Thursday, August 17, 2017

Military leader to be interviewed over Kachin teachers’ deaths

The head of a Tatmadaw column which was widely believed by locals to be responsible for the 2015 rape and murder of two Kachin teachers will be interviewed by Lashio police today.

The Kachin Baptist Convention says the civilians charged were scapegoats. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar TimesThe Kachin Baptist Convention says the civilians charged were scapegoats. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar Times

The 15-month-old case has never brought the killers to justice.

Two days before the naked and stabbed bodies of Maran Lu Ra, 20, and Tangbau Hkwan Nan Tsin, 21, were found in January 2015, soldiers from the 503rd Light Infantry Regiment under the Tatmadaw’s Northeast Region Command had established a temporary base in Khaung Khar village. The base was about 100 metres (330 feet) from where the two volunteer teachers were killed. An army issue belt and boot-prints were allegedly found at the scene of the crime.

Police eventually named a husband-and-wife pair as suspects in the crime, but the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), for whom the two women worked, said the civilians were being scapegoated and accused investigators of colluding with the army. DNA results from the crime scene were never released. The National League for Democracy vowed to help uncover the truth.

The KBC said it has long applied pressure to Muse township’s police force and the Northeast Region Command for permission to interview head of the military column Major Aung Phyo Myint. The request was repeatedly denied.

The KBC general secretary Reverend Samson Hkalam told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the authorities will interrogate the major themselves. The KBC’s lawyers have been told they cannot conduct their own interview.

“We believe that this inspection will have an effect on the case, but we also want to directly question him ourselves,” he said. “Anyway, it is good to interview the military column’s head. The truth will come soon, we hope.”

A police official in Muse township said yesterday that the major is only being interviewed and confirmed that activists, individuals and organisations are not invited to the meeting.

“The interview is a matter for the police. But if others have any questions they can tell us and we can ask the major,” said the official, who requested to remain anonymous.

The official, government investigation committee was led by by Muse township police, the area’s general administrator, members of a people’s militia, and police in Pan-Hsaing (Kyu-Koke). The KBC formed its own investigation commission with legal experts and Christian religious leaders.

The two Kachin volunteers were working for the KBC in Kaung Khar village teaching children whose education was disrupted by persistent fighting. Their naked bodies were found with stab wounds and head injuries after villagers reported hearing screams in the night.

The families of the victims were each given K5 million by troops stationed near the crime scene one week after the death, which fanned suspicions that soldiers were involved.

Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has said he also wants the truth about the murders though he is said to have told leaders of the Kachin Independence Organisation that it was impossible for soldiers to have committed the crimes.