08/18/2006, 00.00
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Two Christians arrested in Savannakhet province

Government is trying to stem growing evangelisation according to human rights group.

Paris (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Two Protestant Christians have been arrested in southern Laos to stop them from pursuing their evangelisation work, this according to the Lao Human Rights Movement (LHRM), which is critical of Vientiane's Communist regime. A-Kouam, 60, and A-Vieng, 35, were taken into custody on August 11 and are being held in Depone in the southern province of Savannakhet.

According to reliable sources cited by the  LHRM, "the arrest and imprisonment of the two Christian men is meant to stop the spreading of the Christian religion, especially among religious minorities".

The Paris-based LHRM lamented the fact that in Laos "freedom of religion is still very limited and religious minorities are victims of intimidation, threats, arrests and violence, both physical and moral."

In the last few years dozens of Protestants have been arrested. The Catholic Church has also been subjected to heavy-handed controls.

Fear among Lao Communist officials that they might lose support in the population explains the anti-Christian repression at a time when more and more people are starting to question the party's ideology.

According to Christian organisations operating in the country, Christian Churches are growing in number despite the campaigns of persecution.

Since 1975 Laos has been governed by the Pathet Lao, the Lao Communist Party. Following its takeover all foreign missionaries were expelled and religion was persecuted.

Since 1991, it implemented what it has called "centralised democracy" under the leadership of the Revolutionary Party of the Lao People (the latest version of  the Pathet Lao).

Despite greater economic opening in the last few years, the party's hold on society and religion has remained very tight.

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