Official Threat of Withdrawing Provision and Protection for Christians in Katin Village in Direct Violation of the Lao Constitution and Law of Local Administration

Katin Village, Ta-Oyl district, Saravan province, Laos
Advocacy Alert No. 03/2009
July 11, 2009

The official violations of religious freedom have continued beyond the confiscation and slaughtering of pigs belonging to each of the nine families of new believers in Katin village of Ta-Oyl district, Saravan province, Laos, which took place on the 5th of July, 2009. Now the village officials are threatening to withdraw protection for Christian villagers.

On July 11th (2009) around 9:00 a.m., the village chief called for a special village meeting where all villagers were required to attend. In the meeting, the village officials, consisting of village chief, village security force, and village authorities in charge of family and religious affairs, made the following order: “Those who follow the Christian faith are practicing a foreign religion, not a religion of Laos. We have banned the Christian faith in our village. Thus, the residents of Katin village should follow ONLY the belief in the spirits, which is considered the Lao religion. If any villager who is found following the Christian faith without renouncing that religion, he or she will no longer be under the official provision and protection of the village.”

The threat to withdraw provision and protection for Christian villagers has caused fear to come upon those who have chosen to exercise their freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Lao constitution adopted in 1991. The action by the village authorities is in direct violations of the Lao constitution (1991) in two Article 6 and Article 30.
1. First violation: Instead of protecting the freedom and rights of the residents of Katin village from being violated by anyone, the village officials themselves are violating constitutionally guaranteed freedom and rights.
(Violation of Article 6)
2. Second violation: Instead of propagating all policies, regulations and laws among the residents of Katin village in order to guarantee the rights [religious freedom], the village officials have disregard for the laws as well as the rights and interests of the villagers. (Violation of Article 6)
3. Third violation: Instead of protecting against all acts of bureaucatism and harassment that are physically harmful to the people and detrimental to their honor, lives, consciences and property, the village officials are committing acts physically harmful to the villagers and detrimental to their honor, lives, consciences and property. (Violation of Article 6)
4. Fourth violation: Instead of propagating the constitution (1991) guaranteeing the Lao citizens’ right and freedom to believe or not believe in religions, the village officials of Katin have violated the constitution by stipulating a belief in only one religion—the belief in spirits—and persecuting anyone who follows the constitution by believing in other religions. (Violation of Article 30)

In addition, the order of the village officials of Katin is also violating Article 53 (Authority and Duties of Village Heads) of the Law on Local Administration which was enacted in Laos in 2003. Several important prescribed authority and duties of the village chief are as follows:
1). To implement the Constitution, laws, resolutions, orders, and socio-economic development plans to improve the living conditions of the population [of the village];
2). To promote the people’s exercise of their rights; and,
3). To issue rules and notifications in accordance with the laws and regulations.

Instead of following the authority and duties as prescribed in Article 53, the village chief of Katin acted in violations of the law to:
1). Implement his own policy by banning other religions from his village, particularly Christianity, except the belief in the spirits;
2). Withdraw rights of the Christian villagers from being provided for and protected under the law; and,
3). Issue order contrary to the constitution.

The Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom calls on the Lao government to bring the village officials of Katin to compliance with the Lao constitution (1991) and the Law on Local Administration (2003). Also, all Lao people, including Lao Christians, should be protected under the Lao constitution and laws from officials who acted in disregard for the constitution and laws.

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