temporarily stopped accepting donations for the account set up by the campaign.
While AYA later announced on their Facebook page that they would once again be accepting donations “as long as authorities haven’t given an official notice to stop,” organizers expect just that in the near future.
“By tomorrow, we don’t know if we can access the account. Whatever happens, AYA bank’s statement means that the authorities have sent an official letter to suspend the account,” reads a post on a Facebook account belonging to Jessica Mozart (an online persona) that has kept detailed records of donations thus far.
According to Mozart, a writer and “influencer,” she was one of the first to be contacted by the father of “Victoria,” a pseudonym given to the young girl to represent all underage sexual abuse victims.
“I’m just the first one to receive the phone call from Victoria’s father and eventually I’m helping them. People are sending funds for Victoria’s family and we have a finance team for the funds,” Mozart told Coconuts Yangon.
On Wednesday, Mozart laid out how the funds were going to be used in a post on her personal page.
According to the statement, the funds will be used in three ways: to support the family while they pursue legal action against the perpetrator, in order to cope with any financial hardship during this difficult period, and to support Victoria’s “sustainable development” in life going forward.
Thousands poured into the street last weekend calling for #JusticeforVictoria in a country where over 50 percent of survivors in reported cases are under 18.
The movement began in the wake of the alleged rape of a 2-year-old girl on the school premises at Wisdom Hill Nursery School in Myanmar’s capital in June.
Since early June, Dr. Win Ko Ko Thein and other netizens have repeatedly excoriated the police after no official action was taken well into July.
Myanmar’s government only got involved after thousands of messages poured into the official Facebook accounts of leaders including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.