Lao believer arrested for praying dies after he was denied medication in prison

Lao People's Democratic Republic

Lao Christian Tiang Kwentianthong, who was jailed for praying for the healing of a woman who had recently converted to Christianity, died on 17 September from the rapid deterioration of his diabetic condition after he was denied medication in prison.

Paddy fields in Laos
Paddy fields in Laos
Ondrej Žvácek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Mr Tiang was arrested on 24 June 2014 along with four other believers, and placed in handcuffs and wooden stocks. All five were charged with the murder of Mrs Chan in Saisomboon village in Savannakhet province after she passed away just a few days earlier.

Mrs Chan and her eight adult children had come to faith in Christ and had requested the local church to pray for her healing as she had been suffering from an unknown condition for two years.

In August 2014, Barnabas reported that all five of the Christians who had been jailed were found not guilty of Mrs Chan’s murder. But in February 2015, they were accused and found guilty of “performance of the medical profession without a license”, whereupon they were sentenced to nine months in prison and heavy fines.

While in prison, Mr Tiang asked the prison authorities for permission to be treated for his diabetic condition, but was refused, according to Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom. Along with the other four believers, Mr Tiang was released on 20 March. However, having been denied the treatment for his serious condition, the 61-year-old father of six died of his illness on 17 September.

Religious freedoms are tightly controlled by Lao authorities. Converts to Christianity have been particularly targeted as local authorities attempt to crack down on the spread of Christianity.

Pastor Singkeaw Wongkongpheng was stabbed to death after five men broke into his family home in Luang Prabang province of northern Laos on 8 September. And a week earlier, police in central Laos stormed the home of a Christian family and arrested two believers who were visiting the family of five, accusing them of “spreading the [Christian] faith” after they encouraged the believers to pray.