One Year On, Rights Groups Demand Justice for Rape, Murder of Kachin Teachers

By The Irrawaddy 19 January 2016

One year after the brutal rape and murder of two ethnic Kachin schoolteachers in eastern Burma, rights groups call for justice and accuse authorities of a “systematic cover-up” of the crime that many believe was perpetrated by active-duty soldiers.

The two young women’s mutilated bodies were found in Kaung Kha village, Shan State, on Jan. 20 last year. Villagers said the area was occupied by the Burma Army, and that they saw boot prints on the scene.

In a report titled, “Justice Delayed, Justice Denied,” the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) and the Lawyer’s Action Network (LAN) examined witness testimony and key evidence that they said implicates senior military officials in obstructing justice.

“The government’s priorities were clear in the Kawng Kha case [also spelled Kaung Kha]—protect the military at all cost,” KWAT General Secretary Moon Nay Li said in a statement. “We urge the new NLD government to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, and end military impunity.”

An investigation that followed the crime was criticized for its hasty and opaque procedures. Just 10 days after the crime, a military-owned newspaper announced that the investigation did not implicate Burma Army soldiers in the incident, and threatened legal action against those who claimed otherwise once the inquiry was concluded.

President Thein Sein declined to respond to appeals made by the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), a well-established community network that was among the main advocates for justice in the case. The group was denied authorization to conduct an independent investigation.

The new report claims that the commander of troops stationed in Kaung Kha and his superiors “blocked and subverted the police investigation into the crime.”  According to the report, the Muse Strategic Military Commander and 200 soldiers were summoned to the village for questioning shortly after the crime, but police investigators were limited under military scrutiny.

KWAT and LAN called on Tuesday for constitutional reform to address the military’s continued power and influence over the police and the judiciary, which they called a “key structural barrier to justice in Burma.”

Pointing to a new proposal in Parliament that would offer immunity to former presidents, Hkawng Lum, a human rights lawyer working with LAN, said that “[w]hatever amnesty he grants himself in Burma, President Thein Sein is still liable to prosecution for war crimes in accordance with the Geneva Convention, to which Burma is a party, if evidence on ‘command responsibility’ is found.”