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Laos Jails Mission Leader, Expels Christian Families, Missionaries Claim

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Thursday, 13 April 2006
By BosNewsLife News Center

VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife) -- A local Christian leader in rural Laos who refuses to abandon his faith in Christ has been detained and shackled in hand and foot stocks as part of a fresh crackdown by Communist authorities on Christian villagers, missionaries said Thursday, April 13.

Christian Aid Mission (CAM), which represents and supports indigenous missionaries in Laos, told BosNewsLife that Mr. Lapao has been held since April 1. The organization said it had learned that on March 31 "the chief of Tabeng village [in the] Savava province [of] Laos, ordered Mr. Lapao, also known as Mr. Tao Adern, to sign an affidavit to recant his Christian faith."

Because he refused to sign it, "district authorities arrested Mr. Lapao and put him in prison," where he "has been held in hand and foot stocks" since April 1, the group explained. In addition, "two of the four Christian families in the village were expelled...The other two families still remain in the village, but their fate is uncertain," Christian Aid said.

One of the family members, a young man, is reportedly being held and interrogated by district authorities, the group added. Lapao, a native of Hueyhoy Nua village in Savannakhet Province, settled in Tabeng after he married there. Christian Aid suggested it was concerned over the fate of his wife.

WIFE SUFFERING

"In Christian families when the husband is arrested, the wife and family are often left behind with no income," Christian Aid explained. These are no isolated incidents, rights watchers say. Last month, 15 Khmu Christian families in the village of Ban Nam Haeng in Udomxai Province "received notice...that their homes were being confiscated and given to other families," said Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) earlier.

Christians and dissidents who are detained can face torture, say secular human rights groups, including Amnesty International (AI). "Torture is thought to be widespread and routine in Lao prisons. Common methods of torture reported to Amnesty International include: punching and kicking with hands and feet, beating with sticks or truncheons, and long term shackling in wooden stocks," the organization said.

AI said it has also received reports of death threats and mock executions, solitary confinement, suffocation, near-drowning, use of electric shocks, burning with cigarettes and extremes of temperature. Missionaries told BosNewsLife that authorities were also involved in the December killing of a co-worker, Laotian missionary Aroun Warapong. Laotian officials denied the charges saying that Warapong, a traveling evangelist, pastor and married father of four children, was killed by "thieves."

AUTHORITIES FEAR

Investigators have linked the reported crackdown on Christians to fears among Communist authorities in Laos to lose their powerbase, as a growing number of people are questioning their ideology.

BosNewsLife established in Laos that evangelical churches are growing in villages, despite reports of persecution. Officially Christians comprise under 2 percent of the country's mainly Buddhist and Animist population of over six million.

Laos is one of the last Communist states in Asia, but is has come under international pressure to open up and allow more freedoms.

In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting what US officials describe as "a strict Socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam." A gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. In 1997, Laos became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the political, economic, and cultural organization of Southeast Asian countries. (With BosNewsLife Research and BosNewsLife reports from Laos).

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Worthy Christian News » Christian Persecution » Christian Persecution - Asia » Laos Jails Mission Leader, Expels Christian Families, Missionaries Claim