Lao Pastor Arrested During COVID-19 Lockdown, Family Visit Banned
04/25/2020 Laos (International Christian Concern) – On March 15, Lao Pastor Sithon Thiphavong, 34, was arrested for organizing a mass service without permission in the Chonburi district of Savannakhet province in Laos. According to several villagers, for teaching religion and organizing an unsafe gathering of many people amid the coronavirus restrictions, he was being held without charge or visits from his family. His case will however be reviewed and processed after the COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted.
Radio Free Asia called the provincial police department, and office of the Lao Front for Construction, a government department that oversees religious affairs to inquire of his case, but received no reply.
While communist Laos’ Constitution claims that all Laotians have the right to religious freedom as an inherent right, authorities take advantage of the vague and surface level language in the document. As a result, Laotians are arrested for their faith in Jesus. As recent as last February, three Christian families were evicted because they refused to renounce their faith and their homes were turned to dust by the government.
The country is placed on Tier 2 Watch List by the DC-based United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), as it continues to violate religious liberty of its people.
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