LAO DISTRICT AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO DEFY RELIGIOUS LAWS TO PROTECT RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION FOR CHRISTIAN MINORITY

Katin village in Ta-Oyl district of Saravan province, Laos
Advocacy Alert No. 05/2008
September 16, 2008

On September 8, 2008, a team of Saravan provincial and Ta-Oyl district authorities held special meeting in Katin village in response to international pressures concerning rights to religious freedom in Laos. The team included (1) member of the Saravan provincial religious affairs (in the National Front of Reconstruction), (2) Ta-oyl deputy district commissioner/district religious affairs official, and (3) military and police district authorities. The religious affairs authorities claimed that they were ordered by the Lao central government to conduct special meeting because of inquiries by international bodies in regard to Laos’ religious rights abuse in Katin village. They instructed the village authorities and villagers concerning religious laws stipulated in the Decree on Management and Protection of Religious
Activities in the Lao People Democratic Republic, Prime Minister’s Office No. 92/PM (1992). They further asked all parties to respect the religious laws.

ADMONITION TO BELIEVERS: the provincial and district religious affairs informed the Christian believers that they could continue believing in the Christian religion because the Lao Government has given protection to religious adherents in Laos; however, the believers were cautioned to continue practicing their religious faith with certain conditions: (1) as believers, they must not steal, (2) they must not be intoxicated and involved in a fight, (3) they must cooperate in the activities of the village, and (4) they could exercise freedom to choose a religion of their choice as long as they were not bribed or paid to believe in that religion.

ADMONITION TO VILLAGE AUTHORITIES AND NONBELIEVERS: (1) the provincial and district religious affairs instructed the village authorities and nonbelievers neither to persecute the Christian believers in Katin village nor to harass them on the basis of their religious belief because the Lao Government has guaranteed rights to freedom of religion to all Lao nationals. (2) The village authorities and villagers also were directed to cooperate with one another in the village activities and not to be in disharmony. For example, in the past the village authorities and nonbelievers had prohibited believers from conducting burial service and burying one of the believers in the village who had passed away. The meeting ended with every parties involved understood the religious laws.

The cautions from the provincial and district religious affairs lasted for only five days, when the village authorities by the village chief, security force, and other local officials broke into an animal pen of Mr. Boonchu, a Christian believer, on September 12 (2008) at 5:00 p.m. and took possession of his water buffaloe (equiv. value of approximately US$ 350). This was done while he and his family were in their house watching helplessly as their personal belonging was taken from them. The authorities told Mr. Bounchu that if he and his family recant of their Christian faith, their buffalo would be spared. The village authorities claimed that they acted in accordance with the order of the Ta-oyl district governing authorities.

After Mr. Bounchu, however, refused to renounce his faith, the village authorities took possession of his buffalo. On the following day (September 13, 2008), the authorities slaughtered his buffalo in the village square and distributed the meat to all non Christian families in the village. The village authorities additionally warned that they would continue to take possession of animals of believers who refuse to renounce their faith until none of the animals are left standing.

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