Kachin teachers: church wary of wrongful conviction

Kachin teachers: church wary of wrongful conviction

Concerns have been raised that government investigators, looking into the violent murder of two Kachin schoolteachers in northern Shan State last month, are attempting to interrogate locals about the crime.

The bodies of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Tsin, aged 20 and 21, respectively, were discovered mutilated and partly naked in the Kachin Baptist Church (KBC) complex in the village of Kwang Hka near the town of Pangsai in Muse District on 20 January.

Separate investigation teams were subsequently formed by the KBC and Burmese government officials. The two teams met on Friday.

Hkalam Samson, secretary of the KBC and a leading member of its investigation committee, told DVB that government officials had asked for assistance to track and interrogate two local youths from Kawng Hka.

The KBC reportedly refused the request, with Dr Samson saying: “We wouldn’t want innocent people to be wrongly convicted for the crime.”

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“The government investigators want to interrogate the two youths. They already questioned them, but still want to conduct an interrogation session. We rejected this call because we know the two were sleeping at home at the time of the incident, and we are worried that they might give a false confession under duress in the interrogation,” said Hkalam Samson.

The two youths have been named as 19-year-old Mardee and 20-year-old Zau Hseng.

Hkalam Samson said that there is concern amongst local villagers at news of the government’s plan to interrogate locals.

Meanwhile, the Burmese army is yet to permit the government and KBC investigation teams access to interview a military officer, who oversaw the army’s 503rd Light Infantry Battalion which was stationed in the village on the night of the incident.

The month’s anniversary of the young volunteer teachers’ deaths on 19 February saw the KBC release a statement calling on the government to ensure justice and fairness in the investigation. The statement also warned against the detention and blackmailing of innocent civilians.

Burmese army troops have been widely accused of committing the crime as soldiers from the 503rd Light Infantry Battalion were stationed in the village of Kwang Hka on the night of 19 February. Condemnation has already come from local and international rights groups, assuming army responsibility.

The army refuted widespread accusations of its culpability in the killings through a statement released by the Burmese Ministry of Information and military-owned newspaper Myawady on 29 January.

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