American Workers Released in Laos
Feb. 03, 1998
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Three American aid workers and two other foreigners detained since Friday in Laos were released today and ordered to leave the country, one of the Americans said.
Kenneth Fox said by telephone from the Laotian capital Vientiane that all five were ``fine'' after spending one night in a city jail and three at an immigration detention facility.
Fox, 58, of Arizona, is an official with Partners in Progress, a Little Rock, Ark.-based humanitarian evangelical group affiliated with the Churches of Christ. He declined to give details of the arrest pending a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Embassy officials.
Reports in Vientiane have said 44 people, mostly Laotians, were detained during a Bible study meeting Friday.
They included Jerry Canfield, 51, and Meg Canfield, 37, of Fort Smith, Ark., according to the office of Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark. The other foreigners were a French citizen and a Thai citizen.
The U.S. Embassy would not confirm who was arrested.
The Canfields, who also were affiliated with Partners in Progress, were charged with unauthorized assembly, unauthorized dissemination of religious material and creating dissension between the Laotian people and their government, Hutchinson's office said.
Hutchinson contacted the White House, the State Department and the Laotian Embassy in Washington, D.C., after hearing of the arrest.
``We all got out together through the efforts of the U.S. Embassy,'' Fox said today.
U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin contacted acting Foreign Minister Soubanh Srithirath on Saturday about the arrests and a U.S. consular official visited the detainees Monday.
The Laotian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the arrests. The case has not been reported in Laos' state-controlled press.
Foreign missionaries helped the United States aid the anti-communist side during Laos' civil war in the 1960s and 1970s.
Fox said Partners in Progress has been working in Laos since 1993, providing medical aid, sanitation improvements for rural schools and English-language instruction for Laotian medical personnel.