One of Myanmar’s most prominent and outspoken Christian leaders has been arrested by its military rulers.
Reverend Hkalam Samson was detained at Mandalay Airport while preparing to fly to Bangkok.
Friends told Radio Free Asia airport officials found his name on a government list of people banned from leaving the country.
He was put on a plane back to Kachin state and arrested by soldiers on his arrival there.
Dr. Samson is chairman of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly, a group made up of religious leaders, politicians from parties in Kachin State and high-ranking members of the Kachin Independence Organisation, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
The KIA is one of several ethnic armies battling the military junta which overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
The former chairman of evangelical group the Kachin Baptist Convention has also been involved in peace and relief issues in his home state.
He supervised the funerals of more than 60 people killed when military planes bombed a KIA concert on October 23.
In 2019 Dr. Samson was invited to the White House to discuss the state of religious freedom in Myanmar with President Donald Trump.
He faced prosecution over the visit but the charges were dropped.
He also met British MPs to draw attention to the plight of his people.
After last year’s military coup he bravely launched an appeal for prayer.
It was a move that is likely to have angered the generals running the country.
Religious freedom advocates Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) called for Dr. Samson’s immediate release.
Senior analyst for East Asia Benedict Rogers said: “CSW is deeply troubled by the arrest of such a prominent and internationally respected religious leader in Myanmar, and are very concerned for his well-being.
“We urge the international community to demand his unconditional release and ensure his well-being.”