Lao Authorities Arrest Thai and Lao Citizens in Luang Namtha

Phone Sampan Village, Long District, Luang Namtha Province
Advocacy Alert No. 14/2012
June 23, 2012

Approximately on June 16, 2012, the Long district police arrested two Thai citizens Jonasa Wiwatdamrong, age 54, and his brother Phanthakorn, age 40, along with two unnamed Lao citizens.

They reportedly were in a home of a local Christian. When a Lao man came to them with questions from a bible, Jonasa was seen explaining the bible passage to the man. At the same, another man who saw Jonasa explaining the bible went to report to the police. When the police arrived, they searched their bags and found CDs of bible stories and a small black and white picture book of bible stories. Thus, the police took their passports. Later in the evening, the police came back to arrest them and transported them to Long district prison. Then afterward, they were transferred to Luang Namtha province prison.

An investigation into the charges would normally follow an arrest that could last approximately three days while the person charged would be detained in a village or district prison. However, in this case, they were taken to the provincial prison within 36 hours after their arrest without any investigation or charges being made.

The Lao authorities have not allowed any contact with those four Christians. All personal belongings, including money, phones and personal possessions, were confiscated. Now family members are gathering resources in order to care for the four prisoners. Since Lao prisons do not provide adequate care, it is up to family members to provide food.

Luang Namtha provincial officials have often reportedly expressed that they want to eliminate Christianity from their province. Local believers in at least fifteen villages in Luang Namtha have all shared the common story of persecution at the hands of the Lao authorities.

The HRWLRF calls on the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom—to adhere to any religion of choice as guaranteed under the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the Lao government—and immediately release Jonasa, Phanthakorn,  and two unnamed Lao citizens.

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