Two Baptist pastors from Myanmar arrested for leading journalists to a church reportedly destroyed by military air strikes in 2016 reportedly have been released from prison.
According to local media, Dumdaw Nawng Latt and his nephew Langjaw Gam Seng, both pastors in the Kachin Baptist Convention, were among more than 8,500 prisoners ordered released by newly elected President Win Myint.
The release followed a tradition of releasing prisoners on the first day of the Myanmar New Year. Fifty-one of the 8,541 pardoned prisoners are foreigners and 36 are political prisoners, but not all of Myanmar’s political prisoners received amnesty.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners there are 18 political prisoners left in prison and 74 more facing trial for politically related charges while detained. Among them are two Reuters journalists arrested in December for possessing secret government documents with intent to share the information with foreign media.
The two Baptist pastors were sentenced to prison last October under the country’s Unlawful Associations Act, the law used most often to arrest individuals accused of association with ethnic armed groups opposing the government.
The men disappeared on Christmas Eve 2016 after being summoned to an army base in northeastern Burma to assist with release of civilians detained there. Police waited a month before confirming they were in custody.
Their arrest appeared to be reprisal for their role in helping journalists document air strikes by the Burma Air Force that destroyed civilian structures in Mong Ko in the Northern Shan State bordering China, Laos and Thailand in November and December 2016.