Most believers Christians were apparently detained last month,when officials rounded up Christians in Katin village, in the Tah Oih district of Saravan province. They were reportedly taken away after residents seized a Christian villager and poured rice wine down his throat, which flooded his lungs and killed him instantly.
When mourning family members buried him – an immediate necessity because of the warm climate – and put a wooden cross on the grave, village officials accused them of “practicing the rituals of the enemy of the state” and seized a buffalo and pig from the family as a fine, Christians rights activists said.
Soon after, on July 25, officials rounded up 17 of the 20 Christian families in the village – some 80 men, women and children – and detained them in a local school compound, denying them food for three days in an attempt to force the adults to sign documents renouncing their faith, said the Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) in published remarks.
Three other Christian families in the village had already renounced their faith under increasing pressure from authorities, the HRWLRF said. As their children grew weaker, 10 families allegedly signed the documents and on July 30 were allowed to return home.
The remaining seven families, however, were evicted from the village and have since settled in an open field outside the village, building small shelters and surviving on food found in the nearby jungle, news report said.
In one of the latest incidents, last Sunday, August 3, Pastor Sompong, and two other believers, identified as Boot and Khamvan, from a house church in Boukham village of Savannakhet province, were detained, Christian news agency Compass Direct News said.
Earlier on August 2, authorities reportedly detained another villager in Boukham, identified only as Menoy, charging her with “believing in Jesus and worshiping God.” A handcuffed Menoy was seen entering a prison in Ad-Sapangthong district, where she joined two other believers, Kantalee and Loong Peng, who had apparently been brought there the previous day on similar charges.
Authorities previously arrested Pastor Sompong and four other believers from the Boukham church on July 20, detaining them for two days in a prison in nearby Dong Haen. Police stormed into the church that Sunday and ordered the 63 Christians present to cease worshiping or they would face arrest and imprisonment for “believing and worshiping God,” Christians said.
When the Christians refused to comply, police arrested Pastor Sompong and fellow church officials Kai and Phuphet as well as a other Christians, including a 17-year-old youth leader, identified only as Kunkham, Compass Direct News said.
All five Christians were detained in Dong Haen prison with their feet secured in wooden stocks on charges of “spreading the Gospel and holding a religious meeting without permission,” Christians said. Officials have not confirmed the reports.
Although the Lao constitution "guarantees" freedom of religion and worship, church fellowships must be registered with government-approved institutions. Such registration comes with strict limitations on the activity of the church, however, and many Christians prefer not to register in the Communist-run country.
Elsewhere, in late July authorities in Saiphuthong district of Savannakhet summoned the pastor of a church in Nachan village and questioned him about the increasing number of villagers who had elected to believe in God, Compass Direct News said. It also quoted officials as saying that a family of Hmong Christians in northern Luang Prabang province was detained July 27, but said details remained sketchy.
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