Reverend Dr. Hkalam Samson, former President of the Kachin Baptist Convention, was sentenced to six years imprisonment at Myitkyina Township court on the morning of April 7. The six year prison sentence was a combination of three sentences given for three separate charges.
Dr. Samson was given a three sentence for violating the Counter Terrorism Act, section 52(a); related to a meeting with a member of the National Unity Government. He was given a two year sentence for charges under the Unlawful Association Act, article 17/1; related to a meeting with representatives Kachin Independence Organization in Laiza. He was given a one year sentence for charges under Penal Code Article 505A for ‘incitement.’ Article 505A was added to the Penal Code by the coup regime in February 2021 to criminalize criticism of the coup.
“The Township court made a final decision on the three charges today. The Reverend was sentenced to a total of six years imprisonment. We have the right to appeal the conviction at a higher court, so we are planning to appeal the conviction,” the lawyer for Dr. Hkalam Samson told KNG.
Dr. Hkalam Samson was arrested by armed forces at Mandalay international airport on 5 December 2022 as he was about to board a flight to Bangkok, Thailand for medical treatment. His was initially charged under the Penal Code 505A and under section 17 of the Unlawful Associations Act. Additional charges under the Counter Terrorism Act, section 52(a) were added while he was in detention.
In 2019, Dr. Hkalam Samson was in Washington D.C. as a participant in the International Religious Freedom Ministerial Conference. During the visit Dr. Samson met with the President of the United States alongside other religious leaders attending the conference. Dr. Samson told the President that the Burma army was oppressing Christians and that ethnic armed groups were fighting for a federal democracy in Burma. At that time, the Burma army’s Northern Command initiated legal charges against the Reverend for the comments, but these were eventually dropped after intervention by current junta head Min Aung Hlaing.