Myanmar’s army has detained two Kachin Baptist leaders for giving journalists information about a church allegedly hit by military airstrikes, accusing them of spying for insurgents.
The two men, named by the army as Didi Naung Latt and Langyaw Gamsai, were arrested on Dec. 24 in northern Shan State, where thousands have fled weeks of heavy fighting between the army and armed rebels.
In a statement announcing their arrest late on Thursday, the army chief’s office accused the men of being “recruiters, informers and rumor-mongers for insurgents,” including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
About 4,000 people have been displaced since the fighting erupted between the military and four major armed ethnic groups in November last year, including the powerful KIA. The unrest has rippled across Shan and Kachin states, threatening the next round of peace talks between the government, military and ethnic groups scheduled for next month.
The arrest of the two religious leaders — Kachin has a large Christian community — has caused grave concern in an area where the army has long faced accusations of unlawful killings, torture, rape and forced labor.
Rights groups said they were detained for showing a local photographer damage to a Catholic church in Mong Ko.
Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights this week said the “disappearances raise grave concerns for the safety of the two men and witnesses to the incident.”
The government denied UN human rights official Yanghee Lee access to violence-hit parts of Shan and Kachin states during a 12-day monitoring mission, which was to end yesterday.
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