Dongvieng Village, Viengphuka District, Luang Namtha
Advocacy Alert No. 5/2012
March 7, 2012
On March 2, 2012, Lao officials, consisting of approximately 20 individuals (including Viengphuka district police, Dongvieng village chief, village security force, and sub-district Communist party member), summoned Khamla to their headquarters and sharply rebuked him for believing in the Christian faith. After interrogation, the officials issued Khamla an ultimatum: “Give up believing in the Christian religion or be cast out from the village.” Khamla has been given till today (March 7) to make his decisionâ€”either to recant of his religious belief and be able to continue living in Dongvieng village ORto cling to his faith and be stripped of his rightto live in the village. The ultimatum order is not based on any law or religious regulation. The authorities simply do not want Khamla to believe in the Christian faith.
Khamla is the only known Christian in the whole district of Viengphuka in Luang Namtha province. Authorities are believed to be attempting to abolish the Christian religion from taking root in Viengphuka district. Khamla began to embrace the Christian faith only after he was healed from a long-term disease during fervent prayers by other believers in another location. Viengphuka district has approximately 20,000 people, living mostly in small rural villages and practicing agriculture as their main occupation.
Although the Lao government continues to defend that Lao citizens have the freedom to believe in a religion of their choice, butin practice Lao citizens mustface official interrogation, harassment, and eviction threats when they decide to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right and freedom to believe in the Christian faith. Lao constitution states: “Lao citizens have the right and freedom to believe or not to believe in religions” (Article 30). Decree 92 stipulates: “All Lao citizens are equal before the law in believing or not believing religions as providedby the Constitution and laws of the Lao PDR” (Article 3).
The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to hold officials in Viengphuka district responsible for violating the constitution and Decree 92 (religious law). Furthermore, Khamla should have protected by officials from physical harms that may arise from those discriminating against him due to his Christian belief.