Lahu Bible Students Still in UWSP Detention

The 20 detainees are all women, Lahu leaders say.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Twenty ethnic Lahu women who are also Bible students in Shan State Special Region 2 continue to be detained by the United Wa State Party (UWSP).

“None of the female students have been released—only male students managed to escape,” said Lahu National Democratic Party (LNDP) chairperson Aye Thida Myint, adding that she had been told that the women had been forced to attend military training.

A total of 41 students were initially arrested by Wa officials in November, but only the 21 male bible students managed to leave, according to Rev. Dr. Lazaru, secretary of the Lahu Baptist Christian League. He said that the men walked through the forest and are now in the care of his organization. There has reportedly been no update about when or if the remaining women will be released.

The Lahu Literature and Culture Association, Lahu Baptist Christian League, LNDP, Lahu Women’s Organization and Lahu Development Network sent a signed petition to UWSP headquarters calling for the release of the students. According to the LNDP, UWSP officials have yet to reply.

“Regarding to this case, I haven’t heard about any arrests. Our party will have a big celebration next year for the 30-year anniversary of peace agreement [the ceasefire agreement with the central government],” Nyi Rang, the deputy head of the United Wa State Army liaison office in Lashio, told NMG. “We have called in all ethnic people living in the Wa special region to participate in the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of peace in our region. We have trained them to work in performing, guest reception, and so on,” he added.

Lahu leaders added that they have also sent the petition to the President’s Office, the State Counsellor, the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, the Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Religion, the Parliament and the ethnic rights protection department.

Aye Thida Myint said that in addition to calling for the release of the students, they demand the return of their Bible school, which she alleged is being used as a police station. She also asked the UWSP to fix damaged churches and withdraw restrictions on religious practice.

Nyi Rang said that churches in the Wa region have been permitted to re-open in the area since last week, following an investigation; Rev. Lazaru said that he he had also heard this, but could not confirm it.

UWSP claims it needs to monitor Christian groups to identify religious extremists.

Lahu ethnic leaders said that UWSP closed 52 Christian churches in the Mong Pauk area, demolished five, closed the Hotawng Lahu Christian Bible School, detained pastors, and destroyed Christian respected symbols.