78-Year-Old Grandma and Three Lao Men Arrested While Worshipping God in Savannakhet, Laos

Keovilai Village, Vilabouly District, Savannakhet Province, Laos
Advocacy Alert No. 01/2018
November 28, 2018

Around 11:00 AM on November 18, 2018, police authorities raided a church service in Keovilai village while Lao Christian believers were worshipping God in their place of worship. The police arrested four Lao believers, namely Grandma Bounlam Seebounheung, Mr. Duangtha [no surname], Mr. Khampan Souphanthavong, and Mr. Ponsawan Phuthavong, and imprisoned them in the Vilabouly district prison. Bounlam is an elderly grandmother, age 78, who suffers health problem with heart conditions. In addition to the arrest, the police authorities also evicted them from their home and property in the village.

The police criminally charged them for believing in Jesus Christ. The three police officers conducted the arrested were: (1) Mr. Don, a police major, stationed at Vilabouly district, (2) Mr. No and, (3) Mr. Pim. The later two police officers stationed at Vang district.

Local believers further reported that the police authorities have threatened more severe punishment if the Lao Christians do not give up their religious faith in Christianity which is considered a foreign religion and a religion of the enemy of the Lao nation.

Presently, Grandma Bounlam has been temporarily released from prison for medical treatment for her heart conditons in a local hospital. The other three believers are remaining in prison in handcuffs and feet stocks.

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 three police officers who acted illegally in arresting these four Lao Christians.

The HRWLRF demands the immediate release of all Christians mentioned above and restore them to their homes.

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