Rights Groups Seek Justice for Slain Kachin Women

By Lawi Weng 22 January 2015

RANGOON — Rights groups in Rangoon have asked the Burmese government to seek justice for two Kachin women found dead on Tuesday in the northern Shan State village of Kaung Kha.

At a press conference on Thursday, rights activists said the government had a duty to find and punish those responsible for the gruesome murders.

“Our country has signed United Nations convention to protect the rights of women,” said Pyone Cho, a leader of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society. “The government needs to protect women. They should find out who is responsible and inform our people.”

The two victims, aged about 20 years old, had come to Kaung Kha two years earlier to teach as volunteers with the Kachin Baptist Convention. Both were found dead in their shared bedroom on Tuesday morning, their bodies badly beaten, partially naked and showing signs of violent struggle, according to Kaung Kha villagers.

A nurse from the hospital in Muse where autopsies are being conducted on the women, speaking to The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, said that doctors had determined both victims were raped. The autopsy report has yet to be made public.

Ah Khon, a rights activist from Kachin Peace Network, told reporters that villagers had accused the Burma Army of responsibility for the deaths.

“Villagers found footprints from an army boot and other evidence, including an army-issued belt near the two bodies,” Ah Khon said.

The Burma Army denied the accusations, after sending an investigation team on Wednesday to interrogate 20 soldiers among a contingent recently stationed in Kaung Kha.

“Whoever committed this crime, whether military or civilian, the government should punish them,” said Mya Aye, an 88 Generation Peace and Open Society leader, at Thursday’s press conference. “The government has a duty to provide justice for this case.”

Mya Aye said he was concerned that the case will escalate tensions between Kachin and Burmese communities, citing heated exchanges on social media in the days since the deaths were announced.

“This is not a normal case. This could relate to the political and racial problems [of our country]. We are very worried. Our country’s peace talks could be threatened because of this case,” he said.

Right groups in Rangoon called on people to wear black for one week in remembrance of the deaths and plan to hold a prayer session at Maha Bandoola Park tomorrow.

“Kachin people have been hurt mentally and physically by this case. It is very sad and we should show our support,” said Karen women’s rights activist Susanna Hla Hla Soe.

The Kachin Baptist Convention has organized a funeral for the women on Friday in the Kachin capital of Myitkyina.