Lao Government Authorities Abuse Law, Incriminate Any Act of Religious Healing Prayer

Kaysone Phomvihane, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 02/2015
March 4, 2015

In response to the inquiry of the representative of the five Christians convicted of criminal offense in the People’s Court of Savannakhet Province for religious healing prayer for the sick, the State Inspection Authority and the Savannakhet Provincial Health Department decided on two critical issues on February 27, 2015 (according to Savannakhet Provincial Health Department, Document Report, No. 273/kk.psk):

The Document Report states:

1. The religious ritual of praying for the sick calling on God for healing him/her in accordance with one’s religious belief is in violation of the Article 41, 42 of the Health Care Law (translation of the Lao language)

2. The religious ritual of praying for the sick calling on God for healing him/her in accordance with one’s religious belief is considered a religious ritual for the purpose of healing; thus, it is in violation Article 41 of the Health Care Law (translation of the Lao language).

The HRWLRF holds that the decision issued by these two Lao government agencies is in direct violation of the constitution and the laws of Lao PDR.
While the Lao constitution stipulates that “the state respects and protects all lawful activities of the Buddhists and of other religious followers” (Article 9), however, these two Lao government agencies are essentially stating that praying for the sick for the purpose of healing is “unlawful activity,” and, therefore, Lao citizens cannot appeal to the constitution for protection.

Article 30 of the constitution states: “Lao citizens have the right and freedom to believe or not believe in religions.” The act of praying for the sick to be healed by the intervention of a supernatural power in accordance with one’s religious belief is the core of one’s belief in a religion. By ruling that religious healing prayer is unlawful, the Lao government is taking away the right and freedom to religious belief that is guaranteed by the constitution and laws.

The decision of the Lao government agencies also contravenes the right to pray as guaranteed by Article 11 of the Decree on Management and Protection of Religious Activities in the Lao People Democratic Republic, Prime Minister’s Office No. 92/PM.

Furthermore, the decision goes against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is binding on the Lao government.
Article 18 (1) of the Covenant stipulates: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

Article 18 (3) of the Covenant stipulates: “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” It would be hard to prove that the act of praying for the sick (upon the request of the sick) without the use of medicine or material remedy would bring direct harms to the sick.

The HRWLRF is appealing to the Lao government to review the decision of the State Inspection Authority and Savannakhet Provincial Health Department as well as to respect the Lao constitution and relevant laws as well the to abide by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, the HRWLRF is appealing for the immediate release of the five Christians convicted on February 12, 2015, by the People’s Court of Savannakhet Province based upon the abuse of the Health Care Law.

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