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(Christian Post) – An apparent government crackdown on Christians in southern Laos has led to the arrest and torture of 17 Christian men, according to a Virginia-based mission agency. In the Phin district of Laos’s Savannakhet province, Mr. Khamthan, age 59, and Mr. Vangthong, age 31, were arrested on Mar.27, Christian Aid Mission reported Monday. The next day, eight more believers were arrested, including Mr. Donkham, Mr. Lakorn, Mr. Thongnak, Mr. Thongla, Mr. Kuey, Mr. A- kum, Mr. Par-Takim and Mr. Khampuang. All except for Mr. Khampuang, who was a resident of Pa-long village, were from Hueyhoy Nua village in Phin district.

According to Christian Aid, Muang Phin district police made the arrests after warning the group of believers on Mar. 10 that they were to stop all evangelism. When the men refused to heed the warning, they were confined to their villages for 14 days, after which time they were all arrested and charged with “possessing illegal weapons”—a charge often levied at Christians to divert attention from the real reasons for arrests, Christian Aid reported.