OFFICIAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ABUSES IN SAVANNAKHET AND BORIKHAMXAY PROVINCES OF LAOS

Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF)
Advocacy Alert No. 03/2008
August 28, 2008

RELIGIOUS FREEDOMM ABUSE IN SAVANNAKHET PROVINCE CONTINUED
(Boukham Church, Boukham Village, Ad-Sapangthong District, Savannakhet Province)

Pastor Sompong, Boot and Khamsavan remained in Ad-Sapangthong district police custardy since their arrest on August 3, 2008. On August 24, family members of Sompong, Boot, and Khamsavan went to visit them at Ad-Sapangthong district police station. When the milies arrived at the detainment cell, the officials began tightening handcuffs around the wrists as well as wooden stocks around the legs of all three prisoners: Sompong, Boot and Khamsavan. The family members expressed that the tightening of handcuffs and leg stocks so as to inflict pain in front of family members was for the purpose of punishment for not renouncing their Christian faith. As district police officials were tightening the handcuffs and leg stocks, they remarked these words to the three prisoners: “This is the consequence of not signing documents to renounce your faith. We have already given you three opportunities to a sign these documents but you have refused.” On August 25, 2008, after the families of Sompong, Boot and Khamsavan came back home from Ad-Sapangthong district police station, the Boukham village chief came to their homes and told them: “Go and put up a bail at once for Boot and Khamsavan while you have the opportunity. However, as for Sompong, he will not be given an opportunity for bail. His punishment is life in prison.” On August 28, 2008, the Boukham village chief again came to meet with both families of Boot and Khamsavan. The chief asked them to send family members to the Ad-Sapangthong district police station in order to sign affidavit of renunciation of their faith guaranteeing that both Boot and Khamsavan would no longer practice their faith and participate in the worship of God. However, both families declined the offer and continued exercising their religious freedom in worship and, as a result, Boot and Khamsavan remained in detainment cell along with Sompong at Ad-Sapangthong district police station.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOMM ABUSE IN BORIKHAMXAY PROVINCE
(Toongpankham Village, Burikan District, Borikhamxay Province)

Approximately 22 Christian households, consisting of 150 members, living in Toongpankham village continue to persist under heavy pressures from the authorities forbidding them to assemble for worship services. In January 2008, district officials, forestry officials and district judicial officials jointly torn down the Toongpankham Church building and ordered to the believers to cease their worship services (as an expression of their religious freedom). Since the destruction of the church building by the authorities, the believers have been gathering at the house of Mr. Chiang Yui for worship services. However, around the middle of August 2008, the government officials summoned the believers to government office and informed the believers to cease worship services in a house. The government officials ordered the believers: “If you want to hold worship services, you must hold it in a church building.” The believers responded: “How can we hold our worship services in our church building when you have torn it down; and, when we sought permission to rebuild it, you have disapproved it.” Nevertheless, the officials still ordered the believers to discontinue the expression of their religious freedom in worship services. However, the believers of Toongpankham village remain faithful to their Christian faith and still continue expressing their religious freedom by assembling themselves in a believer’s house and hold worship services.

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