Army Officers to Testify in Double Rape-Murder of Kachin Teachers

By Lawi Weng 17 May 2016

RANGOON — Four senior army officers will testify at a township police station in Lashio, northern Shan State, on the rape and murder of two Kachin volunteer teachers allegedly perpetrated by Burma Army soldiers early last year, according to Kachin sources.

Zau Raw, a leader from the Kachin Baptist Convention in Muse, a city on the Burma-China border, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the testimony of the four officers would be given Wednesday at 10 am at a police station.

“We will go listen [to the Burma Army officers’ testimony],” said Zau Raw, adding that Maj. Aung Phyo Myint, leader of the battalion under scrutiny at the time, would be one of the four army officers to testify this week.

“It is too early to say what our expectations for this case are,” said Zau Raw. “We will know what to think [Wednesday].” Kachin community leaders have accused, by name, the four men due to testify.

Kachin leaders have been pressing the Burma Army to compel the soldiers suspected of involvement in the crime to testify for over a year, but prior appeals went unanswered.

The badly beaten bodies of the two ethnic Kachin schoolteachers— Maram Lu Ra and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, both 20 years old—were discovered in Kaung Kha village, in northern Shan State, on the morning of Jan. 20 last year. Kachin community leaders were quick to accuse Burma Army personnel of being involved in the killings as the villagers said the area had recently been occupied by the Burma Army. Claims that military boot prints were found at the scene also surfaced.

Aung Phyo Myint, who is expected to testify Wednesday, led Light Infantry Battalion 503, which was billeted in the village when the two teachers were killed.

It is unusual for the Burma Army to allow its officers to testify at a police station or civilian court, with military tribunals serving as the powerful institution’s preferred route to justice. The opaque nature of tribunal proceedings has left the system subject to criticism.

“The officers are simply going to testify,” said Lama Yaw, another leader from the Kachin Baptist Convention. “There has been no indication that they will give a confession.”

“The crime was committed over one year ago already but there has been no justice,” he said. “This hurt the image of the country and the army. That’s why they are letting their men testify.”