LAO AUTHORITIES RESORT TO THE USE OF LOCAL SPIRIT-CULT CUSTOM TO FORCE CHRISTIANS TO RECANT OF THEIR FAITH

Phin District, Savannakhet Province, Laos
Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF)
Advocacy Alert No. 18/2012
October 18, 2012

After relocating three Lao Christian leaders, namely Pastor Bounlert, Pastor Adang, and Pastor Onkaew, from Phin district to Savannkhet provincial prison (September 17, 2012), the provincial authorities found that the ground for the arrest of the three Lao pastors by the Phin district police authorities was not justified. Unable to find legal ground to imprison them further and also being pressured from high authorities, the provincial authorities finally released Bounlert, Adang and Onkaew and ordered that they be escorted back to their homes in their perspective villages in Phin district of Savannakhet (October 10, 2012).

Family members were informed of their release and were waiting for them to come home. However, the three pastors never arrived at their homes. They were being kept further in the Phin district prison and additionally subjected to hardship, harassment, and threats until now. Phin district police authorities are seeking for more evidence to charge them.

Then, today, October 18, approximately 3:00 PM, the district police authorities summoned the village chief and elders from Allowmai village along with Pastor Bounlert’s family members in order to come to the district police headquarters. The non-Christian village chief and elders demanded that Pastor Bounlert and other Christians in Alowmai village be subjected to animistic (spirit-cult) ritual of taking an oath with sacred water if Christians were to be allowed in the village. There are current six Christian families in Allowmai village.

Lao Christian leaders in Savannakhet province believe that the Phin district police authorities are resorting to local, traditional religion (spirit cult) ritual of taking oath in order to force Christians to recant of their faith because they were unsuccessful in taking legal actions against them.

So far the three pastors have rejected to participate in any spirit-cult ritual, which is considered a part of traditional religion and custom. The three pastors maintain that they are still within their legal and constitution right to be Christians in the Lao nation. However, the Phin district and Allowmai village authorities do not share the same view as the three pastors.

The HRWLRF calls on the Lao government to respect the right of Pastors Bounlert, Adang and Onkaew to religious freedom—to adhere to any religion of choice as guaranteed under the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the Lao government—and immediately and unconditionally release them.

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