Police Officials Ambushed and Barred Worship Services in Paksong Village of Savannakhet, Laos
Submitted by: Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom
Vientiane, Laos (OPENPRESS) April 15, 2012 -- Approximately 11:00 AM on Sunday, April 8, 2012 (local time), six Songkorn district officials ambushed a church worship service in Paksong village and arrested the church leader, Pastor Khamsorn, and barred Christians from holding any more church services at that location. Later, Pastor Khamsorn was released after he was threatened and then coerced to sign a document to discontinue church services. These officials, included a Songkorn district police official (Mr. Somsanit), the newly elected Paksong village chief, and some sub-district police and unnamed officials, claimed that Paksong Christians did not receive an approval to hold worship services. Due to the arrest of their pastor, Paksong Christians were unable finish their worship service for the day; thus, members of the church went back to their homes.
Paksong Christians later claimed that about a year ago they had received approval from the former Paksong village chief, authorizing them to hold church services at that location. Thus, they have been holding Sunday worship services since then. However, the newly elected village chief, who took office about a month ago, is ignoring the authorization of the former village chief.
In addition, the chief of Songkorn district religious affairs also had approved the construction of the Paksong new church building, of which local Christians are still in the process of building. It is also a temporary location where Paksong Christians are now holding worship meetings. However, the district police led by Mr. Somsanit and the newly elected village chief are ignoring Songkorn district religious affairs' authorization. Over 50 Paksong Christians are presently affected by this religious aggression against Protestant Christian minority. In spite of the official ban and their pastor being coerced to sign a document to discontinue the worship services, Paksong Christians appeared to be determined to continue the worship services.
The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to stop all aggressions against Christians in Paksong village and to respect their freedom to manifest their religion or belief in worship as guaranteed by the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as ratified by the Lao government. Visit www.hrwlrf.net for more details.