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Rev. Hkalam Samson Targeted for Conversation with US President

08/29/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on August 26, a Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) officer filed a lawsuit against an ethnic Kachin pastor for the comments he made during a meeting with President Donald Trump. The conversation took place at the White House during the Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom last month.

At a Ministerial-related event, a group of international attendees met with Trump in the Oval Office to discuss religious freedom violations. The leader of the Kachin Baptist Convention, Rev. Hkalam Samson, expressed his support for the decision to impose sanctions on Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and three other senior officers.

He also told Trump that there was no religious freedom in Myanmar and that oppression and torture were still common in the country, where fighting between ethnic armed organizations and the Tatmadaw continues despite a return to civilian rule. He requested that Trump support Myanmar’s transition to “genuine” democracy and federalism.

For that, Lieutenant-Colonel Than Htike from the Tatmadaw’s Northern Command filed a lawsuit with the Myitkyina Township Court on Monday.

Rev. Samson told Frontier on August 28 that he was aware of the document, but had yet to be contacted by the court. He said he never thought he would face legal action over his remarks at the meeting with President Trump.

“I spoke about what was really happening in our country, and I think what I said about the US sanctions decision made them (the Tatmadaw) angry,” he said.

A Myitkyina court document stated that a decision on the charge to be brought against Rev. Samson would be made on September 9.

Lawyer Mung Seng Tu, based in Kachin State, told The Irrawaddy, “We still don’t know how the court will proceed in this case. If the court wants to proceed with it, they will instruct the police to testify in the case. Then, both sides will have to submit testimony at the police station. After that, the court will officially open the case.”

“In my view, he has a right to express his views. Moreover, he did not intend his comments to be broadcast. They appeared live on the news on social media,” he told the magazine.

“In terms of speaking about religious freedom, he fully has the right to rebut [the lawsuit] if there are [supporting] facts and documents,” he added.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “The lawsuit against Rev. Samson goes to show that any Christian in Myanmar can be singled out by the Tatmadaw and slapped with absurd charges. The Myitkyina Township Court should dismiss the case and resist pressure from the Tatmadaw. Myanmar needs to show that it is truly a democracy by respecting freedom of speech and admitting its shortcomings in regard to religious liberty.”

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]