ASIA/LAOS - Christians disappeared: open letter to the President of the country

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Vientiane (Agenzia Fides) - Christian families who have suddenly "disappeared into thin air": the problem regarding, among other cases, the Boontheong family, in the province of Luang Namtha, or Khamsone Baccam, in the province of Udomsay is a serious and worrying phenomenon that over the years has concerned different Christian leaders in Laos. For this reason the Laotian government should take-charge of an investigation and clarification. This was stated in an open Letter addressed to the President of Laos Choummaly Sayasone, and sent to Fides Agency, by the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" (CSW), recalling the insecurity faced by Christian communities in the small Asian country.
Boontheong, a Christian of ethnic Khmu, passed away on July 3, 2004, with his wife and his seven year old son. Before his death, Boontheong had been threatened and imprisoned by the local police because of his Christian faith. For over eight years we have no news of him. Khamsone Baccam, another Lao converted to Christianity, who died in January 2007, when his wife saw him get into a of police officers’ car. It is unknown whether he is alive or dead. These are stories, note sources of Fides, which still tear the Christian communities in Laos apart, creating bitterness and suffering.
NGOs such as "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" and "Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom" call upon the government to investigate all Christians disappeared and to provide information. In recent years, they note, Laos, has seen improvements in religious freedom and a significant reduction in the number of Christian "prisoners of conscience". However, there are still considerable restrictions and arbitrary detention against Christians, and Christianity is often perceived as a "foreign religion."
In Laos there are about 45,000 Catholics and, according to the "Lao Evangelical Church" (LEC), recognized in the country, more than 100 thousand Christian Protestants of different denominations, although this figure may not include all the members of the so-called "house churches." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/01/2013)