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March 2, 2024

Religious leader Hkalam Samson set to be prosecuted by Myanmar’s junta

Myanmar’s junta authorities are preparing to prosecute Baptist bishop Hkalam Samson, an advisor to the Kachin Baptist Convention, according to the religious group.

He was arrested at Mandalay International Airport on Sunday as he tried to board a flight to Thailand for medical treatment, and was held and interrogated at the Central Military Headquarters overnight.

On Monday, authorities put him on a flight back to Myitkyina in Kachin State. Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) officials said officers of the junta’s Northern Regional Military Command arrested him again on his arrival at Myitkyina Airport.

The following day, Kachin’s Security and Border Affairs Minister Col. Aung Kyi Lin summoned some KBC officials and informed them that the junta was preparing to prosecute Hkalam Samson.

“We were shown video files of the Bishop’s speeches and told he had committed offenses. We were shown points he preached in Bible classes. We were told they were preparing to take action because he is guilty,” Reverend Lahpai Zau Ra, Deputy Secretary of the KBC, said in a video posted on the group’s Facebook page Wednesday.

Lahpai Zau Ra said he did not know exactly which section of the Penal Code Hkalam Samson would be charged with or where he is being held.

Kachin State’s junta spokesman and social affairs minister Win Ye Tun told RFA he only found out about the arrest through the internet and no official information had been sent to him.

Hkalam Samson previously served as KBC president and secretary. As well as advising the group he is also president of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly, a group of local religious and political leaders who help foster communication between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the local community.

He arranged the funerals of victims of an Oct. 23 junta airstrike on a KIO anniversary concert in Hpakant township and tried to arrange for the seriously injured to receive emergency medical treatment at the nearest hospitals.

A month after the incident, he took part in a prayer meeting in Myitkyina held to commemorate the more than 60 people who died. It was organized by the Myanmar Council of Churches, which represents the country’s Christian groups.

International human rights group Global Witness called Hkalam Samson a respected religious and community leader for the Kachin people. In a statement released on Monday, the London-based NGO said it was deeply concerned about his detention and called for his immediate and unconditional release.

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