Approximately 4:00 PM on June 6, 2012 (Lao time), the Sing district police arrested Pastor Asa, age 53, who serves as the leader of Peeyeur Village Church in Peeyeur village, Sing district of Luang Namtha province. Pastor Asa has a family of six members, belonging to an Akka tribe. Both Sing and Rong districts have 15 Akka tribal churches and Pastor Asa is serving as their leader.
Immediately after his arrest, the Lao authorities transported him to Luang Namtha provincial prison, which is approximately 50 kilometers from his home village. An investigation into the charges would normally follow an arrest that could last approximately 3 days while the person charged would be detained in a village or district prison. However, in the case of Pastor Asa, he was taken to the provincial prison within 24 hours after his arrest without any investigation.
Pastor Asa’s case is dated back to two years ago when he was arrested and then was coerced to sign an affidavit that he would neither share nor lead people to accept the Christian faith. However, in this year, he has seen many people accepting the Christian faith as a result of his witness. On June 7, 2012, a day after his arrest, Luang Namtha’s provincial Christian leader, Pastor Khamla, travelled to meet with the provincial police in order to inquire about the ground of Pastor Asa’s arrest. Pastor Khamla discovered that the police authorities have charged Pastor Asa for leading people to receive the Christian faith.
A local Christian leader has suggested that the “provinical authorities are behind the order of Pastor Asa’s arrest.” His arrest took place at his house in his home village of Peeyeur, where 115 villagers are Christians. Local church leaders also strongly believe that the Lao government wants to eliminate Christianity in Luang Namtha province. Pastor Asa’s arrest came abouta week later after six Thai Christians, who were arrested in Luang Namtha province on March 24, 2012 for their involvement in the spreading of the Christian faith, were released.
The HRWLRF urges the Lao government respect Lao Christians’ freedom to manifest their religion or belief in worship in Sing and Rong districts of Luang Namtha province as guaranteed by the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the Lao government.
(Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom)