Alowmai village, Kengsainoi village and Kapang village, Phin District, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 11/2012
May 14, 2012
Approximately 10:00 A.M. on May 11, 2012, the Phin district authorities in Savannakhet province, consisting district chief, district police and district religious affairs chief, summoned two prominent church leaders (Pastor Bounlerd and Pastor Adang) to police headquarters for questioning with regard to religious freedom. With this incident, official crackdown on Lao churches in Savannakhet province that had started almost 8 months ago in Dongpaiwan village in Saybuli district on September 14, 2011 has now spread to Phin district of Savannakhet.
During the special meeting at the police headquarters, the district authorities questioned and ordered Pastor Bounlerd of Alowmai Church and Pastor Adang of Kengsainoi Church in three areas:
1. Authorities questioned whether the three houses, with each located in Alowmai village, Kengsainoi village and Kapang village that are being used for worship meeting, have obtained official approval for religious gathering. Authorities are suspecting that local churches in Phin district have outside support for building churches. Both church leaders responded that these are their own homes that are being used as a place of worship since there are no nearby official church buildings.
2. With regard to proselytization, the district authorities ordered both church leaders to stop spreading the Christian message to the Lao people because due to their witness large number of people has come to believe in the Christian faith. Both church leaders responded that they did not go out proselytizing Lao people but rather Lao people have been coming to them for help because of their illness. Lao people have become believers on their own after they have seen God’s power of healing.
3. The district authorities also ordered the two Christian leaders to take down the crosses that are hanging on the exterior walls of their houses that are being used as a place of worship. Christians responded that the cross is a symbol of the Christian faith just like other religions in Laos that have their own religious symbols.
After about one hour of questioning and giving official orders to Pastor Bounlerd and Pastor Adang, the Phin district officials then released them. It remains to be seen whether the Phin district authorities will follow through with their orders or not.
The HRWLRF urges the Lao government respect Lao Christiansâ€™ freedom to manifest their religion or belief in worship in Phin district as guaranteed by the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as ratified by the Lao government.