By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)– Authorities in southern Laos have dismissed two members of a village security force because they and their families “accepted the Christian faith”, a well-informed rights group said Friday, June 22.
Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) said Christian converts Khamsorn and Tonglai were told to leave the force of Alowmai village in Savannakhet province’s Phin District, last week, June 14.
“The Phin district military command discharged Khamsorm and Tonglai from active duty…and took away their firearms that came with their position,” added HRWLRF. which has close ties with local Christians.
In Laos, people often use one name.
“Their dismissal from security service came as a consequence of their decision to accept the Christian faith” late May, the group said. Shortly after their decision, family members also accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the HRWLRF explained.
Initially a senior police official tried to prevent the dismissals saying their “embracing the Christian faith did not disqualify them from serving in the security forces since all Lao nationals have the right to believe” in any religion, HRWLRF said.
However, “dissatisfied with the response of the sub-district police chief, the village chief reported Khamsorn’s and Tonglai’s acceptance of the Christian faith to the Phin district military command in charge of all village security forces throughout Phin district,” who dismissed them, the group added.
There was no immediate reaction from officials.
The HRWLRF stressed it is concerned as “Kahmsorn and Tonglai have faithfully served to protect the Lao nation and the people who reside in their village”.
They “are now being punished and dishonored due to their religious affiliation,” the rights activists added.
The HRWLRF said it has urged the Lao government to intervene and “respect the right of the Lao nationals to religious freedom” and “restore Khamsorn and Tonglai to active duty in the security forces.”
They were fired amid growing pressure on devoted Christians in several areas of Laos where churches have been closed and pastors detained, according to rights activists.
Earlier this month, police in northern Laos detained a pastor “for attracting people to the Christian faith” as part of a wider crackdown on evangelism in the region, HRWLRF explained.
Pastor Asa, 53, was reportedly arrested June 6, at his home in Peeyeur village in the Sing district of Luang Namtha province.
There about 200,000 devoted Christians in the Communist-run Asian nation, where most of the 6.4 million people are Buddhists, according to Christian estimates.