UCA News
Contribute

Baptist leader among thousands of freed prisoners in Myanmar

The 65-year-old ethnic Kachin leader and humanitarian activist spent 16 months behind bars
Family members greet prominent ethnic Kachin Baptist leader Dr. Hkalam Samson after he was released from a prison in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina in northern Myanmar on April 17.

Family members greet prominent ethnic Kachin Baptist leader Dr. Hkalam Samson after he was released from a prison in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina in northern Myanmar on April 17. (Photo: KBC Kachin Facebook page)

Published: April 18, 2024 07:00 AM GMT
Updated: April 18, 2024 09:18 AM GMT

The former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), Dr. Hkalam Samson, was among 3,303 prisoners released on April 17 in a general amnesty by the junta in conflict-torn Myanmar, says a report.

Samson was released from a prison in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina after spending 16 months behind bars, The Irrawaddy reported on April 17.

The 65-year-old ethnic Kachin leader is a well-known humanitarian activist and advocate for religious freedom. He was secretary and president of the KBC for 12 years and is still associated with it as an adviser.

He was sentenced to six years in prison in April last year on unlawful association, defaming the state, and terrorism charges.

His appeal against the sentence was dismissed by a state court in Myitkyina twice.

Samson was initially detained in December 2022 after being arrested at Mandalay International Airport.

He reportedly became a target for the military in 2019, when he told the then-US president, Donald Trump, about the oppression of minorities, including Christians, in the strife-ridden Southeast Asian nation.

“We couldn’t believe it when we first heard but we are so glad. Praise the Lord. I have shed tears of joy,” a relative of Samson was quoted as saying by The Irrawaddy.

The junta-controlled media said the prisoners were freed in a Burmese New Year amnesty.

Watchdog groups said a few of those freed were political prisoners, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

The reduced sentences were given “for the peace of mind of the people” and “social leniency” during the Burmese New Year Commemoration, the military said in a statement.

Prisoners were released on the condition that if they commit another crime, they will serve the remainder of their previous sentence as well as the sentence for their most recent crime, in accordance with the country’s Criminal Procedure Law, military-supported channels like MRTV said, according to RFA.

Prisoners’ family members had been waiting in front of Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison since early morning on April 17, residents said. 

The mother of one political prisoner waiting at Insein Prison had hoped to see her son, who has been in prison for three years for defamation.

“The people in the prison said that prisoners like my son with a prison term of less than three years would be released, while prisoners with a long sentence would get a reduced prison term,” she said, declining to be named for security reasons. 

“That’s why I am waiting for my son. He was arrested and jailed when [junta forces] found revolutionary messages on his phone,” she said.

Like in the past, only a small number of political prisoners will likely be released, said Thaik Tun Oo, a member of Political Prisoner Network-Myanmar said earlier.

“Even if there are political prisoners among the released, there will be a few well-known figures, a few political prisoners and there will be a lot of other people with criminal charges, just like the [junta] has done throughout the post-coup period,” he said.

“We have even heard that there are no political prisoners released in some prisons. I think they may have difficulty releasing political prisoners after the recent military defeats,” he said, referring to military victories since last October by rebel forces.

Among those released as part of the day's amnesty, around 90, or less than 3%, were political prisoners, shows data released by Political Prisoner Network-Myanmar

The junta also released 9,652 prisoners on Jan. 4, for Burmese Independence Day, but few political prisoners were among them, according to advocates for those jailed under the military regime, RFA reported.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
comment

Share your comments

1 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
the military junta in myanmar are criminals in uniform. by releasing a few political prisoners, they image that the junta will gain some respect among the people and at the same time ensure that these political prisoners will not trouble them again. as for the criminal prisoners, the military would hope that they will join as vigilantes to fight the democratic forces on the juntas behalf. CHINA AND NORTH KOREA ARE THE EVIL STATES THAT SUPPORT THE EVIL JUNTA.
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia