Lao Christians in Khammouane Arrested for Visiting and Praying for Believers

Nong-hang Village, Khounkham District, Khammouane Province
Advocacy Alert No. 04/2015
September 5, 2015

At about 12 noon on the 2nd of September 2015, five police officers of Khounkham district stormed the home of a Christian believer in Nong-hang village in Khounkham district of Khammouane province and arrested two Christians: (1) Mr. Bountheung Phetsomphone, age 43, a Christian leader from Nongpong village in Khemkhert district of Borikhamsai province,  and (2) Mr. Neuy, age 40, a Christian man, from nearby Khounkham village in Khounkham district of Khammouane province. Both Christians are charged with spreading Christian religion and have been detained in Khounkham district prison since their arrest. Mr. Bountheung is married with three children. Mr. Neuy is also married with three children.

Mr. Bountheung went from Nongpong village to visit Mr. Neuy in Khounkham village on the 1st of September 2015. Then a Christian family, consisting of five believers, in Nong-hang village (about 2 kilometers in distance from Khounkham village) invited them there in order to encourage and pray for them. Both men arrived in Nong-hang village around 10:30 AM on the 2nd of September 2015. After encouraging and praying for the Christian family, both men began having lunch with the host family. It was then that the five police officers stormed the house and arrested Mr. Bountheung and Mr. Neuy.

Khounkham district police authorities have been monitoring the growth of Christianity in the area since 2008 and intended to suppress it. A Christian in Khounkham village expressed that the Nong-hang village chief and the sub-district Communist party secretary reported Mr. Bountheung and Mr. Neuy’s visit in Nong-hang to the police.

(Mr. Bountheung troubles began in Nongpong village back in May 2012 when 300 Lao people joined the Christian faith after observing his life. Mr. Bountheung was previously arrested and imprisoned for his faith on August 20, 2012. He was later released. See the incident of Mr. Bountheung’s arrest in 2012.)

(Mr. Neuy’s troubles also dated back to 2008. When the Hinboon district police began the task of eradicating the Christian faith from the area and, in particular, Nahin village of Hinboon district. Now Nahin village is renamed as Khounkham village and it has since then been placed under a new Khounkham district instead of Hinboon district. However, a part of the police force who then served in Hinboon district went to serve in Khounkham district. See HRWLRF’s earlier release on police crackdown on Christians in Khounkham village (formerly called Nahin village): Hinboun District Police Authorities’ Abuse of Power and Unlawful Arrest of Christians in Villages of Khammouane Province.)

The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying rights as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009, upholding the individual’s right to adopt a religion/belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that religion/belief in a corporate worship (Article 18). Any form of coercion impairing the freedom to have and manifest one’s religion/belief of choice is condemned in the Covenant.

Additionally the HRWLRF urges the Lao government to punish the Nong-hang village chief and Khounkham district police officers who acted illegally in arresting Mr. Bountheung and Mr. Neuy. The HRWLRF demands the immediate release of both men.

 

Note: On Saturday, September 12, at 5:00 PM (Lao Time), Mr. Bountheung and Mr. Neuy were released from prison.

Khounkham district, Khammouane

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