Atsaphangthong District – Christian Students Denied Education and Police Raided Christian Worship Service

Saisomboon Village & Donpalai Village, Atsaphangthong District, Savannakhet Province
Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF)
Advocacy Alert No. 02/2014
May 26, 2014

On Tuesday (May 20, 2014), the chief of Saisomboon village in Atsaphangthong district of Savannakhet province refused to provide guarantee for taking their final examinations to three Christian female students at the Liansai village school. The village chief cited that due to their belief in the Christian faith, the three students have thus forfeited their right to education. The three students are Noi, age 15, daughter of Sengkaew; Net, age 15, daughter of Khampuey; and Nut, age 14, daughter of Bounkong.

The Christian leader, Mrs. Kaithong, has since appealed the case to the Atsaphangthong district education chief, who has now made contact with the Liansai village school’s director regarding the denial of education to three Christian students. The decision will soon be made by the Liansai village school’s director and Saisomboon village chief whether or not to continue disqualifying the Christian students from taking final examinations on the basis of their religious belief in the Christian faith.

In a nearby village of Donpalai, not far from Saisomboon village, six Atsaphangthong district police officers and two sub-district police officers raided a worship service, forcibly snatched and confiscated 53 bibles from worshipers. The incident took place at approximately 9:00 AM on Sunday morning (May 25) when about 80 believers gathered for worship in the house of Pastor Phupet.

The police officers shouted at the Christian worshipers while holding the confiscated bibles in their hands, “These are bad books!” The police accused Pastor Phupet of illegally transporting worshipers to his house for religious assembly. However, Pastor Phupet responded that they came on their own freewill. Not long after, the village chief of Donpalai arrived on the scene and verified that the Christians have regularly gathered for weekly worship services in Pastor Phupet’s house for a long time. The police then decided to leave the scene with the confiscated bibles. The village chief asked the Christians not to be upset with him because he was not aware of the police raid.

The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying right to gather for corporate worship as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009, upholding the individual’s right to adopt a religion/belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that religion/belief in a corporate worship (Article 18). Any form of coercion impairing the freedom to have and manifest one’s religion/belief of choice is condemned in the Covenant. Additionally the HRWLRF urges the Lao government to recognize the right to education for three Christian students in Saisomboon village and not to discriminate against them on the basis of their religious beliefs.

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