Military Frees Last of Baptist Group Members in Kachin, NGO Says

By Lawi Weng 5 November 2018

Mon State — The Myanmar military on Sunday released the last 12 of 15 members of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) it detained last month in Kachin State, according to a local non-governmental organization.

Lamai Gum Ja, spokesman for the Peace-Talk Creation Group, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the 12 were released at 2:30 p.m. at a police station in Myitkyina, the state capital.

He said Brigade 101 handed them to the police unharmed after determining they had no links to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“They suspected that those 12 people were linked to the KIA, so they arrested them. But they were innocent, so the Tatmadaw [military] released them,” Lamai Gum Ja said.

The KBC had asked the Peace-Talk Creation Group, which mediates peace talks between the military and KIA, to help secure the release of its members.

The 12 people were detained along with three others who were released earlier. They were all detained while heading to Myitkyina by motorbike for allegedly traveling in a conflict zone without permission.

The group comprised eight women and seven men. Two of the women were senior KBC members, one a schoolteacher and the other an aid worker at a refugee camp near the border with China.

The area where they were detained is near Laiza, where the KIA has its headquarters. Travel in the surrounding area is subject to heavy restrictions by the military, according to the KBC. Lamai Gum Ja said the military had also detained some people in the area last year and put them in prison.

The KIA is an ethnic armed group based in Kachin. It signed a ceasefire with the military junta in 1994, but the agreement collapsed in 2011. Since then, fighting between the KIA and the military has forced more than 100,000 residents of the state to flee their homes and take refuge in camps across the region. The government does not allow international aid groups to supply the camps in KIA-controlled areas, which get most of their support from the KBC.