YANGON, Myanmar – The President of Myanmar granted amnesty to more than 8,500 people incarcerated in prisons around the county. The action was, in part, associated with an annual tradition in celebration of the Myanmar New Year.
Among those being released are 51 foreigners, eight political detainees, and two Baptist pastors.
The two pastors, Dumdaw Nawng Latt, 65, and Langjaw Gam Seng, 35, had bee sentenced to four years plus nine months, and two years plus three months, respectively. Seng is Latt’s nephew.
Both men are pastors of churches affiliated with the Kachin Baptist Convention. The Secretary of the Convention, pastor Zau Ra, said that the men had been released on 16 April, appeared to be in good health, and were on their way home as soon as they were released.
Their attorney later said, “We are here with both of them, and the whole Baptist community is very happy to have them back. Everyone is praying for them and encouraging them.”
In October 2017, after the two had been “arbitrarily detained” since Christmas Eve 2016, Human Rights Watch called upon the Myanmar authorities to drop the charges that had been brought against the pastors.
The pastors were convicted of unlawful association and criminal defamation for leading reporters to the site of a church that had been destroyed allegedly by Myanmar military airstrikes. Latt had also provided information about the alleged strikes to Voice of America.
Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director, Phil Robertson, noted that “Myanmar’s government should be prosecuting military personnel who are responsible for serious abuses – not activists who are bringing those abuses to light.”
In March 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council to establish a fact-finding mission to investigate situations like the one in which these pastors found themselves. A representative of the UNHRC called the prosecution and imprisonment of the pastors Latt and Seng “outrageous.”
Seng told reporters, “Now we are free, and we feel happy. I hope out land will be peaceful in the future, so this kind of thing would not happen again.”
- Herald-Whig, Myanmar’s president grants amnesty to over 8,500 prisoners
- The Telegraph, Burma frees 8,500 prisoners in holiday amnesty
- The Christian Post, Myanmar Pastors Released From Prison in Presidential Amnesty Amid Report of Torture, Rape
- The Myanmar Times, Government pardons nearly 8500 prisoners, including student activists’ killer
- Christian Headlines, Two Pastors in Burma Freed from Prison
- Christian Today, Burma frees two pastors who were jailed after helping journalists cover military air strikes
- Human Rights Watch, Myanmar: Drop Case Against Kachin Religious Leaders