Two Kachin Pastors Freed After Myanmar Army Drops Unlawful Association Case

By Lawi Weng 21 February 2020

Two Kachin pastors were released from prison in the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina, on Thursday afternoon after the Myanmar Army dropped an unlawful association case against them, according to local sources.

Rev. Bima Dau Lum and Sumlut Tu Htang spent two weeks in detention after the army opened unlawful association cases against them under Article 17(1) for attending an event marking the 60th Kachin Revolution Day on Feb. 5.

Sumlut Tu Htang told The Irrawaddy on Friday that one of the army officers who opened the case against the pair had informed the court that the army was dropping the case, and that the order “came from the top”.

“He [the army officer] told the court that the order came from the top to drop the charge and release us. Therefore, we were freed,” he said.

The two were released from prison at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, he said.

Sumlut Tu Htang said he was very happy that the army had dropped the charge, and to be out of prison. He expressed his thanks to the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) and the Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA) for their help in negotiating their release with the Myanmar army.

He said prison authorities treated the two pastors well during their incarceration. The pair were not kept in solitary confinement—the usual practice for suspects in unlawful association cases—but were allowed to mix with the other prisoners, he said.

Leaders from the KBC and KNCA conducted several rounds of negotiations with the Myanmar army’s Kachin State-based Northern Command to secure the pastors’ release.

The chief of the Northern Command raised the KBC and KNCA’s request that the men be released with Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

“Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing agreed that the two pastors should be released, so the Myanmar army’s Northern Command dropped the case,” said Dr. Maji La Wawm, a spokesman for the two men.

The Myanmar Army filed unlawful association cases against a total of four people, according to Dr. Maji La Wawm, but only the two pastors were detained. The cases against the other two were dropped as well.

Events celebrating Kachin Revolution Day are banned, as the area’s main armed group, the Kachin Independence Army, has yet to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

The KNCA attempted to secretly organize a small event at a KBC church in Myitkyina, but police arrested the two pastors, who oversee the church.

“This type of case will become more frequent as long as the country lacks equal rights,” Dr. Maji La Wawm said.

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