Two years on, an investigation into the brutal rape and murder of two Kachin schoolteachers in Kutkai Township has stalled due to continued war.
On Thursday, Jan. 19, a memorial service was held in Kutkai’s Kaung Kha village for the victims: Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, who were both 20-year-old volunteer teachers working with the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) when they were raped and killed in their hut on the same day in 2015. Members of the Kachin public and the KBC attended the memorial.
Zau Rau from the KBC in Muse, Shan State, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that thousands had gathered to pray for the two young women.
KBC has been working to seek justice for the victims. Zau Rau said they had consulted with the Kachin Lawyers Network regarding the legal proceedings of the case, which have not been filed. The case investigation team led by the Muse District police head is reportedly still gathering information.
At the time of the murders, Kaung Kha was occupied by soldiers from the Burma Army Infantry Battalion 503.
The victims’ legal support team were scheduled in May 2016 to meet soldiers in a Lashio court who were accused of perpetrating the crime, but the meeting fell through. The KBC asked the Burma Army for the opportunity to question 28 soldiers stationed in the area at the time of the murder, but the Tatmadaw did not comply.
“We wanted to talk with and interview the three drivers who drove the soldiers’ truck, and to all 28 soldiers the following morning [after the murder]. But we still cannot,” Zau Rau explained.
The ongoing conflict in northern Shan State, including in Kutkai Township, is the main obstacle in processing the case, said Brang Dee, an advocate in Lashio who represents the Kachin Lawyers Network.
The Kachin lawyer collaborated with the government investigation team but Brang Dee said, “We could not travel to meet with witnesses in the area, as the area is in a conflict zone.”
Locals claim Burma Army soldiers could be the perpetrators, as the crime happened while they were in Kaung Kha. Ten days after the incident, the Tatmadaw’s own newspaper denied the accusations and threatened legal action against anyone who claimed otherwise.
Despite such threats, people have continued calling for the justice for the two victims. Internationally, the Burma Campaign UK delivered a petition signed by more than 3,200 people to the UK government, calling on them “to do more to help stop rape and sexual violence in Burma,” on this second anniversary of the victims’ deaths.
Women’s rights activists have also called for an independent and unbiased inquiry into the case, with an investigation team comprised of representatives from women’s organizations, civil society groups and human rights lawyers.
May Sabe Phyu, director of the Gender Equality Network said, “the case of the two schoolteachers highlights the insecurity and limits to justice faced by women in the conflict zone.”
“We, the women’s groups, will never forget or ignore the case, as long as justice is not being sought,” she said.