Pastor Jailed in Laos for Over One Year After Refusing to Stop Church Services is Released

Lao Christian leader Sithon Thippavong is shown with his wife after his release from detention in Savannakhet province.

A Lao Christian leader held for more than a year in the southern province of Savannakhet in violation of a national law protecting religious practice has been released from jail, Lao sources say.

Pastor Sithon Thippavong, 35, was released on Friday after being convicted by the Provincial People’s Court on April 6 on charges of “disrupting unity” and “creating disorder,” an official of the provincial prosecutor’s office told RFA.

“He was sentenced to one year in jail and fined a total of four million kip [U.S. $426], with two million kip paid for each charge,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He has already served a little more than one year in jail, so he has been released,” the official said.

Speaking to RFA, a member of Sithon’s church confirmed the pastor had been released, saying the church leader had been freed on Friday after his conviction and sentencing three days before.

“He is now traveling back to his home in [Xonnaboury district’s] Kaleum-Vangkae village,” the source said.

“I’m glad, very glad, that he has been released,” another Lao Christian told RFA, saying he would tell other church members that Sithon had been released from jail and would organize a thanksgiving ceremony celebrating the pastor’s freedom.

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SOURCE: Radio Free Asia