The trial of a Baptist preacher charged for using a walkie-talkie last year at a youth rehabilitation school in northern Burma started this Wednesday.
Lahkye Seng Awng told KNG there was little he could say about his charges. “I used a walkie-talkie at school while monitoring my students. I won’t deny this.”
Last September, more than 20 people from the Military Affairs Security, police, and Township General Administration Department searched the youth rehabilitation school, operated by the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), in Lahta Maw Hpawng in Kachin State.
After several unregistered walkie-talkies were found during the 3 a.m. raid, they charged Lahkye Seng Awng for violating article 67 of Burma’s Communications Act.
Pastor Pungga Seng Hpa, the principal of the school in Myitkyina township, told KNG that five of the handheld transceivers didn’t even work. “They checked the whole school. They also checked the CCTV, which has been installed in the school. They seized all mobile phones. They also investigated all of the students.”
The school, started by Kachin anti-drug group Pat Jasan, is located close to the Tatmadaw’s Northern Military Command.
Police Lieutenant Nyi Nyi Min opened a case against Lahkye Seng Awng, who is a teacher at the Bible school, for using a walkie-talkie.
Three witnesses summoned by the plaintiff were heard at Wednesday’s court hearing.
“We are working on an anti-drug campaign and running a youth rehabilitation school. Yet the authorities see our work as anti-government. I feel so upset. Our school is for all ethnic people and not only Kachin people,” Lahkye Seng Awng said.
Pastor Seng Hpa, who works for the school, told KNG that KBC leaders met with Kachin State Chief Minister Dr. Hkyet Awng to discuss Lahkye Seng Awng’s case.
Article 67 of the Communications Act prohibits the use of telecommunications equipment without a license, with penalties of up to one year in prison and/or a fine.