Women accuse CEO of Myanmar human rights NGO of relentless sexual assault

Charity-Oriented Myanmar’s Yangon headquarters. Photo: Facebook
Charity-Oriented Myanmar’s Yangon headquarters. Photo: Facebook

Several women have taken to social media over the last week to accuse the CEO of a Yangon-based human rights and development NGO of harassing and assaulting them and other women while they were employees at the organization. The NGO is a member of a prominent women’s rights umbrella organization.

Though the accusations do not name the alleged perpetrator or the NGO, Coconuts has obtained a letter written by the executive director of the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) requesting that an organization known as Charity-Oriented Myanmar (COM) suspend its participation in certain joint activities “until COM has clarified the allegations” about its CEO “sexually harassing female employees.”

The Facebook page of a man named Chan Nyein Aung identifies him as the CEO of COM since 2004.

“I saw him hugging and lifting young girls, making them lie on the floor as he sat above them to tickle them,” wrote former COM employee Hnin Pwint in a Facebook post on July 12. “It was unpleasant, but as he was a CEO and human rights trainer, we thought to ourselves, he was just teasing his subordinates just like a brother would to his sisters.”

After a year at COM, Hnin Pwint writes that the CEO began targeting her, allegedly kissing her hair, hugging her from behind, and pressing his leg to hers under the table during meetings. She claims he ignored her appeals for him to stop and enchanted her family with promises that he wanted her to succeed and eventually be sent abroad. When she told her family, about the alleged harassment, they dismissed her claims.

A Facebook post by another COM employee named Zinmin Thu on July 15 closely resembles that of her former colleague. She describes the CEO allegedly pinching, tickling, teasing, and pressing his body upon female trainees and says the abuse was worse when other senior members of the organization were absent.

She alleges that in Sept. 2012, the CEO kissed her and attempted to remove her bra by force, and when she tried to resign, he scolded her and rejected her resignation. Zinmin Thu says she stayed on in her position because she loved the job, among other reasons.

“We did not refuse because we feared the consequences of refusing our senior and our leader, such as being isolated in the workplace or unemployed,” she wrote. “He also threatened us that he would put us onto a blacklist if we quit our jobs. When we told our families, we would be blamed.”

On Monday, the prominent women’s rights umbrella organization Gender Equality Network (GEN), of which COM is a member, issued a statement acknowledging that it had received an official complaint from COM staff.

“GEN condemns any member or any staff who commits or enables any violations of human rights, women’s rights, and rights of minorities,” the statement reads. “GEN will stand with any survivors and support them by respecting their wishes and decisions without any exception and bias so that the truth will be revealed and necessary actions will be taken.”

GEN officers have said they will consult with the alleged victims before deciding whether to pursue legal action against the CEO.

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