Nov 30, 2009

Hmong: Persecution of Lao Hmong Christians, Animists, Buddhist Dissident Believers Intensifies

Active ImageThe persecution, imprisonment and killing of minority Christians and independent Animist and Buddhist believers who seek to worship in freedom outside the control of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) government’s control in Laos has intensified. Laos is slated to host the South East Asia Games ( SEA Games ) in December.


Below is an article published by

Release International, Open Doors, Compass Direct, International Christian Concern, Persecution International, Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF), Christian Aid, Voice of the Martyrs, Barnabas Fund, the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council (LHHRC), the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL), Hmong Advance, Inc. (HA), Hmong Advancement, Inc. (HAI), Lao and Hmong student organizations, the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and others have documented the upswing in efforts by the LPDR to use its military and security forces to seek to oppress religious believers who operate independently of the LPDR regime.

The LPDR regime in Laos is a staunch ally of Burma and North Korea. The LPDR in Laos provided sanctuary and support to the military junta leader and their families in Burma during the mass arrest and crackdown against Burmese Buddhist monks. The families of Burmese generals involved in military action against the peaceful Buddhist protests were given sanctuary in Laos during the peaceful protests by Buddhist monks in Yangoon and elsewhere in Burma in 2007. The LPDR regime has engaged in the persecution, arrest and imprisonment of independent Buddhist believers and dissident Buddhist monks seeking to practice their faith independently of the LPDR secret police who monitor many of the Buddhist temples in Laos.

"Many of our Lao Buddhist believers, who oppose the Lao regimes oppression and manipulation of the Buddhist faith and Buddhist temples seeking to operate outside of the government’s strict control, and who support the Lao Student’s peaceful demonstrations, are also being persecuted by the Lao military regime said Mr. Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc.

“We are urging the LPDR regime to release all of the Lao students, and other political and religious dissidents, prior to the upcoming South East Asia games ( SEA games ) in Vientiane,and give the... people amnesty Mr. Rathigna concluded.

On November 26, 2009, according to Laotian sources in Laos as well as the Center for Public Policy Analysis, twenty-three ( 23 ) unarmed Lao Hmong Christian civilians were recently killed by LPA and VPA soldiers in the early hours of Thanksgiving Day ( Vientiane Time ) during intense military attacks at the Phou Bia Mountain Area of Laos in Xieng Khouang Province as well as Vientiane Province by LPA and VPA soldiers.

Hundreds of Laotian and Hmong religious dissident and persecuted Buddhist, Animist and Christian religious believers have fled from Laos along with political dissidents and political refugees where they face persecution and forced repatriation in refugee camps in Thailand. Laos has send Lao Peoples Army officers to refugee camps in Thailand, including Ban Huay Nam Khao to persecute independent Christian and Animist religious leaders, close Christian House churches and Animist shrines and stop them from holding religious rituals and ceremonies.

As cited in “Christianity Today” (June 4, 2009), Release International recently .traveled to Laos to investigate the treatment of Christian prisoners. They uncovered a catalogue of abuse. Several had been imprisoned without trial. They include Stephen, whose real name cannot be given for security reasons, who was arrested and jailed after a village head man objected to him talking about his faith. He told Release: “The police put my feet in stocks and chains on my hands. I could not move. The cell smelled like a toilet. Sometimes I could not breathe because of the smell Pastor Timothy, whose real name has been concealed for security reasons, was arrested for bringing a foreign religion to Laos. He claims to have been beaten almost to death. He told Release: ‘They asked me to sign a piece of paper that said that I would not be a Christian because Christians are not good or not right for the Lao people. I didn't sign it because of my faith” ..

“The Laos constitution professes freedom of religion in its Constitution: "Lao citizens, irrespective of their sex, social status, education, faith, and ethnic groups are all equal before the law" according to Article 22. Article 9, however, is loosely written to say, ‘The state respects and protects all lawful activities of the Buddhists and of other religious followers . . . to participate in the activities which are beneficial to the country and people So, practicing Christianity in any of its manifestations can be construed as not being beneficial to the country. Charges are made against Christians for ‘violating the religious traditions of their ancestors Worship services, religious gatherings, Christian burial services, marriage ceremonies, prayer meetings, evensong and praise all qualify as violations. Politics weigh heavily in the accusations made against Christians in Laos. This is just a sampling of letters from groups receiving help through Christian Aid: In July of last year, 17 Christian families were detained in the Katin village school. The district authorities ordered the families be detained without food. They brought with them a book entitled ‘The Tricks of the Enemy (The "enemy," being the United States of America.) The authorities accused all those believing in Christ as being helpers of the Americans, because ‘Christianity is the American religion Christian Aid said in April 2009 statement about Laos.

International Christian Concern (ICC) has frequently raised the issue of Christians persecuted and killed in Laos, including the use of Hmong Christian children for target practice and mutilation by the Lao military. ..

Lao Authorities have repeatedly threatened to jail and kill Christians. In a September 11, 2009, statement by Compass Direct News and the HRWLRF: “Authorities in Laos last week jailed a church leader in Savannakhet Province for embracing Christianity and threatened to expel him unless he renounces his faith – and kill him if his arrest is made public, according to a human rights organization. Officials from Liansai village, from Saybouthong sub-district and from Ad-Sapangthong district on Sept. 3 arrested Thao Oun, an elder at Boukham Church, at his home and forced him at gunpoint to the Saybounthong sub‐district office, according to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). The organization said the officials turned him over to the chief of police of Saybouthong sub‐district, Thao Somphet, who detained, interrogated, and terrorized the Christian for nearly six hours. Oun was charged with bringing destruction to the Lao nation and government by embracing Christianity, which the officials consider a ‘foreign religion to be abhorred according to HRWLRF. The chief of police demanded that Oun immediately renounce Christianity or face expulsion from the village. He ‘further threatened Thao Oun that if word of his arrest and interrogation get out to the international community, he will be put to death according to HRWLRF

“Police in Borikhamxay province, Laos, on March 19 destroyed a church building in Nonsomboon village while Christian residents attended a meeting called by district officials Compass Direct News said in a March 30, 2009 statement.

“ Last Sunday (July 5, 2009) officials and residents of Katin village in Ta Oih district, Saravan province, Laos, confiscated and slaughtered livestock belonging to nine Christian families in an effort to force them to renounce their faith. In June village elders had warned the families, 53 people in total, to renounce the faith they had adopted in late May or face “serious consequences according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). When the Christians ignored this warning and attended worship services in a neighboring village, villagers broke into their pig pens and seized one pig per family, later slaughtering the animals and distributing the meat among themselves, according to HRWLRF stated Compass Direct News on July 10, 2009.

Following the confiscation of livestock from Christian families earlier this month, officials in a village in Laos on Saturday (July 11) called a special meeting for all residents and announced that they had “banned the Christian faith in our village Compass Direct News stated.

On June 12, thirteen Christians were arrested by plain clothes police, after visiting Christian villages in Laos, according to The Voice of the Martyrs. ..

In a separate incident: “Fourteen Khmu Christian families in Laos are standing strong in their faith, despite the Communist government forcing them to relocate to another village and their homes and church building being destroyed… In 2003, the families were evicted by the government and relocated to another village where they were moved again. "After these 14 families stayed at this village for a year, the Communist Party members of the village found out that the head of the village loved them," VOM contacts said. The village leader] even allowed them to build a bamboo church on his land The Communist district governor was not happy with the head of the village. . [The] governor kicked him out from his post and then replaced [him] with another man. The new head of the village started persecuting them from 2006 to 2009," VOM contacts report. The leader refused to allow them to register, making them illegal residents and he stopped them from farming land, the contacts said The Voice of the Martyrs reported earlier this year.

Laos placed the LPDR regime in Laos on its World Watch List as one of world’s worst regimes engaged in religious persecution and egregious violators of religious liberty. According to a 2009 study by Open Doors, of the 50 countries in which the worst Christian persecution exists in the world, Laos was listed among the worst 10 countries engaged in religious persecution and violations of freedom of religion.

In a 2009 statement and report, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom placed Laos on its watch list for religious freedom violations and persecution on believers. ..