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07/22/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – The Burmese military has detained three soldiers to investigate a crime against a 55-year-old ethnic Kachin woman named Khaw Ywe. The soldiers are accused of raping and murdering the woman, a farmer in the majority-Christian Kachin state.

Khaw Ywe lived in a small village in Kachin state’s Bhamo district. She went missing on July 14. Her husband, Yin Fu, had been waiting for her in the rice paddies of their family farm, but she did not appear all day. When he returned home that evening, he was told by his family that she had left for the fields that morning.

According to Radio Free Asia, the following morning, Khaw Ywe’s family searched for her, first finding her bag of seeds lying on the side of the road and what looked like signs of a struggle. Then, about a mile away, they found her body in a forest. She had received multiple stab wounds.

There is a military camp between Khaw Ywe’s home and her family farm, forcing her to pass through about 20 acres of army camp land to get to her farm.

Her husband told Radio Free Asia, “It was a case of rape and murder. There were many stab wounds. We want [the military] to deal with the killers effectively per the law. They didn’t seem to regard this as murder.”

On July 17, the military acknowledged the incident by saying that the three soldiers had accidentally killed Khaw Ywe in an altercation. The army detained the three soldiers and ordered an autopsy on Khaw Ywe’s body. Evidence has been sent to the military’s chemical office, but the statement did not specify if rape or murder had occurred.

The woman’s family, neighbors, and other activists have expressed fear that the military’s legal system lacks the transparency for justice to be served. Myanmar’s Kachin state has seen a drastic increase in fighting between local pro-democracy forces and the Burmese military since the Feb 1. military coup that deposed the democratically elected civilian government.

A spokesperson for the Kachin State Women’s Network (KSWN), a rights organization assisting Khaw Ywe’s family, told RFA that the military justice system could not be trusted based on experiences in similar cases in the past. “There have been many such incidents in the past. No one knows if they did anything to the perpetrators. In many cases they just pay around 300,000 kyats [U.S. $182] as compensation to settle the case.”

This was not the first time Kachin women fell victim to the brutality of the Burmese Army. Two young teachers were allegedly raped and killed by soldiers from the 503rd Light Infantry battalion in 2015. Yet justice has not been served for the victims.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].