Kachin Group Questions Govt Murder Probe, Forms Investigation Team

By Lawi Weng 11 February 2015

RANGOON — An investigation into the recent deaths and alleged rape of two young women in northern Shan State has been criticized by a local religious group claiming investigators threatened villagers and spread fear across the community.

A spokesman for the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) told The Irrawaddy that the group plans to form a committee to independently carry out an investigation into the incident, which left two of the organization’s volunteer schoolteachers dead and possibly raped in their bedroom late last month.

The spokesman said that an ongoing investigation carried out by a joint team of police, township authorities and members of the Burma Army produced a group of suspects comprising both civilian villagers and Burma Army soldiers.

KBC expressed its confidence that the villagers were innocent, and voiced concern that the incident could be used as a premise for abuse of innocent people by authorities.

“Most of the villagers are worried about this,” said Lama Yaw, the Myitkyina-based communications officer for KBC. “They are making scapegoats of our villagers. We are very worried about their security.”

The government-led team has not disclosed the results of the investigation, which is still ongoing, though two ethnic Kachin villagers were implicated on state television on Saturday by Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Ko Ko.

The minister did not identify the villagers by name, but said they fled the village—Kaung Kha, where the incident took place—and sought shelter with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), ethnic armed insurgents that are currently in conflict with the government.

The minister said that the investigation team had asked KBC to bring the two men back to Kaung Kha. “Coordination has been made with KBC to uncover the truth. … Those two suspects will be sent for and further investigation will be carried out when the two arrive,” he said during the broadcast.

Lama Yaw said KBC did not have discussions with Ko Ko or investigators about the two alleged fugitives, claiming that “it isn’t true,” and that the minister “is just spreading rumors.”

The spokesman said that 15 senior members of KBC met with investigators in Muse, a border town near Kaung Kha, on Tuesday, but that they were not informed of two missing suspects.

KBC said that investigators met with them to explain that the probe was still ongoing and they are not yet ready to release a public report of their findings.

Results of post-mortem medical examinations and potential matches from DNA samples—which Ko Ko said were collected from 45 villagers and 28 Burma Army soldiers—have not been disclosed.

Lama Yaw said that KBC sent a letter to the president on Feb. 4 requesting that the group’s members be allowed to monitor the investigation. KBC said that it had not received a response to the letter.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), as well as rights groups and foreign governments, have called for a timely, transparent and credible investigation into the murders.

On Jan. 28, a military-owned newspaper announced that the Army was not involved in the murders, and that claims of military involvement made after the results of the investigation were disclosed would be subject to legal action.