Eight Church Leaders Arrested for Holding Christmas Service in Boukham Village in Savannakhet Province

Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF)
Advocacy Alert No. 10/2011
December 19, 2011

On Friday, December 16, 2011, around 9:00 PM, the village security forces of Boukham village acted under the order of the village chief and arrested eight church leaders during a Christmas gathering in Boukham village (Ad-Sapangthong district of Savannakhet province in Laos). The village authorities escorted the Christian leaders out from the gathering two at a time. The leaders were then taken to the village government headquarters and detained there. Four of the eight leaders—namely, Kingmanosorn, Sompong, Puphet, and Oun—were placed in handcuffs and wooden stocks. The rest of the leaders was unrestraint. Family members delivered blanks and food to the prisoners.

On the morning of December 17, 2011, the Bouthong sub-district police came and noted names of the prisoners who were detained atBoukham village government headquarters. Late afternoon of the same day, the Savannakhet branch of the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC) denomination’s deputy chairman went to see the Boukham village chief in order to obtain the release of the church leaders. But his effort was of no avail.

On December 18, 2011, the Savannakhet LEC denomination’s deputy chairman again went to meet the Boukham village chief and afterward made an arrangement for the release of one of the church leaders, namely Kingnamosorn.One million kip (US $135) was paid in fines to the village chief and Kingmanosorn was thus released. Concerning other seven church leaders, the authorities asked them to admit to being guilty of violating the village’s law. The village chief stated that Christians have violated the village law by conducting a Christmas worship service. The action of Christians was viewed as violating the hiit, meaning the traditional spirit cult of the village. The village chief claimed that Christianity is not allowed to be practiced in his village because it would offend the spirits.

The seven leaders declared innocence of violating any village law because the Lao constitution has guaranteed freedom to religious belief to all Lao nationals. As a result, the leaders were not released but continue their detention. On December 16, only three were placed in wooden stocks after Kingmanosorn was released; whereas the other four leaders were not restraint.

On December 19, 2011, at approximately 10:00 AM, theBouthong sub-district police joined forces with the Ad-Sapangthong district police, went Boukham village headquarters, and had a meeting with the Boukham village chief. After the police authorities left the village, all seven church leaders wereplaced in wooden stocks. Prior to the police authorities meeting with the village chief, only three church leaders were placed in wooden stocks. Now all seven church leaders were placed in wooden stocks.

The names of the eight church leaders being arrested are as follows:
1. Mr. Puphet, Donpalai village church
2. Mr. Oun, Dansai village church
3. Mr. Sompong, Boukham village church
4. Mr. Ma, Boukham village church
5. Mrs. Kaithong, Bounkham village church
6. Mr. Kai, Nonsomboon village church
7. Mr. Wanta, Liansai village church
8. Mr. Kingmanosorn, Tongsamakee church in Savannakhet city

By imprisoning Christians and torturing them in using wooden stocks, the authorities have violated religious freedom to assemble and practice the Christian faith of Boukham village community.

The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the Lao Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as ratified by the Lao government and to cease all acts of aggression against the Christian minority and immediately release all prisoners in Boukham village so that they can exercise their freedom to practice their religious faith.

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