By BosNewsLife Asia Service
VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)-- Three Christian pastors have been jailed in southern Laos for spreading Christianity, their supporters told BosNewsLife Thursday, February 7.
The jailed Christians, who lead evangelical congregations in Savannakhet province, were identified as Pastor Bounma of Alowmai Village Church in Phin district, Pastor Somkaew of Kengsainoi Village Church in Phin district, and Pastor Bounmee of Savet Village Church, in Sepon district.
In Laos people often use only their first name.
The church leaders were detained late Tuesday, February 5, in Savannakhet province where they tried to copy a Christian movie at a local compact disk store, said Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) in a statement.
"After three copies were made, the owner of the shop, along with the three pastors, tested one of the CDs...While they were testing the movie CD, [a] police [officer] saw them viewing it and contacted his superior," HRWLRF said.
POLICE IN SHOP
Soon after "Police Lieutenant Khamvee accompanied by his two deputies stormed the shop and arrested the three pastors," the group added. The shop owner was briefly detained before being released, according to investigators.
Christians said they were surprised about the detention as the movie about the "end times" before Christ's return is also sold in other shops of Savannakhet province.
The pastors have told police interrogations that they made three copies of the movie "so each could view it in their own homes", Christians familiar with the case said.
Lao authorities have reportedly countered that the pastors were trying to spread the "Christian religion portrayed in the movie."
Local officials have often target Christian leaders in the province, who they view as threatening local traditions in the otherwise Communist-ruled Asian nation, BosNewsLife learned.
The HRWLRF, which is in close contact with local believers, told BosNews that that it has urged the Lao government "to release the three Lao pastors" who are in the Phin district jail "arbitrarily for spreading the Christian religion."
The group said it had also asked the government "to punish the Phin district’s Police Lieutenant Khamvee and his two deputies for abusing power causing Christians to suffer injustice."
There was no immediate response from local officials.
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