» 06/26/2012, 00.00
Christians in Laos: purges and arrests of those who practice the faith
In the Northwestern province of Luang Namtha, authorities arrested four people, including two Thai, for spreading the faith "without permission". Their transfer to the main prison was arranged immediately, without waiting for the conclusion of the investigation. In Savannakhet two security officers were dismissed because they converted.
Vientiane (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Laotian government officials
have arrested two local Christians, together with two other faithful of Thai
origin. The arrest took place in recent days in the province of Luang Namtha in
the Northwest part of the country, but only emerged yesterday after a complaint
by a local organization. Sources from Human Rights Watch for Lao
Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reported that agents took the
group from a private residence in Long district, because they were guilty of
spreading the Christian faith "without permission". In a second
incident, the Laotian authorities also arrested a pastor in the same province
and expelled two security agents in Savannakhet, following their decision to
"convert to Christianity."
Sources from HRWLRF in Luang Namtha reported that on June 16
last year, the four Christians - two Laotians and two Thai - were arrested and
charged with "spreading the Christian faith, without the approval of
government officials." A witness, upon guarantee of anonymity, said is was
"ironic", since it is almost impossible to get the customary
permission to carry out the work of evangelization.
The Thai Christian brothers Jonasa and Phanthakorn
Wiwatdamrong, along with two Laotians - one known by one name, Chalar, while
the identity of the other is still unknown - have been transferred to the
provincial prison of Luang Namtha. Activists complain that, according to the
normal procedure, they were supposed to stay at least 36 hours in the prison of
the village or district, to complete the preliminary investigation. In this
case, however, their transfer was immediately arranged to the main detention
complex in the province.
In a second incident, the commander of the army in the Phin
district, Savannakhet province, on June 14 dismissed two members of the
security unit of the village of Alowmai, identified with the names of Khamsorn
and Tonglai, for having converted to Christianity.
In Laos, a nation led by a communist regime, the majority
(67%) are Buddhist; of a total of six million inhabitants, Christians make up
about 2% of the population, of which 0.7% are Catholics. The most frequent
cases of religiously-motivated persecution have taken place against the
Protestant Christian community: in the recent past, AsiaNews has documented cases of peasants deprived of food because of
their faith (see AsiaNews 02/25/2011 No food for 65 Laotian farmers, until they abandon
Christianity) or pastors arrested by the authorities
(see AsiaNews07/12/2011 Laos, alarm for the lives of two Protestant pastors in
jail for six months).
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