The badly beaten bodies of two young women were found dead in their bedroom on Tuesday morning in a remote village in Kutkai Township near the border town of Muse in northern Shan State.
Both around 20 years of age, the women were ethnic Kachin schoolteachers who had come to Kaung Kha village about two years ago as volunteers with the Kachin Baptist Church.
Villagers discovered the bodies when they checked the teachers’ dormitories because they had not appeared for morning lessons. Both of the women were partially naked and showed signs of violent struggle, villagers said.
Three of their neighbors said that they heard screams coming from their house at 9pm the previous evening, but that the noise had subsided by the time they went to check on the pair and they left without entering.
The bodies have been transferred to a hospital in Muse for autopsy. Photographs and testimony of those who found the bodies suggest that they may have been raped and bludgeoned to death.
A member of the Kachin Baptist Convention in Muse who wished to remain anonymous said he arrived at the scene on Tuesday morning shortly after the bodies were found.
“They were raped and murdered,” the man alleged.
Images of the two women’s mutilated bodies quickly spread on social media, coupled with unsubstantiated rumors that the pair had been gang-raped by Burmese soldiers. The cause of death and the incident of rape have not yet been confirmed by medical professionals.
The Burma Army has been accused of sexual violence in conflict and the rumor gained traction among the local community, some of whom claimed that the area has seen a recent rise in military presence.
“These two teachers have been working here for a long time,” said a local member of the religious community. “There was no problem. But just as the Burma Army arrived, they were raped and killed.”
The Kaung Kha village administration officer told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that it was still unclear what had transpired in the young women’s quarters on Monday night.
The Burma Army has stated a commitment to make itself more available for media inquiries, but contact information for three recently appointed press liaisons was still unavailable at time of writing.
Community members said that one of the women was from Kachin State capital Myitkyina, while the other victim’s hometown was Waingmaw. The women taught kindergarten and grade one, and lived in a small room provided by the local church.