Christian arrested for refusing to recant

Vientiane, Laos - The leader of a Christian community of a Laotian village has been in prison for several days, his hands and feet in stocks, for refusing to renounce his faith. For local Christian organizations, this is an illustration of the general approach of Communist authorities, known for turning the screw on residents of Christian villages.

The Christian Aid Mission (CAM), an evangelical organisation supporting missionaries in Laos, said Mr Lapao had been detained since 1 April. According to CAM, on 31 March, “the village leader of Tabeng – Savava province – ordered Lapao, known as Tao Adern, to sign a document renouncing his faith”.

When the Christian refused, the district authorities arrested and imprisoned him. He is kept in stocks in his cell, the group said. CAM further claimed that “two out of the four Christian families in the same village were expelled, and the rest face an uncertain future.”

Lapao, originally from Hueyhoy Nua village, in Savannakhet province, moved to Tabeng after he got married. Now the Christian is worried about his wife, who must survive without any income.

Some analysts say anti-Christian repression is rooted in fears of Laotian Communist officials of losing grassroots support, especially as the number gradually increases of people casting the party ideology in doubt. Christian organizations at work in the country said the number of Christian churches was on the rise in villages despite persecution campaigns.

Since 1975, Laos has been under the control of Pathet Lao, the Laotian Communist Party that expelled all foreign missionaries and persecuted religions. Since 1991, a “centralized democracy” has been implemented, led by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (a reincarnation of Pathet Lao). Although the economy has opened up in recent years, there is still strict control of society and religious worship.