Expelled Lao Christians become critically ill, one dies from living in jungle
After five months of living in the jungle 48 Lao Christians who were expelled at gunpoint from their homes are contracting critical illnesses, and one has already died, according to Compass Direct News (CDN).
The Christians were expelled from Katin village for refusing to renounce their faith. In the jungle they contracted diarrhea, dehydration, eye and skin infections, fainting and general weakness due to prolonged lack of adequate food and water, CDN reported.
One Christian, Ampheng, died suddenly in April while praying for one of two other Christians who were hospitalized for illnesses caused by their living conditions. However the exact cause and date of Ampheng’s death is not known, and local officials did not permit the deceased’s remains to be laid to rest at the local burial ground, according to CDN.
After the Christians were driven away they built temporary shelters at the edge of the jungle some four miles from the village. They survived on food found in the jungle and water from a hand-dug well that is unfit for cooking or drinking, CDN reported.
The registration papers of the homes of the Christians were confiscated along with their water buffaloes, which are essential for their work in the fields. Katin’s village chief recently warned other residents not to make contact with any of the Christians, otherwise their personal possessions would be confiscated and their homes torn down, CDN reported.
Meanwhile in Washington DC a demonstration was held at the Lao Embassy recently to call for the release of hundreds of political and religious dissidents and thousands of Lao-Hmong refugees currently held in detention in Laos, according to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).
The demonstration followed a one-week series of policy events held with American policymakers, members of congress and non-governmental organizations, the UNPO said.
“Many Laotians and Hmong have been persecuted, tortured, have disappeared, or been killed … in Laos for merely expressing their political or religious views, peacefully protesting or practicing their faith,” said Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), according to the UNPO report.
Laos is a communist country where the populace is 1.5 percent Christian, 67 percent Buddhist, and the remainder unspecified. Article 6 and Article 30 of the Lao Constitution guarantees the right of Christians and other religious minorities to practice the religion of their choice without discrimination or penalty, CDN reported.