LAOS: Forced expulsions of Christians and potential deportations of North Korean defectors
Christian families in north-central Laos have been asked to leave their homes and resettle elsewhere because they have turned to Christ.
In another development, the government has given three families in Sanam village official notice to leave the area after two years of persecution. The 18 members of the Ser, Taam and Thong families have had their papers confiscated since last year.
Meanwhile, the South Korean embassy in Laos is sheltering about 20 North Korean defectors, including recent arrivals. On June 4, 18 of them were moved from a safe house to the embassy for their protection. According to a diplomatic source, the defectors include children, people with physical disabilities and cancer patients. Most are in relatively good health.
The South Korean Saenuiri Party lawmaker Kim Jae-won said the defectors “ have been resting since they were moved to the embassy compound and look forward to going to South Korea as soon as possible.”
However, their wish is not likely to be realised anytime soon. North Korean defectors, even under the protection of the South Korean embassy, have to be interviewed by Lao authorities, get travel permits and pay illegal entry fines of $300 in order to leave the country.
“The Lao government has halted all the procedures dealing with North Korean defectors since the nine young North Korean were arrested and deported,” said Kim, referring to a recent case in which teenagers, believed to be orphans, were sent to China by Laos, and then back to North Korea. “It’s unclear when it will resume the job and try to interview the defectors now waiting in the embassy.”
Under North Korean law, defectors face a minimum of five years’ hard labour, up to a life sentence in prison or even the death penalty.
An international coalition of North Korean human rights groups said it believed the repatriated defectors would “face extremely harsh treatment upon their return, including torture and long imprisonment in labour camps where they are denied adequate food and medical services, and face abuses by guards”.
Laos has not commented on what it will do about the defectors in the embassy.
HOME GROUP PRAYER
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1–4 NIV 2011)
Heavenly Father, we pray for the Christian families in north-central Laos who have been forced from their earthly homes, may you comfort and protect them as they resettle into their new homes. We also pray for peace, reconciliation and acceptance of the Christians in these affected villages and for their rights to be protected and upheld in accordance to the law. At the same time, we also remember the North Korean defectors in Laos, especially the 9 teenagers who have been deported back to North Korea and face a fearful future. We pray for your divine intervention and coverage to protect each one of them from torture and persecution. Thank you for enabling your servant, a South Korean missionary, to meet these 9 teenagers and planting your seed in their lives. We pray that they can find both earthly and spiritual freedom and that your justice be done.
Lord, we give thanks for your promise that our eternal home is forever secure in you. Please save them, strengthen their faith and heal them through and through.
In Jesus’ mighty name we pray, amen.