Two young female volunteer teachers at the Kachin Baptist Church in northern Shan State’s Muse District have been found brutally murdered.
The badly mutilated bodies of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Tsin, aged 20 and 21 respectively, were found in their hostel in Shabuk Kawnghka village in the town of Pangsai on Tuesday morning.
Zau Ra, youth coordinator of the Kachin Baptist Church in Muse, told DVB that the bodies were taken to the district hospital for autopsy.
“The villagers found the bodies on Tuesday morning and informed Pangsai police,” said Zau Ra.
“The hostel is in the church compound. Neighbours heard something around 10:30pm the night before and went to check on them at midnight, but the doors were locked and there was no answer from the inside. The neighbours assumed that they were asleep and left.”
Pangsai’s police chief was in the village on 20 January to investigate the killings.
Unconfirmed claims on social media, along with gruesome photos of the two dead bodies, have included accusations that the 503rd Light Infantry Battalion of the Burmese army raped and murdered the two women.
According to local villagers, the battalion were stationed near to the village on 19 January and remained in the area as of Tuesday.
The police in Muse were unavailable for comment.
Muse has been the site of some of the heaviest of recent renewed violence in the area.
Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese army in Kachin and northern Shan State has spiralled in recent days. Fresh hostilities erupted after three policemen and a local transportation minister were detained by the KIA after carrying out a highway inspection in the area. The minister was let free soon after, and the release of the policemen was negotiated by third party mediators. They were handed over on Monday.
An official of the KIA’s 6th Battalion told Kachinland News: “We have a protocol that the Burmese government inform the KIA through Peace-Talks Creation Group about their plans prior to travelling. But Burmese officials didn’t inform the KIA about the minister’s travel this time, so our frontline troops detained them. But we planned to release them. It is not a valid reason to launch an offensive.”
A grenade attack on a local police station in Hpakant saw four people injured on 15 January. State media has blamed the KIA for the attack.
Kachin media reported on Monday that rescue groups were blocked from assisting two groups of villagers trapped in the violence. Around 2,000 villagers were said to be caught in Awng Ba Lay village in Hpakant, with a group of 11 trapped in N-hka Ga in the Putao area. Christian ministers, Buddhist monks and civil society organisations have been refused access to rescue them, the reports say.
Despite the 2012 ceasefire signed by armed groups and the government, and while the KIA and the government agreed to reduce hostilities in their latest round of talks at the end of last year, violence between the Burmese government forces and an alliance involving the KIA, Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) is ongoing.