NEWS ALERT: Laos Releases House Church Christians, But Pastor Detained

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

LAOS
Churches as well as home congregations have been targeted by authorities, Christians say.


VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)-- Authorities in southern Laos released six Christians who were detained after attending a house church service, but the pastor remained behind bars Tuesday, October 7, and faces torture, an advocacy official said.

The Christians "have been released from imprisonment in the Boukham village detention center," confirmed Sirikoon Prasertsee, director of Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

He told BosNewsLife that all of them were released Friday, October 3, except Pastor Sompong Supatto "who continues to be held with wooden stocks on his legs and handcuffs, in a position of restriction and torture."

A 3-year-old girl, who was also held with the Christians was apparently already released, he said.

CHRISTIANS IDENTIFIED

Those released were identified as women Manivanh, 60, Chai, 56, and Anna, 50, and men Chanthanarm, 18, and Neal, 21,

from Phosai village in the provincial Palansai district. Another Christian was named as Petsamone, 40, from Changseng village in the same district of Savannakhet province.

Lao villagers often use just one name to identify themselves.

Security forces detained the Christians last week, September 29, following a morning worship service on charges of participating in an unauthorized religious gathering, BosNewsLife learned.

PREVIOUS WARNING

Prasertsee said the latest arrests came after village officials had issued warnings a week earlier that Christians were no longer allowed to gather for worship in Boukham village.

Only a limited number of registered Christian congregations are allowed to operate in this heavily Buddhist and Communist-run nation of nearly 7 million people, according to Christians and activists.

The HRWLRF said it had urged the Lao government to respect the right of all Lao people "to religious freedom and the accompanying rights as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009."

The mentioned legislation upholds the individual’s right to adopt a religion or belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that in public worship.

(With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).

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