Khampou Village, Assaphone District, Savannakhet Province, LAO PDR | Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) | Advocacy Alert No. 02/2023 | October 1, 2023
On Sunday, October 1, 2023 (local time), the Khampou’s deputy village chief, along with their village security authorities, ordered Mrs. Sard Onmeunsee, the leader of the village Christian church and 17 other believers, to cease manifesting their religion or belief in worship. They were threatened with arrest and huge fines if they did not follow the officials’ order to discontinue exercising their religious freedom or belief in worship.
The trouble in Khampou village started when the first family in the village adopted the Christian belief in 2019. Around 180 Lao villagers also adopted the Christian belief in the two years followed, and thus began pressures and threats from the local government upon Christians, coercing them to give up their religious faith. The local government subjected Christians to intimidations, threats, and coercion throughout 2022 and 2023, forcing them to abandon their Christian religion until today; only three families (15 Christian believers) from around 180 Christians now remain in the Christian faith, led by Mrs. Sard Onmeunsee.
The last act of aggression from government officials against religious freedom or belief occurred on Sunday, October 1, 2023 (local time), when the deputy village chief and village security authorities interrupted the house worship gathering of Khampou village Christians, who were joined by two other believers from a nearby village. They were threatened with a massive fine if people in the village became ill or sick or died. The two believers from a nearby village will automatically be arrested if they join the worship the next time.
The Lao Constitution recognizes the RIGHT and FREEDOM of the Lao citizens “to believe or not to believe in religions (Article 30). The U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18, para. 1 and 2), of which Lao PDR is a signatory party also recognizes the RIGHT of every Lao citizen to FREEDOM of religion, stipulates that the FREEDOM to manifest (individually or in community with others and in public or private) one’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching cannot be impaired by any act, process or power of coercing (achieving by force or threat).
While the Lao government recognizes the RIGHT of the Lao national to freedom of religion or belief, they however restrict FREEDOM to that religious RIGHT and threaten to arrest and punish the Lao families who insist on exercising their right to religious freedom to believe in the Christian religion.
The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the Lao Constitution and the government-
ratified the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to take the following actions:
- To cease all acts of aggression against Christians in Khampou village,
- To allow Christians in Khampou village to exercise their freedom of religion or belief in worship,
- To punish the village authorities responsible for the unlawful acts of aggression against them,
- To guarantee protection for them against all physical and psychological threats, and,
- To respect, protect, and promote their freedom of religion or belief in Khampou village and Assphone district.
Additionally, the HRWLRF is calling upon the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to hold the government of Lao PDR accountable for their unlawful aggressions and their violation of Article 18 (para. 1 and 2) of the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to urge the government of Lao PDR to fulfill the five actions above.
Khampou Village, Assaphone District, Savannakhet Province, Laos: Khampou’s deputy village chief and village security authorities (three men in photo) interrupted a house church worship service and threatened to arrest and impose huge fines on Christians on October 1, 2023.