Lao officials arrested two Lao and two Thai Christians on June 16 in Luang Namtha Province, seizing them from a private residence, according to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). According to Compass Direct News, officials charged the Christians with “spreading the Christian faith without official approval.” “That is ironic, since Lao officials are highly unlikely to approve of anyone spreading the Christian faith,” said another source who requested anonymity.
A resident of a neighboring village reportedly witnessed the Thai brothers, Jonasa and Phanthakorn Wiwatdamrong, explaining Bible passages to enquirers in a private home and reported their presence to police. Police then raided the home, confiscating the brothers’ passports along with biblical literature and Christian CDs, according to HRWLRF. The brothers, along with two local residents, were arrested and taken directly to Luang Namtha provincial prison.
Officials seem determined to eliminate Christianity from the province, local sources told HRWLRF. Police recently arrested a pastor identified only as Asa following reports that he had encouraged many people to accept Christ. Two years ago, police arrested Asa and forced him to sign documents agreeing not to share his faith with others – but so many have turned to Christ this year as a result of Asa’s influence that officials ordered a second arrest.
On June 14 in another part of Laos a military commander discharged two members of the Alowmai village security force for converting to Christianity. According to HRWLRF, the two men became Christians in late May, soon followed by the conversion of other family members. Alowmai’s chief immediately reported the conversions to the chief of police, who replied that under Lao law the men had every right to believe in the religion of their choice. The village chief then reported the conversions to the district’s military commander, who subsequently discharged Khamsorn and Tonglai and confiscated their military-issue firearms.
HRWLRF has called on the Lao government to respect the right of these and other Lao citizens to religious freedom as guaranteed by not only the Lao constitution and other national laws, but also by international covenants ratified by the Republic.
Father, thank You for the courage of believers in Laos to proclaim Your name even in the midst of persecution by local authorities. Thank You that many have responded in faith. We call on You to overrule, to release these believers from prison that their lives might give testimony to Your saving grace. We pray that the spread of the gospel would continue in power, unhindered by Satan’s attempts to intimidate believers through imprisonment, loss of employment and other threats. In the name of Jesus who has overcome the world, Amen.