Hkalam Samson, former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention, was internationally known for his advocacy
In July 2019, Hkalam Samson, a pastor from a predominantly Christian ethnic group in Myanmar, met with President Donald Trump at the Oval Office. Standing with a group of victims of religious persecution from around the world, he shared how the Kachin people were “oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government” and thanked the Trump administration for placing sanctions on four top generals.
Three and a half years and one military coup later, Hkalam was arrested at the Mandalay International Airport on December 4. The junta charged him with unlawful association and breaking the country’s counterterrorism law for meeting with Kachin armed forces and praying with the leaders of Myanmar ’s government in exile, the National Unity Government. Hkalam, the former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), faces up to 13 years in prison.
At the time of his arrest, 65-year-old Hkalam was traveling to Bangkok for medical appointments. His family is now concerned for his health: In January, his wife said he was suffering from pneumonia and high blood pressure, and she had not been allowed to send him medicine or food.
Known internationally for his diplomacy and peacemaking skills, Hkalam has been a leading advocate for the Kachin people, who have been engaged in an ongoing civil war with the military junta for decades. Calls for Hkalam ’s release have sounded from around the globe, including from the U.S. State Department, human rights groups, and the Kachin diaspora.
“He’s the image of Kachin Baptist churches, and he’s the image of the Kachin people,” said Labya La Seng, the pastor of Dallas-Fort Worth Kachin Baptist Church and president of the Kachin American Baptist Association. …