Lao Officials Charge Believers for Leading a Religious Movement

Boukham village, Ad-Sapangthong district Savannakhet Province, LAOS
Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF)
Advocacy Alert No. 6/2012
March 25, 2012

Around 2:00 PM on March 25, 2012, Boukham village authorities arrested and detained five Lao Christians attending Sunday worship service in Boukham village of Ad-Sapangthong district. Many times prior to their arrest, these five Christians from another district (Palansai district) had joined church services with other believers in Boukham village without any problem or warning by Lao authorities. Now, they are being charged with “leading a religious movement without official approval.” Other Christian worship attendees who are exercising their freedom to manifest their religion or belief in worship are also at risk of being charged with the same violation. The names and home villages of the five Christians are as followed:

Mr. Phosee from Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
Mr. Viengsai from Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
Mrs. Alee from Phosai village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
Mrs. Poon from Pone village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province
Mrs. Narm from Natoo village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province

The arrest of these five Christians came in the midst of an important investigative visitation in the area from an outside observation team, consisting of primarily an U.S. Embassy’s official and the Lao Department of Religious Affairs’ official from Laos’ capital of Vientiane. At the time of the arrest, these five Christians were being held in the same facility in which Boukham village authorities had previously detained eight church leaders (see prior HRWLR’s advocacy release: http://www.hrwlrf.net/files/Download/AdvocacyNo10-2011.pdf). The Savannakhet provincial authorities released those eight church leaders on January 12, 2012.

It appears that the arrest is a part of wider crackdown on the spread or growth of Christianity in Savannakhet province. Christianity has been growing in this part of Laos. It is obvious that Lao authorities are trying to put a stop to the Christian faith regardless if Lao citizens have the freedom to adopt Christianity.

The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief in worship as guaranteed by the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as ratified by the Lao government.

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