Lao Christians Arrested For Religious Gathering

Boukham Village, Atsaphangthong District, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 05/2014
September 29, 2014

The chief of Boukham village, along with the village security officials and village police, arrested Pastor Sompong Supatto and six other Christian believers for exercising religious freedom in gathering for religious worship at the house of Pastor Sompong Supatto. The incident took place on Sunday, September 28, 2014, at 11:30 AM after the morning worship service when believers were gathering for lunch.  All seven, along with a child, are being detained at the Boukham village government headquarters. Pastor Sompong is being held in handcuffs and leg stocks, while the six believers and a child are being detained without handcuffs and leg stocks.

The arrest was conducted after the village officials had issued warning from the previous Sunday, September 21, 2014, that Christians were no longer allowed to gather for worship in Boukham village. Christians have been assembling for corporate worship in Boukham village for 3-4 years.

The names of the seven adults and one child who were arrested and detained are as follows:

1. Pastor Sompong Supatto, resident of Bouham village,Atsaphathong district, Savannakhet province
2. Manivanh, female, age 60, resident of Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
3. Chai, female, age 56, resident of Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
4. Anna, female, age 50, resident of Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
5. Tiang, small female child, age 3, resident of Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
6. Chanthanarm, male, age 18, resident of Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
7. Neal, male, age 21, resident of Changseng village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
8. Petsamone, age 40, resident of Changseng village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province

The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying rights 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 punish the Boukham village chief and other village officials who acted illegally to arrest these seven Christians and a small child.

The HRWLRF demands the immediate release of all seven Christians mentioned above.

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