Yangon (AsiaNews) - The Burmese army tortured, raped and killed two teaching volunteers from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC). The violence took place on Monday in the village of Shabuk-Kaunghka, Mungbaw Township, Shan State (northeastern Myanmar).
According to preliminary reports, troops from a Light Infantry battalion were responsible for the violence, which occurred after Burmese army units and local rebels recently clashed in Kachin State. Soldiers tortured and gang-raped the two Christian teaching volunteers before brutally killing them out of revenge.
The two victims, both in their 20s, hailed from the village of Wine Maw, in Kachin State, northern Myanmar, an area where thousands of people continue to flee violence, attacked because of their ethnicity.
Their bodies have been brought to Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, where their funeral is set for tomorrow led by the KBC, which had sent the two women to a remote area in Shan State, to teach village children.
In many areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, there are few public school teachers. Christian associations, including Catholic ones, tend to fill the educational gap through relentless and tireless work of volunteers.
The Kachin Baptist community slammed the murder of its teachers, who sacrificed their lives to provide am education and a better life to people often forgotten by the authorities and the central government.
In a final farewell to the two young victims, hundreds of people gathered in prayer to honour their selfless work.
Meanwhile, local eyewitnesses said that the army has threatened people, warning them not to mention what happened or else their homes could be torched and destroyed.
On condition of anonymity, Kachin Christian sources told AsiaNews that Christian Churches have been involved in education in Burma "since the 19th century".
Christian Volunteers "have never refused to go into remote areas, among the most marginalised people," even when civil strife raged.
"Many sacrificed their lives for the mission," the sources said, "but never before had two teachers been raped and killed."
"Today local Churches suffered a great offence," they added, "and have to raise their voice and demand greater protection."
Myanmar is home to more than 135 ethnic groups, who have always had to struggle to find a peaceful modus vivendi, especially with the central government, which is dominated by majority ethnic Burmese.
In the past, the country's military junta used an iron fist against the Shan and Kachin people, in their respective states, which are located on Myanmar's northern border with China.
The latest round of fighting broke out in June 2011 after 17 years of relative calm with dozens of civilians casualties and at least 200,000 people forcibly displaced.
Last August, local bishops made an appeal for peace, calling for a lasting solution to the conflict.