Savannakhet Provincial Authorities Unlawfully Seized a Building of 50 Years Old Church

Nadaeng Village, Saybuli District, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 1/2012
January 13, 2012

On December 4, 2011, Saybuli’s district head of the religious affairs (Mr. Bountha) and district head of police (Major Noukan), along with two other district officials, joined Nadaeng village chief (Mr. Boula) in order to conduct a special training in Nadaeng village with regard to the promotion of national policies. Villagers and officials participated.

During the training session, Bountha cautioned participants to be careful of deceptive tactics of the enemy (imperialistic Americans) who uses Christian religion to oppose the present Lao political system. Then, Bountha ordered Christians to cease using their church building for all religious activities. The order was effective on December 5 (2011). However, Nadaeng Christians disregarded the order and have continued using the building for religious activities.

On December 27-28, 2011,Nadaeng Christians successfully held Christmas gathering in the church building without any disruption from Lao authorities. However, on January 7, 2012, Saybuli district authorities summoned Nadaeng Christian leaders Mr. Khamseng and Mr. Viensai for a meeting at the district headquarters. The Lao officials present during the meeting consisted of the deputy head of religious affairs Mr. Sornpun, Lieutenant Colonel Puvieng (member of Savannakhet provincial religious affairs), Sayburi district chief Mr. Yernma, Saybuli district head of the religious affairs Bountha, district head of police Major Noukan, and a district deputy police chief. Along with Lao officials, the head of LEC Savannakhet branch (Mr. Petro) and his deputy (Mr. Sengdoung) were present during the meeting.
In the meeting, Lao officials above ordered the confiscation of Nadaeng church building and placed it under the control of Nadaengvillage government. Since then, no Christians have been allowed to enter the church building to conduct any religious activity.
Savannakhet provincial authorities stated that they recognize only seven churches in seven locations throughout Savannakhet province: Tungsamakee, Posai Tai, Dongpoong, Kengkok, Songkorn, Nakham, and Saynoun. Since Nadaeng church was not recognized by the authorities, all its religious activities are considered illegal and all of its possessions, including church building, are deemed belonging to the state.

Presently there thirty churches with church buildings throughout Savannakhet province and only seven of these are recognized by authorities, the remaining are considered illegal. Now that two of them (Nadaeng church building and Dongpaiwan church building) have been confiscated, the remaining twenty-three church building are at risk of also being confiscated by Lao authorities at any time.

Nadaeng church was started in 1959 and it has continued functioning ever since. Nadaeng church has gone through several repressions at the hands of Lao authorities.However, almost 19 years ago, on March 11, 1993, the Saybuli district chief granted approved the building the present Nadaeng church which is now confiscated. Christians are not been able to enter and worship God in their church building since government’s takeover on January 7, 2012.

Although religious freedom and religious assembly to practice one’s religion are guaranteed by the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as ratified by the Lao government, Savannakhet provincial authorities have refused to recognize the existence of Christians and churches in Savannakhet province other than seven. Furthermore, by confiscating Nadaeng church building which was officially approved in 1993, Savannakhet provincial officials and Saybuli district officials both have unlawfully possessing another’s property, which is criminally punishable.

The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the Lao constitution as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as ratified by the Lao government and recognize Nadaeng church and their right to exist as well as to grant freedom to believe in any religion and assemble in order to practice their religious beliefs. Furthermore, the HRWLRF encourages the Lao government to return Nadaeng church building to Christians so that they can enjoy religious freedom as guaranteed to them.

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