Lao Churches in Saybuli District Struggle to Repossess Confiscated Church Properties
Submitted by: Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom
(OPENPRESS) April 17, 2012 -- After spending months complying with the orders of the Lao officials of Saybuli districts in Savannakhet province, Laos, and making written petitions to government offices in order to request the return of their church buildings (which were confiscated by Lao authorities), Nadaeng Church and Kengweng Church are still being denied entrance into their church buildings for worship services. Two weeks ago, members of Dongpaiwan Church worshipped in a house adjacent to their confiscated church building. Meanwhile, Khamnonsung Church has continued to ignore the April 5th (2012) directive of the Saybuli District officials, ordering them to vacate their church building. Lao Christians feel that Lao officials are "unlawfully" ordering them to shutdown churches which have been in existence since their forefathers.
Again, last Sunday morning, April 15th (local time), Khamnonsung Church still held worship services inside the confiscated building of the church for the second straight week, while Dongpaiwan Church conducted Sunday services on church property outside of the confiscated church building. At the same time, Kengweng Church assembled for prayer and worship in a place adjacent to the confiscated church building. Meanwhile, under the advice of the Lao Evangelical Church denomination, Nadaeng Church still waits for their Lao officials to return their church property.
In Songkorn district of Savannakhet province, the Paksong Church has continued to defy the order of the Lao police authorities, ordering them to cease worshiping. Last week, they still held worship services.
Both Khamnonsung Church in Saybuli district and Paksong Church in Songkorn distirct are willing to risk their own safety as well as the safety of their families in order to defend religious freedom.
The HRWLRF urges the Lao government respect Lao Christians' 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.