Laos Detains 17 Christians, Believers Face "Torture And Death"

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Tuesday, April 5, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)-- At least 17 Christian men in Laos, including church leaders, have been detained by Communist authorities and are facing torture and possible death amid an apparent new government crackdown on Christians, missionaries said Monday, April 4.Christian Aid Mission (CAM), an organization supporting indigenous missionaries, said most of those arrested since last week are from Hueyhoy Nua village in Laos' troubled southern Savannakhet province.

"What awaits these innocent believers in prison is incomprehensible suffering," warned CAM, a United States backed group with close contacts in the region, in a statement to BosNewsLIfe. "In a common scenario, they are stripped naked and bound hand and foot, left exposed to animals, insects and snakes for one week with only water to drink as their initiation into the Laotian prison system," it claimed.

"After suffering all forms of humiliating abuse by prison guards, they are untied and lowered into a dark hole in the ground big enough for one person. They are kept there in utter darkness and filth for a month before being brought up to join other prisoners in jail cells. Regular beatings, little nourishment and disease during the typical 3-year prison sentence often lead to death."


CAM said seven Christian men were rounded up by police March 30, following similar arrests earlier in the week. The organization identified the Christians as A-ya, Lee, Suaydon, Tamin and Tai-giam, all from Hueyhoy Nua village and Par-sa-om, from Kong-aluang village and A-sing, from Nonsung village.

On March 27 Christian men Khamthan, 59, and Vangthong, age 31, were arrested in the same area, followed by eight more male believers, including Donkham, Lakorn, Thongnak, Thongla, Kuey, A-kum, Par-Takim and Khampuang from Pa-long village, CAM claimed.

Police made most arrests after warning the group believers on March 10 that they "were to stop all Christian evangelism," the organization said. "When the men refused to heed the warning, they were confined to their villages for 14 days, after which time they were all arrested [on false] charges of "possessing illegal weapons," CAM added.


Two men were directly taken to Muang Phin district prison while at least eight other Christians "
were made to endure a severe torture: bound together with rope, they were forced into a rice field in Hueyhoy Nua village and left in the hot sun for two days with no food or water," the organization said, citing a source in the area.

Some torturers allegedly tried to force Christians to sign a paper denying Christ, beating them and shoving them to the ground. The CAM allegations, while not confirmed independently, seem in line with observations made by the United States State Department regarding persecution of Lao Christians.

"Officials in some areas of Savannakhet, Attapeu, Vientiane, Bolikhamsai, and Luang Namtha Provinces arrested and detained some religious believers without charges," the State Department said in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in February.


"In addition, Christians in some areas of Savannakhet Province were pressured to renounce their faith. Local officials threatened to withhold government identification cards and household registers and to deny educational benefits to those who did not comply," it added. The State Department also noted that Christians can receive long prison sentences.

"In 1999, two members of the Lao Evangelical Church, Nyoht and Thongchanh, were arrested in Oudomsai Province and charged with treason and sedition, although their arrests appear to have been for their proselytizing activities," the State Department noted. "Nyoht was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Thongchanh to 15 years. Both men remained in prison at the end of the year [2004]." At least one Christian policeman was allegedly killed.

However CAM said "although prison guards' goals in their treatment of Christians is to break them down and force them to deny their faith, often believers' presence in prison leads to the spread of the Gospel." It claimed that "many" non-Christian inmates "noted how Christians, instead of hoarding their daily ration of a handful of rotten rice, share food with other prisoners. In multiple cases, non-Christian inmates released from prison immediately seek out believers and ask to know about the God of the Christians."


There are over 35,000 Evangelical Christians in Laos today including 20,000 Khmu, 8,000 Lao, 4,000 Hmong and 3,000 other tribes, according to estimated from Christian rights watchdog Open Doors. A small number of Lao - mostly those of the remaining French-educated elite - are Christians.

About 60% of the people of Laos are Theravada Buddhists, and it was long seen as the official national religion of the Communist-run nation of over 6 million people, "However, the Department of Religious Affairs ensures that the teaching of Buddhism is in accordance with Marxist principles. All monks now have to undergo political indoctrination as part of their monastic training," Open Doors added. The Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government in 1975, ending a six-century-old monarchy.

"Please pray to God for His protection and mercy on our Lao Christian brothers and sisters," CAM quoted a Christian as asking supporters. It said prayers are crucial for detained Laos Christians "to hold strong in the face of unthinkable abuse." (With reports from Laos, BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLIfe Research)