Nongpong Village, Khamkerd District, Borikhamxai Province
Advocacy Alert No. 16/2012
August 20, 2012
On May 2012, approximately 300 Lao people decided to embrace the Christian faith, which was practiced by Mr. Bountheung for many years. Since then, they have been meeting in homes for regular worship.
Mr. Bountheung, the leader of the Nongpong village church, had been summoned to government village headquarters on three different occasions to answer questions for his Christian faith and also those of 300 others. The third summon took place on August 3, 2012, when the village authorities declared by written order that Mr. Bounteung was no longer a permanent resident of Nongpong village and that he was not welcomed any longer in Nongpong village because he has embraced the Christian faith. Christianity is considered by the authorities to be “unacceptable” religion of choice for any Lao resident in their village.
Mr. Bountheung was given until August 10, 2012, to appeal the order to higher authorities. The right to live in the village was tied to “acceptable” religions held by its residents. The Christian religion is deemed unacceptable by Lao authorities.
The order not only affected Mr. Bountheung but also the rest of the 300 Christians residing in Nongpong village. They were also asked to renounce their Christian faith in exchange for the right to continue living in the village.
By August 10, 2012, the Nongpong village authorities evicted Mr. Bountheung from his village. He was given only given a week to sell his house and property or the authorities would confiscate them. On August 20, 2012, Mr. Bountheung was arrested and taken to prison.
Mr. Bountheung moved to Nongpong village over 10 years ago. Like any other villagers who have moved into this village, they first moved there and then started to build a house and worked the land; and then the village chief would add them to the village registration as permanent residents. Mr. Bountheung was recognized publically as a resident of this village. He had been carrying out the duties of a good resident of the village. His problems all began when, through his witness, at least 300 other villagers decided to embrace the Christian faith. As a result, he was summoned three times to the government headquarters for his involvement with the Christian faith. A letter of eviction (August 3) was issued to him and then now he is again arrested.
The HRWLRF calls on the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao residents in Nongpong village to religious freedomâ€”to adhere to any religion of choice as guaranteed under the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the Lao governmentâ€”and immediately reverse any verbal or written order issued by Napong village authorities that contradicts the Lao constitution or international convention. Also, HRWLRF calls for the immediate release of Mr. Bountheung.