A Catholic priest and a catechist who were abducted last month by a group of armed militia in Myanmar’s Chin state were released on August 4.
A Catholic priest in Myanmar, who asked not to be named “for security reasons,” told LiCAS.news that the abducted priest and catechist were released through the intercession of local church leaders.
“They were released after negotiations and talks,” said the priest. “They are now safe and are resting somewhere,” he added.
In a statement on August 1, Bishop Hre Kung of the Diocese of Hakha appealed for the release of the church workers who were taken by members of the Chinland Defense Force on July 26.
“I call on the concerned leaders of the CDF to immediately release the pair,” said the bishop in his statement.
The prelate said Father Noel Hrang Tin Thang and the unnamed catechist were traveling from the town of Surkhua to Hakha when nabbed by the activists who accused the priest of conniving with the military.
Father Paul Thla Kio, a priest in Hakha, however, told Catholic news agency Fides, that Father Tin Thang only talked with a Catholic general who often visits the priests’ residence.
The abducted priest reportedly asked the military general to avoid fighting in the city to spare civilians from being caught in the armed conflict.
In a statement, the CDF accused the priest of giving information to the military, getting medical support from the junta, and urging people to receive the junta’s support.
The militia group also said it had warned the priest not to contact the military’s security force but the priest failed to comply.
“We will release them only after our demands of transferring the priest from Surkhua to Hakha and signing letters of recommendation from two church leaders are fulfilled,” the group said in a statement before the release.
The resistance group has been organized supposedly “to protect civilians” from the military after the February 1 coup that ousted the government.
Meanwhile, about 40 bodies were reported found in the jungles in the central part of the country in recent weeks, said a member of the resistance movement.
The bodies were found in several different locations around Kani, a town in the Sagaing area, which has seen fierce fighting in recent months between the army and the militia groups.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Myanmar’s UN envoy Kyaw Moe Tun — who represents the elected civilian government — said a total of 40 bodies were found.
Kyaw Moe Tun described the incidents as “clearly amounting to crimes against humanity,” calling on the UN Security Council and international community to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar’s military.
“There is no sign of easing atrocities, killing, arrest committed by the military,” he wrote. “We demand for urgent humanitarian intervention from the international community before it is too late.”
Fighting in the Sagaing area has now mainly stopped and it was unclear if more bodies would be found, said a member of the Kani militia, who asked not to be identified.
“Most villagers in the remote area had fled to the nearby town,” he said, accusing the military and a rival pro-junta militia of carrying out reprisal killings and looting.
The militia member also put the total number of bodies so far at around 40, found on several occasions.
A military information newsletter dated July 30 said security forces had been attacked by around 100 “terrorists” with small arms near Zeepindwin village in Kani. It said soldiers had retaliated and nine bodies had been retrieved, along with hunting rifles, homemade mines and a grenade.
Security forces have killed at least 946 people since the coup, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a Thai-based activist group. The military has disputed the tally and also said many members of the security forces have been killed. – with a report from Reuters