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Protestant Church leader banned from leaving Myanmar

The pastor was reportedly arrested and detained for questioning at the Mandalay International Airport on December 4

Authorities in Myanmar banned a Baptist Church leader from leaving the country following his arrest while on his way to the airport, said local media reports.

Reverend Hkalam Samson, former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), was reportedly arrested and detained for questioning at the Mandalay International Airport on December 4.

He was reported to have been released a day after, on December 5, but was banned from leaving the country.

“We, the KBC and members of the community are deeply concerned about the arrest of Samson,” read a statement released by the Baptist Church on December 5.

A Christian pastor, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told Radio Free Asia that Samson was temporarily detained as he was about to board a flight to Bangkok on Sunday.

“Both of his phones were turned off this morning,” the pastor told RFA Burmese.

“The last thing I knew was that he was taken away when he was about to board the plane. He did not do anything to get arrested by the military council,” said the source.

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Other friends said he was detained after airport officials found his name on a junta-compiled list of people banned from leaving the country when they checked his passport.

Hkalam Samson is chairman of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly (WMR), a group made up of religious leaders, politicians from parties in Kachin State and high-ranking members of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The KIA is one of several ethnic armies battling the military junta, which deposed the country’s democratically elected government in a February 2021 coup.

Hkalam Samson is also involved in peace and relief issues in his home state.

He supervised the funerals of the more than 60 people killed when junta aircraft attacked a Kachin Independence Army concert in Hpakant township on October 23.

In 2019, Hkalam Samson was invited to the White House to discuss the state of religious freedom in Myanmar by then-US president Donald Trump.

On his return he faced prosecution over the visit by Lt. Col. Than Htike of Myanmar’s Northern Military Command but the case was later withdrawn. – with a report from Radio Free Asia

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