Canadian pastor guilty of defying Myanmar coronavirus law


YANGON, MYANMAR – A Myanmar court on Thursday sentenced the Canadian pastor of an evangelical church to three months in prison after convicting him of violating a law aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Myanmar-born David Lah has been accused of flouting the ban on large gatherings by holding a religious meeting in Yangon on April 7.

Lah’s attorney, Aung Kyi Win, said the court found his client guilty of violating an article of the Natural Disaster Management Act because he failed to comply with a directive banning gatherings.

The judge credited Lah with time served since he was jailed in May, so it looks like he could be released in a few weeks.

A Burmese colleague from Lah, Wai Tun, received the same sentence.

Evidence of Lah’s actions came from a video of the event that was posted to social media accounts controlled by him. Videos have shown him appearing to violate the ban, which took effect in mid-March, on other occasions as well.

Toronto-based Le Lah pleaded not guilty last month but has not publicly commented on his case.

About 50 Lah supporters appeared in court on Thursday to lend their support. Those standing at the entrance to the courthouse deployed umbrellas in an attempt to prevent media from taking photos of him.

Lah made his first court appearance in May after being released from quarantine that followed a hospital stay because he contracted COVID-19. More than 20 of his followers have also reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus.

In addition to the rallies, Lah has sparked public outrage for his statements in online videos of his sermons. A video showed him claiming Christians were immune to the coronavirus.

“I can guarantee that if your church is following the true path and you have all of Christ in your heart, you will not get sick,” he said in one of the remarks.

Another clip that drew contempt in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar made him say that the teachings of Buddhist monks are responsible for making people “sinful”.

He has also been criticized for making disparaging comments about the LGBTQ community and Islam in other music videos.

The backlash against Lah has spread to the country’s Christian community, which represents around 6% of the population, after a photo of the country’s Christian vice president, Henry Van Thio, was released online at a meeting with Lah in early February.


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