A Christian man from the village of Huey in Savannakhet province, Laos who was arrested because he prayed for a sick woman, has died after being denied vital diabetes medication during his time in prison.
"Mr. Tiang Kwentianthong, a Christian believer of Huey village in Atsaphangthong district of Savannakhet province ... died on Sept. 17 from his diabetic condition that had become very severe," Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom said in a statement, as reported by BosNewsLife.
Tiang, who was routinely denied his diabetes medication, "continued to suffer severe diabetes. During his imprisonment ... he requested permission to be treated for his worsening diabetic condition but the prison officials denied his request," the group added.
The 62-year-old husband and father-of-six was arrested in Savannakhet nine months ago when he and four other Christian men visited a local woman who had recently converted to Christianity and had asked for prayers for healing, reports Asia News.
In Laos, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 7 million people, any type of Christian activity - including prayer - requires government permission. Publicly exhibiting Christian behavior without such permission can lead to imprisonment.
The People's Court of Savannakhet Province found Tiang and the four other Christians guilty of "performance of the medical profession without a license" because of their prayers for healing and sentenced them to nine months in prison.
While the Christians were released on March 20, Tiang's health continued to deteriorate due to the lack of medical attention he received in prison, and he passed away on September 20.
Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern has joined in HRWLRF in calling on the Lao government and Savannakhet provincial prison officials to "take responsibility for the death of Mr. Tiang Kwentianthong who was arrested and imprisoned illegally and who was denied request for medical treatment for his worsening diabetic condition."
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors ranked Laos in 28th place on its 2015 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.
Additionally, Voice of the Martyrs notes that Laos is a volatile area for Christians due to the country's oppressive communist government.
"Officially, the government permits the practice of four religions, including Christianity," notes a report from the group. "In reality, however, Christians are harassed, evicted from their homes and forcibly relocated, denied education opportunities, arrested and forced to deny their faith. Churches are watched carefully by the government. The government's agency for carrying out religious policy has recently begun to engage with religious groups and international NGOs and has, on occasion, intervened in cases of detention and property confiscation."