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Citizen of Lao Punished For Practicing His Christian Faith

The latest case came to light a week after tree U.S. citizens were held for 10 days on suspicion of disseminating bibles and Christian material without government approval, before being deported to neighboring Thailand.

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Agoon, the Lao Christian in an undated photo. RFA

Police have allegedly arrested, beaten and detained a man named Agoon in Savannakhet province in southern Laos for practicing his Christian faith, witnesses told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday.

Police say that Agoon was arrested for another crime, cutting timber illegally in a protected forest. But local sources say the man was unfairly targeted for his beliefs.

A source who declined to have his name published, told police that he and others cut down trees in the forest at the request of the village leader in the province’s Phin district. But sources say that officials rarely enforce the statutes against illegal logging.

Another source told RFA’s Lao Service in an interview that Agoon’s involvement in the timber-felling is merely an excuse—the other loggers in his group, all of whom are not Christians, were not arrested.

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The latest case came to light a week after tree U.S. citizens were held for 10 days on suspicion of disseminating bibles and Christian material without government approval, before being deported to neighboring Thailand. Pixabay

The villager also said that according to the suspect, while in jail, the police tried to force him to renounce his faith, but he refused. The police responded by beating him harder, slapping his ears to the point that he became unable to hear.

RFA contacted a local security official for details, but the official declined to comment on the matter.

“He was detained for cutting timber illegally. Logging in the protected forest is illegal so [that is why] he has been detained,” said an official from the National Front Organization, which handles religious affairs in the communist nation.

“He has to pay a fine or serve jail time according to forest laws. [His arrest] has nothing to do with religion,” the official said.

A third source who requested anonymity agreed with the villager that charging him for cutting timber was an excuse, as an arrest for his beliefs would stroke the ire of international religious freedom organizations.

The latest case came to light a week after tree U.S. citizens were held for 10 days on suspicion of disseminating bibles and Christian material without government approval, before being deported to neighboring Thailand.

Conflicts between Laos’ small number of Christians and local authorities often flare up because believers assert the right to freedom of worship guaranteed by the country’s constitution, while authorities call Christianity a foreign religion in a traditionally Buddhist country, and say that Christians must move out of their villages.

In 2016, six Christians in Savannakhet’s Phalanxay district were arrested after local authorities entered their house and found that they were practicing the Christian faith.

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Police have allegedly arrested, beaten and detained a man named Agoon in Savannakhet province in southern Laos for practicing his Christian faith, witnesses told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday. Pixabay

In 2014, local officials in the province’s Song Khone district arrested 11 Christians for building a temporary church without permission.

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In Phin district, seven Christians living in Na Kha Nong village, were arrested in 2015 for gathering people together for a prayer meeting.

The U.S. State Department said in a 2017 report that Lao local authorities often arrested or detained members of minority religions during the year, with a district-level official in Houaphan province expelling 26 Hmong Christians from their village, advising them they could return only if they renounced their faith. (RFA)

Next Story

Juan Guaido Contacts US Military To Pressurize Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro To Step Down

The U.S. and some 50 other countries support Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January on the claim that Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

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Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom many nations have recognized as the country's rightful interim ruler, leaves after a rally in support of the Venezuelan National Assembly and against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, May 11, 2019. VOA

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido told his supporters Saturday at a rally in Caracas that he had instructed his ambassador to the U.S. to contact the U.S. military to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to step down from his post.

Guaido spoke to demonstrating crowds in the Alfredo Sadel Plaza in Las Mercedes, a commercial district in Caracas.

He spoke a day after a Venezuelan court ordered Edgar Zambrano, vice president of Guaido’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, to be held at a military facility. Zambrano,who was arrested earlier in the week, and nine other opposition leaders are under investigation in connection with a failed military insurrection.

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The Treasury Department said the vessels delivered oil to Cuba from late 2018 through March. Pixabay

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Zambrano’s immediate release, saying his arrest “is an attack on the independence of the nation’s democratically elected legislative branch.”

Shippers sanctioned

Meanwhile, the United States has placed sanctions on two shipping companies for transporting Venezuelan oil to Cuba.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Friday that it had targeted Marshall Islands-based Monsoon Navigation Corp. and Serenity Maritime Ltd., headquartered in Liberia.

The agency said the companies owned ships that were involved in oil transfers to Cuba, which the U.S. has accused of providing military support to Maduro.

The Treasury Department said the vessels delivered oil to Cuba from late 2018 through March.

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The U.S. and some 50 other countries support Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January on the claim that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Maduro has called Guaido a puppet of the U.S. Maduro has held on to power with the support of Cuba, Russia and China. (VOA)