Reverend Dr Hkalam Samson, former President of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), has been sentenced to six years in prison by a court in Myanmar on charges of unlawful association, defaming the state, and terrorism. Reverend Dr Samson is an internationally respected advocate for freedom of religion and human rights in Myanmar.
He was arrested at Mandalay International Airport on 5 December 2022 while attempting to travel to Bangkok and has been held in Myitkyina prison since then. The court in Myitkyina sentenced Reverend Dr Samson, who also serves as Chairman of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly, under section 17 (1) of the Unlawful Association Act, section 505 (a) of the Penal Code, and section 52 (a) of the Terrorism Act.
Reverend Samson served as President of the KBC from 2018 to 2022 and previously for two terms as General Secretary from 2010 to 2018. In 2019, he participated in the International Religious Freedom Ministerial Conference in Washington DC, where he met with the United States President in the White House.
In November 2018, Reverend Samson visited London with other religious, human rights, and civil society activists from Kachin, Shan, and Ta'ang ethnic nationalities in northern Myanmar. He met senior British Parliamentarians and officials during this visit. In April 2021, just over two months after the military coup in Myanmar that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's democratically elected civilian government, Reverend Samson issued an appeal for prayer for Myanmar alongside the current General Secretary of the KBC.
Benedict Rogers, CSW's Senior Analyst for East Asia and a friend of Reverend Samson, condemned the sentence: "This sentence is an outrageous travesty of justice. Reverend Dr Samson is a completely non-violent Christian pastor and a brave and tireless advocate of justice, human rights, and peace. He has been jailed simply for courageously speaking out against the Myanmar military's barbaric atrocities perpetrated against the people of Myanmar."
Rogers called on the international community to take action: "The international community must speak out strongly to demand his immediate release from prison and intensify efforts to apply targeted sanctions against Myanmar's illegal military regime until all political prisoners are freed, the military ceases all attacks in the ethnic states, and Myanmar is placed on a path of genuine federal democracy."