Two young female volunteers from Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) were brutally raped and killed in Kaungkhar village, Pan Sai Township, Muse District in northern Shan State on the night of January 19.
The two teachers, both 20-year-olds, were sent there by the KBC, a religious organisation which is influential over Kachin nationals and Kachin Independence Organisation.
But the problem concerns not only Kachin nationals but all the ethnicities living in Myanmar. There were many instances of ethnic women being raped and murdered in conflict regions in the past. Cases of physical assaults were also common.
The case of the two Kachin teachers will be more than an ordinary criminal case. The truth behind the case should be unveiled as soon as possible.
The photo shows foot prints (cricled) near a pile of firewood beside the bodies of two teachers (Photo-EMG)
The rapist of a Peruvian woman in Kyaikthiyo faced 43-year jail term. Another culprit of an attempted rape case over an American woman was sentenced to life imprisonment. The proceedings of these cases finished in no time. Both of the offenders faced with the penalties much heavier than their actions.
A case has been filed under Section 302 of murder charge at Kyugoke Police Station, Pan Sai Township for the case of two Kachin volunteers. But this is not an ordinary felony but an unearthly gruesome rape-and-murder case.
Ten civilians and 30 soldiers from No. 503 Infantry Regiment under the North-East Command were questioned because the women were raped and murdered while the regiment was stationed in the village. Required forensic tests were conducted as well. Still, it is yet to identify the offenders.
The house (circled) where the two teachers lived and the church (Photo-EMG)
Besides Kachin organisations, civil society organisations have called for a probe into the case. The US Department of State also weighed in and called on Myanmar to bring the perpetrators to justice on January 21.
Kaungkhar village in Nant Taung village-tract – the area where the tragedy took place – is located between Muse and Monekoe and only 10 miles away from the Muse 105th Mile trade hub.
First of all, it is within the reach of the rule of law. Secondly, it is located by the tarred road where the military columns used to pass through.
Further, troops from No.503 Infantry Regiment under the North-East Command arrived on the morning of January 19 and spent the night in Kaungkhar Village at the time of the incident.
The house where the two teachers lived (Photo-EMG)
That is why the soldiers from the regiment were suspected.
It is usual the military fell under suspicion whenever a rape-and-murder case occurred in ethnic regions since such grisly crime is seldom among the ethnic nationals.
There is only one organisation accused by ethnic nationals when such incidents occurred under the title 'Ethnic Cleansing' and thus, the military is at the centre of accusations.
The bedroom where the two teachers were murdered (Photo-EMG)
The offender is not identified yet but it is no doubt that the military was near the crime scene. Troops were staying in the houses no more than 200 feet from the crime scene. Moreover, locals said servicemen already stood by for security in hillocks near the church where the crime occurred since the military column arrived.
Moreover, such a case was unheard of in Kaungkhar Village until now.
As to the case, some locals also fall under suspicion. Two men reportedly came to stay in a house about 70 feet away from the scene. The son of the home owner and his friend are under suspicion.
But studying initial investigation, 30 out of 40 people questioned on average are servicemen.
It is reasonable for ethnic nationals to suspect the military.
Women's League Burma (WBL) – an institution comprised of 13 ethnic female organisations – issued a report 'If they had hope, they would speak' which revealed that the military is responsible for several sexual violence cases and gang rapes that occurred in conflict areas.
It continued that 104 sexual abuses against women and girls happened in the last three years – after the 2010 general election and January 2014 – in ethnic regions and most of them were related to the military offenses.
From January to June last year, WLB released series of reports on military involvement in sexual violence cases in ethnic areas. It said there were 14 gang rapes in those areas within six months. Such cases occurred in Kachin State, northern Shan State, and border states such as Kachin State, Kayah State, Kayin State, Mon State and Chin State. All those states except Kayin State faced cases of sexual violence until 2014, according to WLB.
The house where the two teachers lived seen on January 22 (Photo-EMG)
It is vital to expose the perpetrators and bring them to justice regardless of whether the military had a hand in the rape and murder of the two Kachin teachers. Getting the answer to satisfy the public is most important.
Suppose the military had involved in the incident, a solution must be sought in accord with the law. But there are many questions for that.
In the 2008 constitution, Section 293 (a) under Chapter (6) ‘Judiciary’ says that Courts-Martial can be formed. Meanwhile, Section 319 states that according to Sub-section (b) of Section 293, the Courts-Martial shall be constituted in accord with the constitution and the other law and shall adjudicate Defence Service personnel.
Section 343 under Chapter (7) ‘Defence Services’ also stipulates that in the adjudication of military justice:
(a) The Defence Services personnel may be administered in accord with law collectively or singly;
(b) The decision of the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services is final and conclusive.
The abovementioned points show that it is very difficult to adjudicate servicemen for committing offences with the laws related to civilians. It seems that the military is in a position to indirectly (not even directly) adjudicate military personnel for committing crimes. Organisations monitoring rape and murder cases in ethnic areas also view this as an obstacle.
What we are sure is that not only the government but also the military are responsible for the case of the slain Kachin women. They have to release information for the public satisfaction. Raping and killing ethnic women in the ethnic regions has become a tradition.
In 1988, rapes and murders of female students reinforced the pro-democracy uprising.
In the latest incident, the two young Kachin women were teachers. They came from afar for the education of needy people. Therefore, there must be justice and fairness for them.
The military is notorious for two things—recruitments of child soldiers and alleged sexual molestation of ethnic women.
The military has admitted to the issue of child soldiers and some have been released from service. As a result, criticism of the military for that has reduced. But it has yet to admit to sexual assaults. Ethnic women organisations say with evidence that such cases exist in the country.
The issue of the two murdered teachers has something to do with the image of the military. If military personnel were involved in the case, severe and effective action must be taken. It is the issue related to all ethnic people, not Kachin alone. The culprits must be exposed and a pragmatic solution needs to be sought. Punitive action must be taken against whosoever. The case should not become like Par Gyi case-- the beating and murder of a freelance journalist where the military was accused to have involved— that could not yield any satisfactory results for the public. The answer came out saying that he was accidently shot dead while running away after grabbing a gun. It is not a realistic answer.
The house where the two teachers lived seen on January 22 (Photo-EMG)
When compared with the cases of giving a 43 years’ imprisonment and a life sentence for raping female foreigners, the rape and murder of the two Kachin teachers is far worse.
Both the government and military have responsibility to expose the perpetrators regardless of whoever has committed.
The most important thing is to get a pragmatic solution.
The house where the two teachers lived seen on January 22 (Photo-EMG)
Post-mortem results from Muse People’s Hospital
Results of Hkawn Nan Tsin, 20, Kachin nationality, religion teacher
A fresh penetration was found inside the genital organ and the victim bled to death due to the puncture wounds in her face.
Results of Maran Lu Ra, 20, Kachin nationality, religion teacher
The diaphragm between lungs, liver, stomach and chest cavity was punctured and bled to death.
(Remarks: There is no mention of being raped in Maran Lu Ra's tests. However, the photos of the crime scene claim both of them were raped.)
The geographical location of the house where the incident happened
The crime scene is in Kaungkhar Village 15 miles away from Muse Township sitting beside the tarred road that connects Nant Taung and Monepaw.
The house the two teachers lived in is situated in a bowl-shaped place and surrounded by several houses. Over a hundred feet from the house sits a Kachin Baptist Church; the neighbouring houses are at 100 feet distance and the closest one lies just 70 feet away.
The houses the military stopped in is located beside the Nant Taung-Monepaw road to the north of the house and roughly 200 feet away from the scene.
Kaungkhar Village is home to 30 houses and 120-130 members of Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), according to the records of the convention.
Background history of the teachers and the convention
The mission school the teachers volunteered for was established on a self-help basis under the KBC in 2008 and was the very first school for Kaungkhar Village.
The village is three miles away from Nant Taung. The school offers primary education – third grade utmost – to those too poor to go and study in Nant Taung.
More than 20 students – mostly Kachin and some Chinese – are studying in the school and they moved to Nant Taung for higher levels of education.
The late Kachin teachers taught religious subjects there since May 2014 and were sent by the KBC.
The KBC has over 50 volunteer teachers and sent them to remote area for educational purposes for one year and transferred to another place when their duties expired.
The natives of the village grow sugarcane and corns for their livelihoods and a military column has been deployed by the tarred road and in Kaungkhar Village.
Locals’ remarks on the rape and murder of two Kachin teachers
Remarks made by locals living near the crime scene
(Living at a home about 70 feet from the crime scene)
“On the night of the incident, my son and his wife came to spend the night at my home because army troops came to stay at their home. A friend of my son also slept beside him. But my son could not sleep as his friend was snoring. At that time, we suddenly heard a woman yelling. Then they woke me up saying that they head of the woman with her mouth shut and her neck strangled. Then I got up. My son, his wife and myself approached their house shouting ‘teachers! Teachers!. Nothing was heard and lights were off. But there was a light in a corner of the church and the toilet was also lighted. Thinking that we must have misheard, we approached the house, knocked on the door three times and cried for the teachers. Everything was silent. We thought they were sleeping. We also thought they did not come here. There was something unusual. We went back to our house with some illusions. Upon arrival at our house, nothing was heard.”
Member of Kaungkhar School Committee and Church Committee
Living at a home about 100 feet from the incident
I was close to them like their relative. They usually told me where they went and when they were late for home. I also ask village children to go home after 10pm. I told the teachers to sleep well and make sure the doors were properly closed. In early mornings, I stared at the house of theirs whether they had got up or smoke had come out from the kitchen.
In the morning of that day, it was eight o’clock. The teachers always went past my house. But on that day, I did not see them go past. No smoke was there at the kitchen. Where did they go on the night before that day? I thought they spend the night somewhere. I went to their house. There was no fire in the kitchen. Their bedroom was closed. I murmured why they were still sleeping. When I got into their room, both the teachers were stained with blood. I shouted for villagers.
In the morning before the incident, they took students to Namt Taung for vaccinations. In the afternoon, they helped peel sugarcanes at my home. They also attended the birthday ceremony of the child of the head of ten houses. I thought they went home at about 10pm. Previously, they did not usually go out. When they went to the market, they informed me about it.
The school has been running for 8 or 9 year. Teachers before them also used to live at this house, which was not secure at that time. Military columns were not always stationed here. They only passed through the village. If they were to spend the time in the village, I asked the teachers to sleep at my home. As they went to the birthday ceremony, I did not bring them to my house. I think the military column arrived in the village on the very same day when the incident happened. Before that day, troops only passed through the village. They arrived here in the morning of January 19 and the incident happened at night.
Comments of the Tactical Operations Commander from the military column there
He said that the police major should be asked about the crime and he did not have the right to say of his personal takes since he is a serviceman. He also wanted the case to unravel soon and he had checked the soldiers himself before the police major did for the case.
The kitchen next to the bedroom (Photo-EMG)