A Lao Village Chief Banned Christian Burial Rite and Arrested Christian Leaders in Atsaphangthong District of Savannakhet Province

Saisomboon Village, Atsaphangthong District, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 04/2014
June 24, 2014

Early Saturday morning (June 22, 2014), Mrs. Chan passed away in Saisomboon village, Atsaphangthong district of Savannakhet province.  Mrs. Chan and all her sons and daughters began embracing the Christian faith around two months ago (April). She is survived by her eight sons and daughters, four of whom are married. Mrs. Chan’s family became the fifth family in Saisomboon village to embrace the Christian faith.

On the same day of her passing away (Saturday), her sons and daughters secured permission from Saisomboon village chief to organize a Christian ceremony for their mother and then to bury their mother on their own personal property since Christians were denied burial rights in the Saisomboon village cemetery. However, when the time came to gather for mourning on Sunday evening, the village chief, along with the village’s Communist party secretary, reversed the decision and banned the mourning gathering as well as the burial ceremony until all of her sons and daughters sign an affidavit to recant of their Christian faith. Nevertheless, Mrs. Chan’s sons and daughters insisted on embracing the Christian faith and on conducting funeral along the line of their mother’s Christian faith.

On Sunday evening (June 23), Christians and Christian leaders came from nearby areas, such as Donpalai, Huey, and Bungthalay villages, in order to attend the mourning service. However, no mourning service was allowed to be conducted. On Monday, the leader of Saisomboon village church, Mrs. Kaithong, appealed the case with the Atsaphangthong district chief. The Christians and Christian leaders from nearby villages continued to stay and provide support for Mrs. Chan’s sons and daughters as well as to wait to hear the outcome of the appeal lodged with the Atsaphangthong district chief. By Tuesday (June 24), the body of the deceased began to rot.

Around 2:00 PM, on Tuesday (June 24), the village police and the village military force went to the deceased person’s house, where the gathering was held, and arrested Mrs. Kaithong, the leader of Saisomboon village church and Mr. Puphet (leader of Donpalai village church, Atsaphangthong district), who were present at the gathering. Twenty minutes later, the authorities went again and arrested Mr. Muk (leader of Huey village church, Atsaphangthong district), Mr. Hasadee (leader of Bunthalay village church, Palansai district), and Mr. Tiang (a believer), all of whom were present at the gathering. Then, thirty minutes later, the village chief led the Buddhist monks and relatives of Mrs. Chan into the deceased person’s house and conducted a Buddhist ceremony and then led the body of Mrs. Chan to the village cemetery. At that time, all the Christian believers present at the gathering began leaving the house of the deceased person and went home.

As of 7:00 PM (June 24), the five Christians (Kaithong, Puphet, Muk, Hasadee, and Tiang) were being detained at Bouthong sub-district police station directed by the Atsaphangthong district police. They were being kept in handcuffs and their feet were locked in wooden stocks.

The recent trouble in Saisomboon village is a continuation of the event that occurred on May 20, 2014, when the chief of Saisomboon village declared that, by becoming Christian, the three female students had forfeited their right to an education. Noi (15), Net (15) and Nut (14) were told that they would not be permitted to sit in for their examinations. At that time local Christian leader, Mrs Kaithong, appealed the case with the Atsaphangthong district education chief, who was negotiating with the Liansai School’s Director in order to seek permission for the three students to sit in for an examination.

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 village Saisomboon village chief and other officials who acted illegally in obstructing the funeral service according to Mrs. Chan’s religious affiliation and in arresting Kaithong, Puphet, Muk, Hasadee, and Tiang who had gathered for mourning of a Christian believer.

The HRWLRF demands the immediate release of Kaithong, Puphet, Muk, Hasadee, and Tiang from illegal detention in Bouthong sub-district police station.


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