Human rights organizations have expressed alarm over the disappearances of two Baptist pastors in Myanmar who may have been detained for their role in showing journalists a Catholic church allegedly damaged by government airstrikes targeting ethnic Kachin rebels in the country historically known as Burma.
Pastor Dumdaw Nawng Lat, 65, and his nephew Langjaw Gam Seng, 35, an assistant pastor, were last seen Dec. 24 after being summoned to an army base in northeastern Burma supposedly to assist with the release of civilians detained there.
On Jan. 3, representatives of the Kachin Baptist Convention and family members filed a missing-persons report and say the government and the military have ignored their pleas to help find the two men.
“We have sent letters to the president’s and the commander-in-chief’s offices about the disappearance of our two pastors and we have not received anything from them yet,” said Samson Hkalam, general secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention, quoted by the Associated Press. Samson said local police also failed to respond to inquiries by the two men’s families.
Human rights groups believe the disappearance is connected to the two men’s role in helping journalists document the destruction of civilian structures in Mong Ko in the Northern Shan State bordering China, Laos and Thailand.
The government has denied detaining the two men, claiming ground reports indicate they were taken by the Kachin Independence Army, ethnic rebel forces at war with Burma’s military junta since a 17-year cease-fire collapsed in 2011.
Human Rights Watch, Fortify Rights and Amnesty International all issued statements seeking information about their whereabouts.
“The disappearances raise grave concerns for the safety of the two men and witnesses to the incident,” Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights said in a joint statement Jan.17. “The Burmese government and military should immediately address these issues and allow the visiting United Nations human rights expert to visit the area.”
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SOURCE: Baptist News Global