Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) holds a memorial service in Myitkyina on Jan. 19 for two teachers who were raped and murdered in Shan state six years ago. (Photo: KBC)
Jan. 19 is a sorrowful day for Myanmar’s Kachin community as they remember two Kachin teachers who were raped and murdered in Shan state in 2015.
Family members, colleagues and church leaders have been holding a memorial service for the volunteer teachers annually.
Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) marked the sixth anniversary of the atrocity by livestreaming via Facebook a memorial service including prayers and gospel songs.
Maran Lu Ra, 20, and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, 21, had been living in Kaung Kha village in Shan state since May 2014 after being sent as volunteers by KBC.
In a video taken by villagers after the murders on Jan. 19, 2015, their bloody and battered bodies were seen lying side by side on a bamboo bed.
The case has saddened the entire ethnic Kachin community and attracted the attention of the UN and international rights groups.
According to villagers, a unit of between 40 and 50 soldiers from the Myanmar army’s 503rd Light Infantry Regiment had arrived in the village the morning before the teachers were killed.
Some 28 soldiers were suspected of involvement in the case but the KBC was told that the soldiers’ DNA did not match that found on the bodies.
The KBC has conducted its own investigation into the murders and believes that no local villagers were responsible for the crime.
The military had publicly issued a threat to local media not to implicate soldiers in the crime, while police had reportedly dismissed the possibility that troops could be responsible.
Six years on, the culprits, however, are yet to be found and justice remains elusive in the predominantly Buddhist country.
'License to rape'
The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) has called for justice and an end to ongoing military aggression and persecution of civilians in northern Myanmar.
The group has accused military authorities of blocking all attempts to seek justice and of trying to scapegoat two local youths.
“The perpetrators of this heinous crime therefore remain free to this day, and the Myanmar army continues to enjoy its license to rape, torture and kill with impunity,” KWAT said in a Jan. 19 statement.
The group has appealed to the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government to bring the perpetrators to justice and to end military impunity for sexual violence.
But the appeals have been ignored and Suu Kyi chose to publicly side with the army in denying allegations of rape.
“International pressure is urgently needed to end military impunity for rape in Myanmar,” KWAT said.
Some 39 civil society groups in Kachin state have demanded that the real perpetrators face justice. They said the government needs to bring the culprits to court and punish them as soon as possible.
They also called on the KBC to continue investigating the case until the truth comes out.
“Towards prevailing truth and justice, pressure is needed upon the government and the military by embassies and international rights groups,” they said in a Jan. 19 statement.
Rape as a weapon
The Myanmar army stands accused of using rape as a weapon in its wars with ethnic minorities that have for decades taken a hard toll on civilian populations.
The Women’s League of Burma, an umbrella organization of women’s groups, collected more than 100 allegations of rape against soldiers between 2010 and 2014.
Myanmar has faced legal pressure from the world including the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court over atrocities against the Rohingya and other minorities following the military’s bloody crackdown that forced over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
In its report to the Human Rights Council in September 2018, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said that “rape and other sexual violence have been a particularly egregious and recurrent feature of the targeting of the civilian population in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states since 2011.”
The mission found that these violations were mostly perpetrated against ethnic women and girls and were used to intimidate, terrorize and punish the civilian population as a tactic of war.