Police in Nong-hang village, in central Laos, stormed the home of a Christian family on 2 September and arrested two believers who were visiting the family of five, accusing them of “spreading the [Christian] faith” after they encouraged the believers to pray.
Just as Bountheung Phetsomphone, aged 43, and Neuy, aged 40, sat down to eat lunch with the family they were visiting, five police officers broke into the house and arrested both men. They were transferred to the Khounkham district jail, in Khammouane province, where they continue to be held.
According to a local Christian, the men were arrested after the village chief and an official from the Communist Party told police they were in the village.
Bountheung Phetsomphone, from Nongpong village, in Borikhamsai province, was previously arrested in 2012 after 300 local people decided to become Christians through the witness of his life. Neuy, from Khounkham village, where the men are now in prison, has been targeted by police since 2008, when authorities launched a crackdown on Christianity in the area.
Christians in Laos make up a small minority. Despite the fact that the Lao constitution provides religious freedom for citizens, Christians have been tightly controlled since Communist forces seized power in 1975 and overthrew the monarchy.
Last September, six Christians were arrested in Boukham village, in Savannakhet province, after they met together to worship. A week earlier, village officials had banned Christians from meeting for worship.