Lao Christians 'facing starvation'
Rights group highlights plight of villagers driven from their homes
Around 65 Lao Christian villagers face starvation after being driven from their homes for refusing to give up their religion, according to a London-based human rights group. Local authorities are destroying crops and preventing food from reaching 18 families who have been living in a temporary camp, some of them since January 2010, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a statement yesterday. Eleven of the families were marched out of Katin village, Ta-Oyl district, in Saravan province at gunpoint while they were holding a Christian service 13 months ago. Seven more families were driven out last December. A report from a CSW source this week said village officials were refusing to allow the Christians to re-enter the village to farm their land and had destroyed their crops. Officials had also told neighboring villagers not to help the exiles or provide food for them. CSW said that last March, the district head of Ta-Oyl, who it named as Bounma, met the group and urged them to renounce their Christianity. When they refused he told them that though the Lao constitution provides protection for freedom of religion and belief, he did not allow Christianity in his district. “CSW calls upon the Lao government to adhere to the constitutional protection afforded to all its citizens by allowing the Katin villagers to return to their homes,” said CSW’s national director, Stuart Windsor. LA13394.1642