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YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Members of Myanmar's Kachin ethnic group called Tuesday for justice for two young volunteer teachers who were raped and murdered in a case they believe highlights sexual violence by government soldiers.
A report on the assault was released as a memorial service was held in Yangon for Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin and Maran Lu Ra, who were attacked a year ago on Jan. 19, 2015, in a remote village in Shan state in northern Myanmar while working in an education project run by the Kachin Baptist Convention. Although Myanmar is primarily Buddhist, most Kachins practice Christianity.
Local villagers believe the perpetrators were soldiers who were temporarily based there, an allegation the army has denied. No one has been charged with the crime, which the report says was not properly investigated.
Human rights organizations consider credible the many reports of abuses by government soldiers conducting counterinsurgency operations against ethnic minorities based mostly in the country's border regions.
The teachers' case gained an unusual amount of publicity because of sympathy for the victims and the circulation of gruesome photos of the crime scene that circulated on the Internet. Just a few days after the deaths, the U.S. State Department called on Myanmar authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Myanmar had told the U.S. it was looking into the case.
The new report, compiled by two groups — the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand and the Legal Aid Network — chronicles efforts by authorities to deflect blame from the soldiers suspected of the crime.
"Everyone knows who did this crime but we just don't have the power to investigate the evidence to find out who exactly the perpetrators are," said the Rev. Samson Hkalam of the Kachin Baptist Convention. "But we won't stop our investigation. We will never forget this and I believe that we will find out the truth one day."