In recent months there has been a crackdown on religious practices by an ethnic militia force in a remote region on Myanmar’s mountainous border with China.
Churches in northern Shan State have been closed, crosses torn down and pastors and other Christian leaders detained by the United Wa State Army (UWSA).
On October 9 about 100 Christians were released, but as many as 92 remained in custody, Christian leaders said.
The UWSA, the military wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP), dominates the population of about 500,000 in the self- proclaimed Wa Self-Administered Division of Myanmar.
According to various researchers, the UWSA is the largest standing militia in the country with a force of up to 30,000 troops. The enclave has long been widely seen to be backed by China as it is the implementation of the now intensified crackdown on religious practice.
The militia and its political arm are remnants of the Burmese Communist Party and retain very close links with authorities in China. China is conducting a fresh campaign of internal repression of religion, but its motives in northern Myanmar are essentially economic.