Continual Official Violations of Constitutionally Guaranteed Religious Freedom to Choose a Religion

Katin Village, Ta-Oyl District, Saravan Province
Advocacy Alert No. 02/2009
July 6, 2009

At approximately 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 5, 2009 (Lao Time Zone), the village chief, volunteer security force, village elders, and some villagers of Katin village in Ta-Oyl district of Saravan province, Laos, broke into pig pens of new believers in that village and confiscated a pig from each of the nine families (53 members) after returned home from worshipping in their place of worship. Later, those who took the pigs slaughtered them and divided the pork among themselves. The officials stated that the seizure of the pigs was a form of punishment imposed on the nine families who had ignored the officials’ order forbidding them from believing in the Christian faith. By choosing to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to believe in God and practice their newly found faith, each of the nine Lao families must suffer an economic loss of a pig, which is an equivalence of a salary of one and a half month for one working person.

The incident of seizing and slaughtering the pigs appeared to be a follow-up response to the previous warning made by the officials. Almost 10 months ago, on September 12, 2008, the Katin’s village chief, security force, and other local officials broke into an animal pen of Mr. Boonchu, a Christian believer, and took possession of his water buffalo (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.

Heads of household and a large number of family members affected this incident of religious persecution are as follows: (1) Thao Ee, 3 members; (2) Mae Pan, 7 members; (3) Por Puey, 10 members; (4) Mae Yong, 5 members; (5) Nang Mun, 6 members; (6) Por Noy, 5 members; (7) Por Lop, 8 members; (8) Mae Bai, 4 members; and, (9) Mae Yiew, 5 members. Note: Thao means Mr.; Mae, elderly female; and, Por, elderly male.

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