Myanmar: Colleagues begin own probe into teacher deaths

YANGON - Colleagues of two volunteer teachers raped and murdered in Myanmar’s conflict-torn Kachin state have begun their own investigation into the deaths as they believe the government-backed probe is biased towards the military.

One of the leaders of the group - the Kachin Baptist Convention (KCB) - told The Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that the military has tried to scapegoat villagers in Kaung Kha, where the bodies were found, and believes soldiers were responsible.

“Nobody from that village was involved in the crime, we strongly believe that,” Reverend Samson Hkalam, general secretary of the KCB, told AA.

“This is a military issue. That’s why the police can’t handle it freely… because they are afraid."

Villagers and activists are convinced government troops are responsible for the deaths of the women, whose battered bodies showed signs that they had been stabbed and raped when they were found last month.

But state media has already declared the military innocent and officials have threatened legal action against anyone who accuses its soldiers of the murders.

A government-led investigation team - including police, local authorities and Army officials - has taken DNA samples from 45 villagers and 28 government soldiers, according to the Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Ko Ko.

Rev. Samson said Wednesday that on Feb. 2 they formed a 15-member Kachin Baptist Convention Investigation Committee, which includes a lawyer and representatives from women’s rights groups.

Eight of the members are in Kaung Kha, Rev. Samson added, and could be there for up to a month.

Fighting has raged between Myanmar’s Army and the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) since a 17-year cease-fire broke down in 2011. Since then over 100,000 have been displaced.

The KIA is among the last of 17 major ethnic groups to sign cease-fire deals with Myanmar’s quasi–civilian government, which has pledged to secure a nationwide peace accord as part of a reform process that started in 2011.

Military juntas ruled Myanmar for almost five decades until generals surprised the international community by stepping aside for a nominally civilian government and allowing political and economic reforms.

But many of President Thein Sein’s reforms have begun to unravel and allegations of abuse by the military have continued to emerge, raising grave doubts about the country’s ability to make the shift from dictatorship to democracy. 

The United States late last month called on Myanmar to bring the perpetrators of the murders in Kachin to justice.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency