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Government silence over 'disappeared' family

Rights group demands information on missing Christians

The Lao government appears to be ignoring a plea from a rights group for information on a Christian family “disappeared” for more than eight years.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) wrote an open letter last week “urgently requesting” information on the whereabouts of a man, named only as Boontheong, and his wife and son who have not been seen since July 3, 2004. The son was seven at the time.

The letter comes amid growing concern over the fate of activist and Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, Sombath Somphone, who disappeared in Laos last month.

Before their disappearance, Boontheong had been threatened and imprisoned by local police in Luang Namtha province because of his Christian faith.

CSW and other rights groups have tried over the years to establish the family’s whereabouts, but without success.

There has been no response from Vientiane to the letter, addressed to President Choummaly Sayasone.

“We have not heard from the Laotian government … neither have they acknowledged the letter,” a CSW spokesperson told ucanews.com. “Simply silence so far. We wait in hope!”

There have been improvements in religious freedom in Laos in recent years, CSW said in a statement. Fewer people are imprisoned for their faith and sentences are shorter.

“However, there are still significant restrictions on Christians as Christianity is often perceived as a ‘foreign’ religion.”

Christians are still subjected to harassment, eviction and imprisonment by local officials, the group said.

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