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  • » 09/21/2015, 00.00

    LAOS

    Arrested for praying, Laotian Christian dies in prison for lack of treatment



    Tiang, a married father of six, died in jail waiting before his appeal could be heard. Although he suffered from diabetes, prison officials repeatedly denied him treatment. He and four others had been convicted for praying on behalf of a terminally ill woman, an act the authorities deemed an “improper medical treatment”.

    Vientiane (AsiaNews) – Laos has seen a spate of new cases of anti-Christian persecution. The latest one involves a man who died in prison from complications related to diabetes, which went untreated because prison authorities refused him proper care despite the visible deterioration in his health.

    The dead man was a certain Mr Tiang, a Christian from the village of Huey, in Atsaphangthong district, Savannakhet province, a married and father of six, Human rights Watch for lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reports.

    After the People’s Court in Savannakhet convicted him, he appealed his sentence, but the authorities failed to consider his request within the legally required delay.

    At the same time, as soon as he was jailed, his health took a turn for the worse. For this reason, he requested medical care, but was denied.

    The case dates back to February, when Tiang was convicted along with four other Christians for "abuse of the medical profession" and sentenced to nine months in prison and a hefty fine.

    In reality, all the five did was to visit a woman and pray for her recovery. She had been ill for five years and was in the terminal phase of her disease, which eventually killed her.

    For Laotian authorities, Christians caused the woman’s death and were arrested and convicted for this reason. For the judges, praying amounts to a "medical treatment" that is ineffective, even harmful, and as such should be punished.

    Activists and human rights groups have appealed to the Laotian government to punish prison officials whose conduct led to Tiang’s death and to release immediate the other four prisoners because they are innocent.

    Tiang’s case is not unique. Increasingly, individual Christians and Christian communities have had to endure violence and persecution.

    In early September, a Protestant clergyman died during a kidnapping attempt, which apparently involved a police officer. Previously, two community leaders were arrested on charges of "spreading the Christian religion."

    Since the Communists came to power in 1975, and the resulting expulsion of foreign missionaires, the Christian minority in Laos has been under strict controls, its right to worship limited.

    In a country of six million people, most people (67 per cent) are Buddhist. Christians make up about 2 per cent of the total; 0.7 per cent of them are Catholic.

    Protestant communities have suffered the most from religious persecution, a situation AsiaNews documented in the past. Cases include peasants deprived of food for their faith and clergymen arrested by the authorities.

    Controls have been tightened since April 2011, when protests led by some groups within the country's Hmong ethnic minority sparked a violent crackdown.

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    See also

    12/07/2011 LAOS
    Fears for lives of Protestant pastors in prison for six months
    Arrested on 4 January, the two religious leaders are facing serious health problems. Authorities condition release on their renouncing their faith. Improvement in conditions of Christian families expelled from the village of Katyn in 2010.

    25/06/2014 LAOS
    Savannakhet: village chief denies Christian funeral and burial to new convert
    The authorities continue to put pressures on the family to renounce their Christian faith. Against the wishes of her children, they buried the Christian woman in the local cemetery after a Buddhist funeral. Some local Christian leaders are detained for trying to attend the funeral. Human rights activists call on the government to respect religious freedom.

    12/01/2011 LAOS
    11 Christians arrested in Laos for celebrating Christmas, 3 remain in custody
    The arrest took place on January 4, during a prayer meeting - authorized by authorities - to celebrate the birth of Jesus Today, three Christian leaders are in jail on charges of having "organized a secret meeting." Families forced to sign papers to "renounce their faith."

    19/09/2009 LAOS
    Arbitrary arrests, threats, kidnappings: the new anti-Christian persecution
    Wave of persecution against Protestants in particular, accused of being a "threat" to the government because they adhere to foreign faiths. Children denied school and families denied water, believers treated like pariahs and chased from the village. Among the causes, the economic support of authoritarian states.

    04/08/2007 LAOS
    Laos, the land of unexploded bombs
    Thousands of bombs buried beneath the surface still today claim hundreds of lives, above all among children: it would take over 400 years to clear all of the land, but the Laotians have begun trading in their metal.



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