Laos’ sources said a Catholic leader in Laos was detained for more than a year in the southern province of Savannakhet for violating the national law that protected the practice of religion was released.
Pastor Sithon Thippavong, 35, was released on Friday after being convicted by the Provincial People’s Court on April 6 for “disturbing solidarity” and “disturbing”, an official of the literature. The provincial prosecutor’s office told RFA.
“He was sentenced to one year and two months in prison and fined a total of four million kip [U.S. $426], with two million kip being paid for each charge, “the official said.
“Pastor Sithon spent more than a year in prison, so the rest of his term will be a two-month suspended prison term,” the official said.
A member of the Sithon church who confirmed the pastor was released, told RFA, the church leader was released on Friday after being sentenced and sentenced three days earlier.
“He is currently returning to his home [Xonnaboury district’s] The village of Kaleum-Vangkae ”, the source said.
“I am very happy, very happy that he has been released,” another Laotian Christian told RFA, saying that he would tell other members of the church that Sithon was released and will host another Thanksgiving ceremony celebrates the pastor’s freedom.
“We have been praying for Pastor Sithon for over a year now,” he said. We are delighted that he is still alive and has finally been saved by God. “
“He may have been sick and sick in prison, but now he will be very happy to be able to serve God again,” he said.
Pastor Sithon began evangelizing villagers in the Xonnaboury district of Savannaket in 2011 and was arrested on March 15, 2020 for organizing religious services without government permission.
On the day of his arrest, Sithon was preparing to conduct the ceremony when seven police officers arrived and asked the pastor to cancel the proceedings and sign his written renunciation of Christian faith, the sources said. know.
When Sithon refused to sign the document, he was detained, with his family never being formally informed of his arrest or the charges against him.
Laotian Catholics are authorized by the Law of the Protestant Church of this country, approved and signed in Laos on December 19, 2019, to conduct services and preaching across the country and maintain get in touch with believers in other countries.
But in reality, the law seems to only apply in the capital Vientiane and other major cities, while Christians in rural areas are still despised and discriminated at the hands of the public. of the local government, the sources said.
Four Lao Christians and three Christian leaders were detained for seven days in 2018 in Nakhanong village in Savannkhet’s Phin district for celebrating Christmas without permission.
And in October, the government in the Ta Oy district of Saravan province, in the south of the country, expelled seven Christians and destroyed their homes when they did not give up their faith – an act clear law violation.
The Christians then spent two hard months living in the woods, but were allowed to return to their village in December even though they were forbidden to rebuild their homes.
Although religious freedom conditions have improved in Laos in 2019, abuse cases still occur in remote rural areas, the United States Bipartisan Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in a report published in May 2020.
Reported and translated by Max Avary for RFA Lao Language Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.