Myanmar: Army Detains Baptist Pastor, 16 Youths 


(UCA News) — A Baptist pastor and 16 youths were still in custody on March 12, Church sources said two days after they were arrested by the ruling Myanmar military during a raid on a shelter camp in Kachin state.

The arrests followed intense fighting in the northern state on the Chinese border where many ethnic Christians live. 

On March 10, troops entered the Robert camp, run by the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) in Banmaw town in Kachin to arrest the pastor and the youths, the sources said.

They reportedly fired shots when they raided the camp at around 1 a.m.

The 17 were singled out and arrested while soldiers were checking people in the camp including the elderly and the children.

A local source said those arrested were taken to a military base in Banmaw town.

According to the United Nations, the KBC-run camp houses 3,300 people, including children, who fled ethnic strife that started in Kachin in 2011.

The arrests came after rebels conducted a major offensive against military outposts along the Myitkyina-Banmaw road near the Chinese border on March 7.

Thousands of people in the villages in Waimaw township have been trapped for more than five days due to the fighting, according to local sources.

The military has not published details of the fighting in Kachin with a population of 1.7 million, including 116,000 Catholics.

The situation is still “worrisome as we heard gunfire and shelling,” Benedetta Grawng, a displaced Catholic from the capital Myitkyina, told UCA News on March 12.

 “Many remain in the jungle as the roads are blocked,” Grawng said.

Camps are making arrangements to accept new groups of displaced persons, she added.

Kachin has seen heavy fighting between the junta and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) since the newly formed “People’s Defense Forces” started giving junta forces a tough time.

The junta, which toppled the civilian government in February 2021, accuses the KIA of arming and training the “People’s Defense Forces.”

Since the Kachin offensive began five days ago, the rebels have seized around 20 military bases and outposts, including two near the KIA headquarters in Laiza, media reports said citing a rebel spokesperson.

The military has reportedly retaliated with airstrikes and shelling, some of them hit Chinese territory.

A mother and her child from Laiza town were killed in shelling on March 7, according to Kachin-based media.

The army has repeatedly targeted the Kachin Baptist Church, which is known for undertaking humanitarian works in the civil war-hit Southeast Asian nation.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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