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The Burmese army has denied responsibility for the murder and apparent rape of two Kachin volunteer students in northern Shan State last week.
The army refuted widespread accusations of its culpability through a statement released by the Burmese Ministry of Information and military owned newspaper Myawady on 29 January.
The report preempts the findings of an ongoing investigation conducted by a town administrator, a local policeman, a Baptist clergyman and a member of a local armed ethnic group.
The team are yet to officially disclose their findings of their investigation in to the deaths of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Tsin, aged 20 and 21. Their bodies were discovered mutilated and partly naked in a Baptist Church complex in the town of Pangsai in the Muse district on 20 January.
“According to findings by the Myanmar [Burma] police force and the investigation team, it can be concluded that the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] men can not be the perpetrators,” the report reads.
The Burmese army’s 503rd Light Infantry Battalion was encamped in the village on the evening of the 19th, when the murder is thought to have taken place.
Their presence has lead to widespread speculation that Burmese soldiers are to blame.
The Kachin Baptist Church on 23 January addressed a letter to President Thein Sein, calling for independent investigation into the murders.
“Although the 503rd Light Infantry Battalion have denied that its troops committed the crime, the general public assume that is in fact what happened,” the letter read.
“In order to clear up the public’s suspicion of the Tatmadaw, we call for an urgent investigation into the case.”
Reverend Lama Raw, of the Kachin Baptist Church pointed to the Burmese army’s history of committing such crimes.
“As the girls are dead, they can’t point out who killed them. As we didn’t see it, we can’t just point the finger,” he told DVB. “But everyone knows who it is who commits crimes like this in our country among armed groups. There is no need to go to an astrologer for that.”
He said that the army has attempted to provide the family of the two girls with monetary compensation.
“We don’t know how much there was but the parents refused to accept it. They apparently told the army officials that the Kachin Baptist Church is dealing with the case on their behalf, so they would not accept the money without our acknowledgement.”
Thursday’s army statement warned that legal action would be taken against media outlets who have published “libellous” stories on the matter.
“Legal action will be pursued against these false claims about the Tatmadaw once the truth is uncovered,” the report reads.
However Zaw Thet Htwe, of Burma’s Interim Press Council said media organisations were within their rights to report on speculation.
“It was not just an ordinary crime, but a very brutal one. The media has the responsibility to ensure that justice prevails and to provide detailed information to the public.
“Any citizen or institution has the right to seek legal action if they deem that the media has passed its remit and committed libel. But it is not legally possible to sue the media for reporting speculation.”
Correction: This article was edited on 30 January 2015 to clarify that the Burmese army had not conducted their own investigation, and were preempting the results of the four person investigation team.