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A year ago this week, two young ethnic Kachin school teachers, Hkawn Nan Tsin, 21, and Maran Lu Ra, 20, were raped and murdered at a teacher’s dormitory in the town of Kaung Kha in Burma’s Shan State. The main suspects in this horrific crime are Burmese army soldiers stationed just a few hundred meters from where the women lived. The Burmese military strenuously denied the charges, staged a perfunctory investigation and threatened to take legal action against anyone who publicly alleged army personnel were responsible. To date, no one has been arrested for the crime and a police investigation is going nowhere.

Soldiers march during the Grand Military Review Parade ceremony to mark the 67th Myanmar Independence Day in Naypyitaw January 4, 2015.  © 2015 Reuters

There is seething anger and frustration throughout war-blighted Kachin State on the anniversary of this blanket denial of justice, especially among the many Kachin who have suffered from the war that has been raging since 2011 between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army. The fighting has displaced more than 130,000 civilians who remain in dozens of squalid and cramped displaced persons camps.

The unsolved case has echoes of Sumlut Roi Ja, a young woman abducted by Burmese soldiers in 2011. According to a harrowing new documentary, soldiers forced her to porter supplies by day and raped her repeatedly at night before she finally disappeared while still in military hands in 2012. Widespread sexual violence perpetrated by Burmese soldiers has been a hallmark of the culture of abuse and impunity in Burma’s decades-long civil wars with its ethnic groups. Despite greater openness since 2011, when Burma’s political reform process started and greater engagement by Western countries, the army continues to shield its soldiers from prosecution for crimes committed throughout war zones in the country’s north and east.

While Burma has endorsed the 2013 Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, the government and military – which enjoy constitutional protection from civilian oversight and control – have done little to address the persistence of sexual violence beyond informing the United Nations that it sometimes prosecutes soldiers for rape.

The denial of justice for Hkawn Nan Tsin, Maran Lu Ra, and Sumlut Roi Ja and countless others is a deplorable indication of the Burmese military’s lack of commitment to end sexual violence by its soldiers. The international community has already got Burma to sign international agreements, now there is an urgent need to put international pressure on the government to abide by them. For the sake of Burma’s women and girls, donors should try.

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