Kachin Baptist leader hit with terror charge for NUG meeting

Dr Hkalam Samson, the former chair of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), has been charged under Section 52a of the Counter-Terrorism Law for meeting with ministers of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), according to his lawyer.

Dr Samson, who was on his way to Thailand for medical treatment when he was arrested at Mandalay’s international airport last December, was already facing two charges—one for unlawful association and another for incitement.

The latest charge, which is punishable by three to seven years in prison, was added during a hearing inside a court prison in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina on Wednesday, his lawyer, Daung Nan, told Myanmar Now.

“They said the charge was added because he met with the NUG’s president, Duwa Lashi La, its minister for natural resources and environmental conservation, Dr Tu Hkawng, and its education minister, Ja Htoi Pan, in Laiza,” he said, referring to the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

The KIO and its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, have strongly supported the NUG in its efforts to resist the military regime that seized power two years ago.

According to Daung Nan, Dr Samson’s next hearing will be held on February 21. Witnesses for the prosecution in the terror case are expected to testify at that hearing, he added.

Relatives of the defendant said it was absurd to charge him for travelling to Laiza, since he was required, as a Baptist minister and a senior official of the KBC, to go anywhere his church had a congregation.

They also said that he has not been permitted to meet with family members since his arrest.

During a meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington in 2019, Dr Samson accused Myanmar’s military of persecuting the country’s Christians.

The military laid charges against him for his remarks, but dropped them days later and invited him to a meeting with military officials in Mandalay to publicly resolve their differences.

Dr Samson also personally met with the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in December 2020, just months before the coup that installed the present junta in power. 

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