Tatmadaw Releases Three of 15 Detained Kachin Clergypersons

 Civil society representatives fear that the pastors will be charged with violating Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Burma Army has released three of 15 recently arrested clergypersons on the China-Burma border, the Kachin Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG) said.

“Twelve clergypersons are still in their detention,” San Awng, of the PCG, told NMG. “Clergy work is an official service job—they are working for religious affairs. Every church has this kind of clergypersons,” he added.

The 15 people, who are members of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), were reportedly arrested by the Tatmadaw’s Northern Command near Nam Sang Yan village on their way to internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps in KIA-controlled territory, PCG representatives said.

“They encourage the IDPs and they hold prayer services for them,” San Awng explained. “Our members are going to IDP camps to see refugees. This means they won’t allow us to go to IDP camps in KIA-controlled areas. That’s why they are arresting our members.”

He said that the people may have been detained under suspicion of violating Article 17(1) of the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act, which punishes members of or those affiliated with “unlawful associations.”

“They were arrested with the accusation that they were communicating with an illegal organization. As of now, they still have not been transferred to the police station. They still remain in the hands of Burma Army. It’s still unknown whether they will be transferred to the police or released,” San Awng said of the 12 remaining detainees.

PCG has sent a letter to the state government petitioning for the clergypersons’ release, with a copy also sent to the Northern Command, but San Awng said that they have yet to reply.