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Sri Lanka builds apparel village over former military-run IDP camp notorious for abuses

The Sri Lankan government has built an apparel village over Menik Farm, the site of a former IDP camp where over 300,000 Tamils were interned by the Sri Lankan army and where rape, torture and enforced disappearances of IDPs were reported to be occuring routinely. 

The village of garment factories was hailed by Sri Lanka's ministry of industry and commerce as a step towards reconciliation. 

However, the move has been widely criticised by Tamil civil society groups who have described it as an attempt to whitewash sites synonymous with the Sri Lankan military's crimes committed against Tamils. 

An untold number of women, girls and men were sexually assaulted at military run camps after the end of the armed conflict in 2009, with military personnel even running prostitution rings from the camps. 

A Tamil medic, based in the UK who had been working as an aid worker in the Vanni during the armed conflict before being detained in the notorious Menik Farm camp, Damilvany Kumar, told UK's The Observer in 2014: 

"Sexual abuse is something that was a common thing, that I personally saw. In the visitor area relatives would be the other side of the fence and we would be in the camp. Girls came to wait for their relatives and military officers would come and touch them, and that's something I saw.

"The girls usually didn't talk back to them, because they knew that in the camp if they talked anything could happen to them. It was quite open, everyone could see the military officers touching the girls," 

"Tamil girls usually don't talk about sexual abuse, they won't open their mouths about it, but I heard the officers were giving the women money or food in return for sex. These people were desperate for everything."

The Sri Lankan government rejected all reports of sexual violence in the IDP camps, with officials often accusing fellow detainees or international aid workers of abuse, or dismissing reports as consensual.

Palitha Kohona, then Secretary to the Foreign Ministry, and subsequently Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, rejected any allegations of sexual violence by the state's security forces as "absolute rubbish". 

"These [military] are the guys who are winning the war - they could have raped every single woman on the way if they wanted to. Not one single woman was raped," Mr Kohona said. 
 

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