Burma military 'using rape as weapon'

In this 15 September 2013 photo, a woman who claims she was raped by Myanmar security forces stands in her home in Ba Gong Nar village, Maungdaw, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar The group says rapes were carried out in areas with ethnic conflict

Burma's military has continued to use rape as a weapon of war even after a nominally civilian government was elected in 2010, a women's group says.

The Women's League of Burma said it had documented more than 100 cases, some involving children as young as eight.

Most rapes were carried out in areas where the army was still fighting armed ethnic groups, the organisation said.

The government in Burma, also known as Myanmar, said using rape was not army policy and cases should be reported.

Most of the cases were linked to conflict in the border areas of Kachin and Northern Shan State.

Nearly half of the cases were gang rapes, and 28 women were killed or died of their injuries, the organisation said.

"Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern: rape is still used as an instrument of war and oppression," the report said.

"Sexual violence is used as a tool by the Burmese military to demoralise and destroy ethnic communities," it added.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told Reuters news agency the military did not "use rapes as weapons".

"If there are rape cases committed by individual members, we try to expose them and take effective action against the offenders," he said.

President Thein Sein has introduced major reforms since the elections of November 2010, which saw military rule replaced by a military-backed civilian government.

The last three years have seen far-reaching political change in Burma, but the army has so far shown little appetite for change, or altering the way it operates, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Rangoon.

A new round of talks is due to start later this month aimed at achieving a cease-fire in all of Burma's ethnic conflicts, our correspondent adds.

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