Raped and killed but not forgotten

The Kachin Baptist Convention says it will never give up trying to uncover the truth behind the killings of two women teachers four years ago.

By YE MON | FRONTIER

IT IS FOUR years since two Kachin women were savagely raped and killed in the northern Shan State village where they were working as teachers, but the Myanmar Police Force is yet to make any arrests.

Maran Lu Ra, 20, and Tangbau Hkwan Nan Tsin, 21, were working as volunteers for the Kachin Baptist Convention in Kaung Khar village, teaching children whose education had been disrupted by persistent fighting in the area.

Their naked bodies were found early on January 19, 2015, with stab wounds and head injuries after villagers reported hearing screams in the night.

Despite the lack of progress in the police investigation, the KBC remains determined to uncover the truth of the case.

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Village residents and the Kachin Baptist community have always suspected that the women were killed by Tatmadaw troops.

About two days before the murders, troops from the Tatmadaw’s 503rd Light Infantry Regiment had established a temporary camp about 100 metres from Khaung Khar village. An army issue belt and the prints of boots were found at the scene of the crime.

KBC general secretary, Reverend Samson Hkalam, told Frontier on January 9 that it planned to meet on January 18 to discuss the case.

“We cannot do any more about this case; it depends on the authorities,” he said.

The KBC said police in Muse Township suspect that the crimes were committed by a couple who had lived in the village but had fled to territory controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization and could not be arrested.

Samson Hkalam said the KBC had previously discussed the case with Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who had said he wanted to uncover the truth but that it was impossible for soldiers to have committed the crime.

Min Aung Hlaing also discussed the case at a meeting with the Myanmar Press Council in July 2018, at which he accused the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, of responsibility for the killings.

Veteran journalist U Thiha Saw, former secretary of the Myanmar Press Council, told Frontier on January 9 that Min Aung Hlaing had said DNA testing had cleared the troops suspected of involvement in the case.

Samson Hkalam also said a delegation of women lawmakers from the National League for Democracy government had promised to reveal the truth about the case when they attended a ceremony in January 2017 to mark the second anniversary of the deaths of the teachers.

Suspicion that state troops were involved was fanned when the families of the victims were each given K5 million by Tatmadaw members stationed near the village a week after the killings.

Daw Khon Ja from the Kachin Peace Network said it was unlikely that KIA troops would approach a village where the Tatmadaw had established a temporary base. The KIA would also be unlikely to alienate villagers, she said.

“All ethnic armed groups wanted support from civilians at that time, so I don’t believe the KIA would have been responsible,” she said.

Khon Ja said the Kachin people had lost hope that the killers of the victims would face justice, despite a civilian government being in power.

The KBC is planning to hold a memorial service in Kaung Khar village on January 19 to mark the fourth anniversary of the killings. Kachin youth groups are reported to be planning to mark the grim anniversary by stepping up a campaign for justice.

Sut Seng Htoi, a leader of the Kachin Youth Movement Committee, said the Kachin people would never forget the case and urged the authorities to find the killers.

“We will expand the campaign for justice this year,” she said.

Muse Township police declined to comment when asked if there had been any progress investigating the four-year-old case.

TOP PHOTO: Relatives of two volunteer Kachin teachers killed in Shan State attend a memorial event in January 2017 organised by the Kachin Baptist Convention to mark the second anniversary of their deaths. (Steve Tickner | Frontier)

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