01/23/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Thousands of people attend the funeral of Kachin Christian teachers raped and killed by soldiers

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Zin were laid to rest this morning in Myitkyina. Memorial services were held elsewhere in Myanmar, including in Yangon, where about a hundred people met. Activists and NGOs demand an independent investigation, and punishment for the culprits.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - Amid a crowd of deeply moved mourners, two young Christian women were laid to rest today following their funeral in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, on Myanmar's northern border with China. Both were raped and killed by Burmese soldiers in Shan State last Monday.

Maran Lu Ra, 20, and her friend Tangbau Khawn Nan Zin, 21, were teaching volunteers for the Kachin Baptist Convention. Both had dedicated their life to the education of children in the country's remote villages.

Thousands of people attended the service, wearing white ribbons and carrying the pictures of the slain women.

Their bodies, which showed signs of torture and brutal violence, were found by schoolchildren in the village of Shabuk-Kaunghka.

Concerned that their teachers had not showed up for morning classes, the children went to the church compound where the volunteers were staying and found them dead. 

Local sources, anonymous for fear of retribution, said that the bodies of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Tsin showed signs of sexual violence. Prints left by people wearing military boots were also found outside the building.

A Burmese army battalion involved in operations against rebel forces in Kachin and Shan states was stationed near the village at the time.

Burmese activists and international organisations want the matter investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

Myanmar's government has announced an enquiry into the killings, but many fear a cover-up that would allow those responsible for the crime to go unpunished.

Khon Ja Labang, a former Catholic member of the Kachin Peace Network, currently involved in conflict resolution work with ethnic groups, called for "an independent investigation" to find the culprits.

In conjunction with the funeral, memorial services were held in other parts of the country. In Yangon, about a hundred people attended a service for the two young Kachin women near the Independence monument, in Maha Bandula Park.

Representatives of the Women's League for Burma (WLB) and the Women's Organisation Network of Myanmar (WONM) were among participants.

In Mai Ja Yang, a town in Kachin territory not far from the border with China, residents paid tribute to the two women.

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.

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