Burma's largest armed ethnic alliance, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) criticized the government for its handling of an investigation into the rape and murder of two Kachin volunteer school teachers in northern Shan State. According to the UNFC, the act which many believe was carried out by Burma army personnel, was a war crime. The strongly worded statement released this week also called on the government to stop such war crimes from being carried out in future.
The UNFC statement which was released on 28th January also urged the Burma Army to stop their offensive against ethnic armed groups. It also called on the army to control troops in order to improve overall security. The UNFC also called on the government to treat students who are currently marching across the country against a series of regressive national education laws with respect and dignity.
Referring to the death of the two teachers, long-time Pa-O leader and UNFC official Col. Khun Okker said there needs to be a proper investigation. “This was a war crime so they must stop committing these kinds of crimes and not let this go without any proper punishment and investigation,” said Khun Okker who serves as Joint Secretary No. 1 of the UNFC.
The two teachers who were from Kachin state were volunteering with the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) in Kawng Hka village in Shan State. Their naked bodies were found in their dormitory on the morning of 20th January having enduring what appeared to have been a violent rape.
Over the past few weeks the Burma Army has engaged in repeated clashes with Kachin Independence Army (KIA) forces in Kachin State's jade rich Hpakant district. Clashes have also taken place between the army and the KIA in Northern Shan State where the army has also been fighting with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Shan State Army North (Shan State Progressive Party). The UNFC blamed the army's aggressive actions for these clashes.
Col. Khun Okker predicted that further clashes could take place in the coming days as the army appears to have been busy reinforcing positions in both Kachin state and Northern Shan State according to local units from the KIA and the TNLA.
Khun Okker also complained that the army still has not provided an adequate explanation regarding the November shelling of a training academy located in the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)'s Laiza headquarters. The shelling caused the death of 23 cadets from a variety of groups affiliated with the UNFC and injured 20 more. According to Khun Okker the government must address what happened in order for there to be progress in the nationwide ceasefire negotiation process.
“Increasing these kind of war crimes, conflict and reinforcements are making it difficult to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement, so there is a need for them retreat all their troops, to control their movements and then sign an agreement that has some meaning,” said Khun Okker.