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.
Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Two Protestant pastors held in prisoner for over six months, arrested along with some of the faithful on 4 January in the province of Khammouane (southern Laos), are facing serious health problems. According to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (Hrwlrf), the prison authorities have told the men that they will be released as soon as they sign a document renouncing their faith.
Wanna and Yohan, and are accused of having "organized a secret meeting" with a subversive purpose. In reality, the two Protestant pastors had gathered along with their faithful to pray at Christmas and had obtained the necessary permits from government authorities.
Meanwhile, the condition of the 18 Christian families, expelled from the village of Katyn (Ta-Oih district) in 2010 for refusing to renounce their religion has improved somewhat. "With the arrival of the dry season - says Sirikoon Prasertsee, spokesman Hrwlrf - families have been forced to leave the edge of the forest and began to beg for food." The activist says that some local farmers have offered them a small piece of land where they can grow rice.
However their conditions are still at risk. To date, 18 farm families live in a temporary shelter near the village of Katyn, in the district of Ta-Oyl, in the province of Caravan in the south of Laos. In two separate episodes, the Christians were driven from their homes. The first incident took place in January 2010 and involved 11 families, while the second - in December last year - affected seven other families. For about a year village chiefs have prevented Christians from returning to their land and officials ordered non-Christian families in the area not to help them or provide them with food. Their purpose is to "starve" the people, until they "abandon Christianity."