OFFICIAL PERSECUTION INCIDENT IN CHAMPASAK PROVINCE OF LAOS

Jick village, Phonthong District, Champasak Province
Advocacy Alert No. 04/2008
September 9, 2008

On the morning of September 8, 2008, the Phonthong district police authorities went to Jick village in Phonthong district of Champasak province, Laos, and met the village chief concerning a member of his village named Mr. Khambarn, a government school teacher in Koong Village School, who had become a Christian believer. After being contacted by the village chief, Mr. Khambarn went to the Jick village government office in order to meet with the village chief as well as the district police authorities around 12:00 noon. The police authorities informed Mr. Khambarn that he was violating regulations as a teacher in a government school because he had made contact with Christians in another city and had decided to become a believer in the Christian faith.

Mr. Khambarn was consequently ordered to surrender to Sangdaeng area police custody and undergo re-educational training camp for criminals for 5 days. Sangdaeng area is about 20 kilometers from the city of Pakse, the capital of Champasak province. The Sangdaeng area police authorities are detaining him in a Buddhist temple along with 100 other criminals charged with drugs and other serious crimes.

Mr. Khambarn was told by the Sangdaeng area police authorities that his detainment for reeducation would only last for 5 days. If after re-education, he renounces his faith in the Christianity religion—which is considered a foreign religion by the government of Laos—he can then resume his teaching position in a government school. If he refuses to renounce his Christian faith, he would consequently be sent to the Phontong district authorities for further detainment.

While in the detainment cell in Sangdaeng area, Mr. Khambarn discovered another Christian believer whose name was Mr. Pun who had been arrested for the same crime for which he was charged, i.e., for making decision to exercise his belief in the Christian religion.

As Lao citizens, both of these men have been arrested and detained as well as have subjected to harsh re-education because they have chosen to believe in the Christian religion and enjoy their right to freedom of religion as guaranteed in article 30 of the Lao Constitution (1991) which states, “Lao citizens have the right and freedom to believe or not to believe in religions.”

Also the exercise of their freedom of religion in becoming a believer in the Christian religion is in accordance with article 3 of the Prime Minister’s Decree on Management and Protection of Religious Activities in the Lao People Democratic Republic, Prime Minister’s Office No. 92. (1992), stating that “all Lao citizens are equal before the law in believing or not believing religions as provided by the Constitution and laws of the Lao PDR.”

The Lao district authorities and local officials’ infringement of the freedom of religion of members of religious Christian minorities is in direct violation of article 5, subparagraph (d), of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination to which Laos is a State party.

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