Laos Movement for Human Rights: LPDR on U.S. Watch List
"Dissident Buddhist, Christian and animist religious believers who practice their faith independent of the control and monitoring of the authoritarian, military regime in Laos, and its security forces, are subject to increased religious persecution," stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C. and Paris, France, May 1, 2009 - The Paris, France-based Lao Movement for Human Rights ( LMHR ) in cooperation with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) and a coalition of non-profit and non-governmental organizations ( NGOs ) responded to, and highlighted, the report issued by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom ( USCIRF ) regarding religious persecution in Laos.
The U.S. report puts the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, a one-party authoritarian regime on “Watch List” status for its violations of fundamental religious freedom and ongoing religious persecution.
The United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. ( ULDL ), the Lao Students Movement for Democracy ( LSMD ), the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council ( HLHRC ), the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. ( LVA ), the Laos Institute for Democracy ( LIFD ), Hmong Student associations and a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations across the United States and internationally expressed their concerns about increased religious persecution in Laos under the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) regime.
Some 5,500 Lao Hmong political refugees are seeking refuge and asylum at Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchabun Province and Nong Khai, Thailand. The Lao Hmong fled religious and political persecution in Laos. Thailand, and its new Prime Minister Abhisit, is threatening to force the political refugees back to Laos in the coming months.
“Dissident Buddhist, Christian and animist religious believers who practice their faith independent of the control and monitoring of the authoritarian, military regime in Laos, and its security forces, are subject to increased religious persecution,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.
“The increased high-level intervention of Vietnam’s military and security forces in Laos, in support of the LPDR regime’s arrest, imprisonment, persecution and killing of many independent religious believers, including Lao Hmong Christians, Buddhists and Animists, is a serious development,” Smith continued. “Many of these religious believers are fleeing Laos as refugees to Thailand, or have been hiding in the jungles and mountains of Laos, where they are free to practice their faith and ways of life free of the Lao regime’s state-control.”
“Lao military and security forces continue to attack and starve to death thousands of unarmed civilians and religious believers in Laos, especially in Vientiane Province, Luang Prabang Province, Khammoune Province and Xieng Khouang Province where thousands have been massacred and starved to death in recent months by the LPDR regime, especially dissident Buddhists and minority Christians and animists.” Smith concluded.
In response to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s ( USCIRF ) report, the following statement by the LMHR was issued in Paris, France, Washington, D.C., and internationally, regarding religious freedom violations and human rights violations in Laos under the LPDR regime:
Religious freedom: Laos on the ‘Commission Watch List Countries’
“The Lao People’s Democratic Republic ( LPDR ), once again, appears on the ‘’Commission Watch List," along with Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Somalia, Turkey, Russia, Tajikistan and Venezuela, in the annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom ( USCIRF ) released on May 1st, 2009.
The Lao Movement for Human Rights ( LMHR ) welcomes the decision taken by this independent Commission to put the Lao totalitarian régime under "close monitoring due to the nature and extend of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments." This decision confirms the serious and repeated violations of religious rights of the Lao citizens, constantly denounced by the Lao Movement for Human Rights.
It is obvious that, despite its cynical denials, the LPDR government has never been capable, or willing, to end its repression on religious freedom against religious minorities, especially the Christians. If some religious practices have been eased in some cities under the strict control of the Party-State, threats, intimidation, use of starvation, arrests, displacements and violence remain the authorities’ tools to force the Christians to renounce their faith. Violations of religious freedom were reported from North to South of the country these last months in the provinces of Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Bokeo, Luangprabang, Oudomxay, Bolikhamxay, Champassak, Saravane and Savannakhet.
In March 2009, once more, the church in Ban None Somboun ( Bolikhamxay ) was destroyed by the authorities’ militia, depriving Christian families of their worship place for Easter. This action followed a campaign against Christians launched by the authorities in this province in 2008.
The Lao citizens remain victims of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party whose successive leaders continue, in all impunity, to infringe the most fundamental rights of the people: rights of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of meetings, religious rights, minorities rights, rights to peacefully oppose or criticise the country management by the State-Party.
The LMHR firmly condemns these violations of the Lao people's fundamental rights, contrary to the International Conventions signed by the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and contrary to article 30 of the LPDR's Constitution, which deals with “Religious Freedom” for all citizens.
The LMHR calls on the USCIRF to closely follow up on the religious freedom situation in Laos and adopt concrete measures to stop the practices of the LPDR government regarding this matter.
The Lao Movement for Humans Rights calls on the donating countries and institutions, in particular the European Union and its Member States, the United Nations, the United States and President Obama, Japan, Australia, the ASEAN and the international financial institutions, to take into account the respect of freedom and human rights in their relations with the LPDR, and to accentuate their pressure on this dictatorial regime, including through economic means, so that freedom of belief and the basic rights of the Lao people are fully respected.”
( --End statement Paris, 1 May 2009, Lao Movement for Human Rights-- )
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