Myanmar Pastor Charged with Breaching COVID-19 Rules with Religious Services

By Htun Htun 2 July 2020

Yangon — A court in Yangon’s Mayangone Township has charged a pastor and one of his followers under the Natural Disaster Management Law for religious gatherings that were linked to at least 80 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yangon, including two deaths.

Saw David Lah, a Burmese pastor with Canadian citizenship, was arrested in late May after he organized gatherings in defiance of the government’s ban aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Plaintiff U Ye Win Aung, an administrator in Mayangone Township where the gatherings were held, said Saw David Lah and his followers met for nearly a whole week in early April and broadcast the events live.

The Yangon regional COVID-19 Control and Emergency Response Committee filed lawsuits against four people, including pastors Saw David Lah, Saw Kwe Wah, U Saw Ray Gandi and U Wai Tun.

The gatherings they organized allegedly helped spread coronavirus to around 80 people, making it the largest cluster found so far in Myanmar.

Saw David Lah tested COVID-19 positive and has been detained in prison after being discharged from hospital.

The pastor and U Wai Tun face up to three years in prison if convicted under Article 25 of the Disaster Management Law.

Twelve witnesses for the plaintiff testified. Some of them will testify again at the next hearing on July 7.

As of Thursday morning, Myanmar has reported 304 COVID-19 cases with 222 recoveries and six deaths.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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