Two Kachin Baptist pastors are being sued by Myanmar’s military for taking part in a ceremony it says was a blatant show of support for ethnic rebel forces in northern Myanmar’s Kachin State, police and religious leaders have said.
U Bimar Dau Lwam and Tu Tham were detained in the state capital Myitkyina by police on Feb. 6 following their hosting of an event to mark the 60th anniversary of Kachin Revolutionary Day, the previous day. The event at a local church was supposedly sanctioned by the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) reported Radio Free Asia (RFA).
The pair were later remanded in custody, a police source said, reported RFA. It is currently unsure if they’re still being detained.
The arrests followed a complaint from the army, which demanded police arrest those all those involved in the ceremony at the Jaw Bawm Sutaung Pyae Pagoda.
The event allegedly focused on the history of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) which is waging an insurgency against the Myanmar government.
The army claimed the ceremony included a performance that damaged its reputation, local sources they said.
The two Baptist pastors were charged under the Unlawful Associations Act, a law introduced by the British during colonial rule.
The law carries a 3-year prison term for anyone who associate with illegal groups or individuals such as the KIA, religious leaders said.
Maji La Wawm, a spokesman for the pastors, questioned the military’s motives behind the lawsuit.
He said those who staged the performance wore military uniforms with no insignias and used toy guns.
“It was a brief performance about the history of the KIA,” he told RFA.
According to a report by The Irrawaddy, an online news portal, the two Baptists were only involved in a fundraising event and had nothing to do with the actual ceremony.
Hkalam Samson, chairman of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), said the purpose of the ceremony was to promote peace and not glorify war.
The arrest of the pastors is not the first time the military has taken legal action against performances deemed critical of the Myanmar army.
Last year members of a drama troupe were jailed for performing a “thangyat”, a satire that pokes fun at society and those in positions of authority, including the military.