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Burma’s Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Ko Ko has announced that the government’s probe into the brutal killing of two schoolteachers in northern Shan State last month is nearing its completion, but that two villagers – who he says are hiding in Kachin Independence Army territory – remain to be questioned.
Speaking on Saturday, 7 February, Ko Ko also said that the team expects to confirm the identities of the culprits once their investigation has been concluded.
However, the committee formed by the Kachin Baptist Church (KBC) has said that the two villagers in question are still in the village of Kwang Hka where the incident took place, and that the information from the minister was not an official announcement.
The bodies of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Tsin, aged 20 and 21, respectively, were discovered mutilated and partly naked in a the KBC complex in the town of Pangsai in Muse District on 20 January.
Investigation committees formed by the KBC and the Burmese government have previously voiced their intention to cooperate in looking into the murders.
Hkalam Samson, secretary of the KBC and a leading member of its investigation committee, said that they had met with the governmental investigators on 10 February and agreed to work together during their enquiries.
“Delegations from our committee and the government’s investigation team met on Tuesday. We reviewed the findings by the police so far and discussed the best way to provide necessary assistance,” he told DVB on 11 January.
“We suggested to our government counterparts that local villagers should be questioned in Muse rather than in their village, and they agreed.”
He said the two teams planned to play an equal role in the investigation, as there is fear among local villagers about talking to government investigators.
Meanwhile, prayer vigils are being planned by churches of various denominations for 19 February to mark the one-month anniversary of the deaths of the two women.
Hkalam Samson said that the vigils will take place at churches across Burma.
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.