On July 18, 2023, the Palansai district chief of Savannakhet province, Lao PDR, ordered Pastor Sompong Supatto to cease manifesting religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching in community with other Lao believers. The Palansai district chief charged Pastor Sompong Supatto with breaking Articles 12, 25, and 25 of the Lao religious law, Decree 315.
The Palansai district chief’s charge and order (number 350/PS), based on Decree 315, clearly contravene Article 43 of the Lao Constitution, “Lao citizens have the right and freedom to believe or not to believe in religions,” as well as Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) signed by the government of Lao PDR in December 2000 and ratified in September 2009. Decree 315 renders broad power to state officials to regulate, control, and restrict the freedom of Pastor Sompong and Lao Christian believers to manifest their beliefs, which is contrary to the purpose of Article 18 of ICCPR.
The Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) is calling upon the government of Lao PDR:
(1) To cancel order number 350/PS requiring that Pastor Sompong cease the act of manifesting his religious belief, and,
(2) To amend Decree 315 to align it with Article 43 of the Lao Constitution and Article 18 of ICCPR.
In addition, HRWLRF is calling upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold the government of Lao PDR accountable in their obligation to abide by Article 18 of ICCPR.