Taslima was dreading the day. It was SweTinSit, an annual population census conducted by Myanmar government officials in northern Rakhine state. Military, police and customs officials would be sweeping through, collecting data on Rohingya families – monitoring the birth of children, photographing family members and listing their names. This was in 2016, when tensions in Rakhine were escalating.
For many Rohingya people, like Taslima and others in her village of Tula Toli, the SweTinSit (or “Map Record Check,” in Burmese) was a mandatory and intense audit, and always unpredictable. If one is absent during a SweTinSit, their relatives can be subject to extortion, imprisonment, arbitrary taxation, or worse. The year before, a relative of Taslima’s was raped by a military officer.
In the SweTinSit of 2016, Taslima’s brother-in-law had gone to work outside the village, to repay a debt. Fearing that he would be arrested for his brother’s absence, Taslima’s husband disappeared for the three days it took for the census to be completed in Tula Toli. Taslima paid a fine of 300,000 kyats (US $208) for her brother-in-law and a further fine of 200,000 kyats (US $138) for her husband.
Officers warned her that if her husband did not return while the census was still underway, there would be further consequences. In the early hours of the very next day, Taslima says that four men, including the village chairman Aung Ko Sein, entered her hut and raped her in front of her two young children.