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More Murders, Same Patterns as Burma Army Acts with Impunity

By Burma Partnership  •  January 25, 2015

flowersYet another astonishing act of barbarity was committed by the Burma Army as two young ethnic Kachin teachers were raped and murdered in a village in northern Shan State. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case as this incident once again demonstrates the impunity that protects the perpetrators of such cruel acts.

According to Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand, (KWAT) Burma Army troops had arrived in the village of Kawng Kha Shabuk, near the town of Muse, northern Shan State on the morning of 19 January 2015. They had previously been involved in military operations against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). In the early hours of the morning, villagers heard screaming from the church compound where the two teachers were staying. They went to check but could not ascertain what had happened. The next morning, a neighbor went to the compound to find the two teachers dead with signs of sexual assault and of being viciously beaten. Boot marks were found nearby their living quarters. According to KWAT, “There is strong circumstantial evidence that the rape and killing was carried out by the Burma Army troops which had arrived on January 19. These troops were stationed on guard around the village, and no one else would have dared carry out these crimes with the soldiers present.”

In spite of the opinion of some public figures who have chosen to use vague language in regards to the involvement of Burma Army in the rape and murder, the track record of the Burma Army and their widespread and systematic attacks on ethnic civilians in conflict-affected areas over the past few decades indicates a structural pattern of behavior that is carried out with impunity. Given the sudden presence of soldiers in the village, and the evidence collected by the villagers as well as local organizations, it is of no surprise that the blame for this horrific incident is being laid at the feet of the Burma Army.

There is hope that evidence will put to bed the dithering of the international community that dares not rock the boat of their increasingly cozy relations with the Burma Government. While the US Embassy labelled the incident, “horrific” and both the UK Embassy and the US State Department have called for an investigation, this should not be the limit of their pressure on the Burma Government. This weekly bulletin is simply too small in scope to comprehensively list the plethora of incidents that have drawn condemnation from the international community but not much else, further giving legitimization to the transition process that international governments continue to invest in, regardless of the glaring human rights abuses. Examples include the murder of journalist Ko Par Gyi by the Burma Army, the 23 cadets slain at an academy in Kachin State, the shooting of Daw Khin Win who was demonstrating against the Letpadaung Copper Mine in Sagaing Region by the police, and most recently the killing of Lasham Tu Nan, a young Kachin man, who was taken by Burma Army soldiers and later found dead with marks of torture.

Burma Campaign UK has highlighted concrete steps that the British Government can take to show its commitment to its own ‘Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative.’ These are to lobby the British Government to allow them to send a team of experts to investigate the incident, to suspend training of the Burma Army until it has taken concrete actions to end such impunity, and to support an international investigation into the war crimes committed by the Burma Army, including rape and sexual assault. Rights groups and the victims of war crimes are waiting for such concrete action, as they have since the changes in Burma began, despite Burma signing the Declaration to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June, 2014.

At a memorial service for the two teachers at Mahabandoola Park in downtown Rangoon, the Coordinator of Burma Partnership posed the issue succinctly, “The leaders of the Burma Army need to tell their soldiers to stop raping ethnic minority women.” In addition she states, “This case once again demonstrates the impunity that continues to protect the perpetrators of such heinous crimes, that is enshrined in the 2008 Constitution. Burma Army soldiers must not be allowed to continue to commit rape and all forms of sexual violence as a tool to instill fear and oppress ethnic communities. The Burma Army must be held accountable and justice must be done for the victims and survivors.

Only when there is security guaranteed for women will there be genuine peace. The International community must convince the Burma Army and the Burma Government to commit to implementing the “UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.” So far no sign of political will has been seen from the Burma Army leaders to stop their soldiers from using rape as a weapon on ethnic communities, and the international community has not done enough to pressure the authorities in Burma to do something substantive to hold the Burma Army accountable. The engagement of the international community will be meaningless unless they apply effective pressure that ensures the Burma Government fully complies and fulfills its human rights obligations as it should do as a fully-fledged member of the international community.

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