Lao Official Village Meeting Handed Down Death Penalty to Christian Family on Account of Christian Faith

Atan Village, Nong District, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 04/2015
September 12, 2015

On August 31, 2015, Mr. Bounchen, chief of Atan village (also being referred as Ala village), and, Mr. Pousone, Atan village’s religious affairs official, sought to carry out the official verdict of the Atan village meeting that had handed down a death penalty to the first Christian family in the village. However, the Communist Party official stationed in the area stopped the village chief and the village religious affairs official from following through the verdict.

The incident started on April 20, 2015, when a family in Atan village, composing of Mr. Lahoie and six others family members, began embracing the Christian faith in accordance to their constitional guaranteed right. Then, in the middle of August 2015, the Atan village chief’s daughter became severely ill and died. The village chief blamed the Christians for the death of his daughter. He believed that her death was caused by angry village spirits who were oppressed by the Spirit of Jesus that the Christians brought into the village when they embraced the Christian faith.

The village chief summoned an official village meeting where all representatives of the households in the village were required to attend. During the village meeting, it was concluded that the Christians were possessed by an evil spirit–Spirit of Christ–who was held to be harmful to the village; and, thus, the Christians had to be killed to appease the village spirits. Therefore, the official village meeting handed down death penalty to Mr. Lahoie and his family on the account of their Christian faith.

The village officials, consisting of the village chief, the village religious affairs official, and village security force, thus sought the backing of the Community Party official in the area for the execution of Christians in Atan village. However, the Community Party official disapproved of the action.

On September 4, 2015, unable to get gain support to carry out the execution of Christians, the village officials, led by the Atan village chief, went into the house of the believing family and confiscated a pig and a goat worth USD 85 and USD 45 respectively. The total value of the pig and goat is equivalent to approximately 2 months of wages locally. The animals were slaughtered and eaten by the village officials. After the confiscation of the pig and goat, a Christian leader, Pastor Agom, from the Nong district aided the Christian family in Atan village by reporting the incident of their death penalty and the confiscation of their animals to the Nong District’s Religious Affairs Office. The Religioius Affairs Office has yet to bring actions against the Atan village officials who acted in violation of the law.

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 Atan village officials who acted unlawfully, thus bringing harms to the lives of the citizens of Atan village who are of Christian persuasion. The HRWLRF furthermore demands that the village officials be made to compensate for the loss of the animals of the Christian family.

Nong-district 1

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