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UN envoy Lee hears of unsolved Kachin murder cases

UN human rights rapporteur Yanghee Lee is met at Myitkyina Airport on 10 January 2017 by local government officials. (PHOTO DVB)

During a visit to the Kachin state capital yesterday, United Nations’ Special Human Rights Rapporteur to Burma Yanghee Lee was briefed on the unsolved cases of two young Kachin schoolteachers who were raped and murdered in Muse two years ago; and about two Kachin pastors were mysteriously disappeared on Christmas Eve.

Sam Sun, the general-secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) in Myitkyina, told DVB that Lee had been made aware of the situation of on-going human rights issues in Burma’s northernmost region. He said that KBC had also explained in detail the case of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Tsin, the young volunteer teachers who were brutally murdered in a church compound in Muse, northern Shan State, in January 2015, as well as the disappearance of Baptist priests Dom Dawng Nawng Latt and La Jaw Gam Hseng just over two weeks ago. The clergymen are now feared dead. In both cases, Burmese military units are suspected of involvement.

“Ms Yanghee Lee enquired about the living conditions for IDPs [internally displaced persons] and other human rights issues, such as [the aforementioned cases],” said Sam Sun, adding that KBC had reaffirmed to the UN rapporteur that nearly 10,000 people had been compelled to flee their homes due to recent hostilities in the region.

“She noted down the information we gave her and remarked that the situation has not improved from her last visit. She said she wanted to go to Laiza and Hpakant to meet with Kachin Independence Army (KIA) leaders, but was denied access by Burmese authorities,” he added.

The KIA, alongside its allies Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Arakan Army, staged coordinated attacks on police and military positions on November 20 in Muse and Kutkai townships. The Burmese army sent in reinforcements to take back their positions; fighting has continued around several key town and border trading points. The four ethnic militias have now rebranded themselves as the Northern Alliance, or Northern Alliance-Burma.

Sam Sun said the KBC representatives expressed a wish that Yanghee Lee be allowed to visit IDP camps outside government controlled areas to witness the “real situation”. According to the Kachin group, many IDPs remain hidden in the jungle without adequate shelter and only have enough food for about a month.

Meanwhile, the Myitkyina-based Shan Ethnics Affairs Organisation said they were not informed about Yanghee Lee’s arrival or invited to meet with her, which has left them feeling discriminated against.

Yanghee Lee is on a 12-day fact-finding visit to Burma to assess developments within the various human rights situations across the country. She headed straight to Kachin State after arriving in the country on Tuesday, and was scheduled to visit IDP camps in Myitkyina and Waingmaw later that day.