OFFICIAL PERSECUTION INCIDENT IN DONPHAI VILLAGE THAT NEEDS ADVOCACY ATTENTION

Donphai village, Sanamchai district, Attapue province
Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF)
Advocacy Alert No. 02/2008
August 27, 2008

As usual, the believers in Donphai village of Sanamchai district in Attapue province, Laos, were conducting their weekly Sunday morning worship meeting in a believer’s house on August 24, 2008. However, on August 25, 2008, the village chief summoned the Donphai church elder to the village governing office and told him, “The church has disobeyed the village chief’s order. The order was that all activities, including church services, must cease during the time when the village was conducting rituals in worship of the spirits.”

Although the Christian believers had gathered together and exercised their freedom of worship in the form of a weekly Sunday worship service at the same time and in the same place as they had always done, however, the village chief wanted the church service to stop while the village initiated their animistic worship. Nevertheless, the church worship service continued as usual and the church elder was therefore summoned to the village office and was charged with violating the village chief’s order.

As a result, the church was ordered to pay a penalty consisting of 700,000 kip (US$ 81), 1 pig, and 1 pot of rice wine. In addition, if any of the villagers should become ill caused by an evil spirit, the church must be responsible for him/her. If the church should decide not to pay the penalty, the village chief expressed that he would take stronger actions against them. Thus far, the believers in Donphai village have not paid any penalty as ordered by the village chief. Furthermore, they have decided to continue their weekly worship services as an expression of their religious freedom which is guaranteed by the Lao Constitution.

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