Two Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) pastors have been charged with aiding rebels in Myanmar’s eastern Shan State, reports Crux.

Dom Dawng Nawng Lat, 65, and La Jaw Gam Hseng, 35, are accused of being “informers and spreading false news on behalf of the armed insurgents”, according to Myanmar’s state news agency, which said they “gave information of the [army’s] activities to the armed groups, gave them money and spread rumours to foreign media so as to arouse mistrust of the government among public and international communities”.

A spokesperson for KBC strongly rejected the accusations, saying the two men “only helped the wounded [during the conflict]”.

In January a military official denied knowledge of their whereabouts, after the two men were reported missing on 24 December. This led to calls from international human rights organisations for information.

Armed conflicts in Kachin and Shan states intensified late last year when the Northern Alliance of four ethnic militias launched coordinated attacks on government and military targets in northern Shan. In Kachin, Christians account for at least 34% of the population.

Relationships between the Kachin and the military are also strained by the slow progress in identifying and prosecuting perpetrators of the many documented cases of sexual abuse by Myanmar troops in the region. (Two KBC women teachers were raped and murdered two years ago.)

Myanmar is 28th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians are most under pressure for their faith. Latest government figures show that half of Myanmar’s three million Christians live in the states of Shan, Kachin and Chin.