(Chiang Mai, January 22, 2015) The rape and murder of two female teachers in Northern Shan State early on January 20 th is evidence of the Burma Army’s continued use of sexual violence against ethnic civilians. The Kachin Baptist Convention volunteers – Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin – were gang-raped and killed in their church compound in Kawng Hka Shabuk village, Muse District. The day after, a woman in Hku Maw village, Northern Shan State suffered severe injuries during an incident of attempted sexual violence by a Burma Army soldier stationed there. The government of Burma must immediately stop its military offensives in ethnic areas, pull back its troops, and start political dialogue with all the ethnic armed groups.
The killings of the two teachers were committed by Burma Army troops carrying out a military operation against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Northern Shan State. The troops were stationed on guard around the teachers’ village on the night of the incident, making it impossible for anyone else to have committed these crimes. Recent weeks have seen intensified attacks by the Burma Army across Kachin areas, displacing thousands and leading to the targeting of civilians. Sexual violence by the Burma Army has increased since the renewed conflict against the KIA in June 2011. Since that time, the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) have documented over 70 cases of gang-rape, rape and attempted sexual violence by Burma Army troops. In only two of these cases were the perpetrators punished.
‘The latest murders show that, for all the rhetoric about reform, Burmese government troops continue to rape, torture, and kill women and girls with impunity’, said Moon Nay Li of KWAT. ‘The international community must establish an independent international investigation into crimes of sexual violence by the Burma Army.’
As the Women’s League of Burma noted in our report, ‘If they had hope, they would speak’, abuses by the Burma Army which we have documented since the elections of 2010 may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity under international criminal law. Despite the acclaim won for the Burmese government following last year’s signing of the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence, the rape and murder of our Kachin sisters is clear evidence that sexual violence is still used as a weapon of war against the country’s ethnic communities. Today we reiterate our calls for an immediate end to sexual violence against the women of Burma, and the establishment of an independent international investigation into crimes of sexual violence in conflict.
The brutality inflicted on our Kachin sisters is a reminder that, despite the optimism of the international community for our country’s future, Burma remains plagued by violence of the most horrific kind. If the Burmese government is sincere about establishing peace, it should not be launching offensives in the ethnic areas, and allowing its troops to commit abuses with impunity. The government must start political dialogue immediately to begin a process of federal reform that will bring genuine peace, which is the only way to protect women from sexual violence at the hands of the Burma Army.
For more information, please contact:
Tin Tin Nyo (Thailand) – (+66) (0) 81 0322 882
Moon Nay Li (Thailand) – (+66) (0) 85 5233 791