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No Easter in Laos, Vietnam, for Persecuted Christians

No Easter in Laos, Vietnam, for Disappeared, Persecuted Christians

March 31, 2013, Washington, D.C., Vientiane, Laos, and Bangkok, Thailand

The Lao Human Rights Council (LHRC), Hmong Advance, Inc. (HAI), the United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL), the Laos Institute for Democracy (LIFD), the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and a coalition of Lao and Hmong non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are issuing an international appeal for “disappeared” and persecuted Christian, and dissident religious believers, in Laos and Vietnam on Easter Sunday.

“There is no Easter in Laos and Vietnam for numerous Christians, and other minority and dissident religious believers, who have simply disappeared or have been persecuted, or killed, at the hands of the military, security forces and secret police,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. “We continue to be concerned about the disappearance of ordinary and innocent Lao and Hmong Christian believers, including Mr. Bountheong and his family, and many others.”

According to Smith: “A broad spectrum of Christian organizations, including senior Catholic Church leaders, have also issued statements and appeals about the ‘disappeared’ and persecuted Christians, and dissident religious believers, in Laos and Vietnam.”

“As we mark Easter, the brutal torture and killing of a Hmong Christian pastor recently in Vietnam by police, who beat and electrocuted the victim during torture, is also very troubling,” Smith continued. “The ongoing pattern of systemic religious freedom violations in Vietnam and Laos by the Marxist regimes continues to intensify and deteriorate.”

“Tragically, Communist officials and security forces in the Dien Bien Phu area of North Vietnam, especially along the Lao border area, continue to unjustly imprison dozens of ordinary Viet-Hmong Christian believers, including those who peacefully gathered for Catholic and Protestant Christian religious ceremonies and to mark the beatification of Pope John Paul II some two years ago, in the spring of 2011,” Smith concluded.

Catholic source Agenzia Fides states concerns about “Christian families who have suddenly ‘disappeared into thin air’ in Laos.”

In May 2011, the Vietnamese People’s Army killed dozens of Hmong Christian and animist religious believers, many of them mainstream Catholic and orthodox Protestant Christians, who gathered peacefully in Dien Bien Province in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Many surviving believers fled to Laos.

“Lao and Hmong minority Christian and Animist believers continue to be persecuted in Laos and subjected to religious persecution, disappearance and often continue to be killed for their faith,” said Vaughn Vang of the Wisconsin and Minnesota-based LHRC.

“Independent Buddhist, Christian and Animist religious believers are often targeted for persecution and human rights violations in Laos, if they operate freely and are accused of organizing outside of state-control,” said Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the ULDL in Washington, D.C., who has organized peaceful human rights demonstrations in front of the Lao Embassy in Washington, D.C. in recent years.

Mr. Rathigna continued: “Vietnam’s security forces and army continue to be heavily involved in Laos; This includes Hanoi’s ruthless persecution of religious dissident believers, especially independent Christians, Catholics and Animists in Laos, who are often accused of the ‘crime’ of the free practice of their faith without strict-government monitoring and control, including the approval of clergy and religious leaders by often corrupt Communist officials.”

In January, Christian Solidary Worldwide (CSW) issued an international appeal for the release of a Lao Christian family, Mr. Bountheong, his wife and son.

According to CSW: “CSW has written a letter to the president of Laos requesting information about the disappearance of a Christian man who has been missing for eight years. Mr. Boontheong was last seen in the capital, Vientiane, on 3 July 2004. He had been imprisoned by local police on two previous occasions and repeatedly harassed for his faith. He disappeared along with his wife and seven-year-old son.

CSW continues: “In the letter, CSW Advocacy Director, Andrew Johnston, and the chairman of CSW Hong Kong, Charles Dickson, urged President Choummaly Sayasone to uphold ‘the Constitution of Laos, in particular Article 43 of the 2003 Amended Constitution (Article 30 in the 1991 Constitution) which respects the fundamental right of every citizen to believe or not to believe in religions.’”

CSW continues to press for action on the cases of missing people, particularly those who may have disappeared in connection with their faith.

In voicing an appeal about the ongoing disappearance of Mr. Boontheong, his family and other persecuted Christians in Southeast Asia, International Christian Concern (ICC) states: “Christians call on (the) President of Laos to investigate the disappearance of a Christian family… The Communist government of Laos has long tolerated and even condoned harassment and arrest of Christians throughout the country.”

According to Compass Direct News (CDN), World Watch Monitor, and other sources in Laos, the Lao government and military has falsely accused many ordinary and peaceful Lao and Hmong Christians fleeing persecution in Vietnam and summarily executing them extra-judicially, without trial.

“Selfless Laotian civic activists, of the Buddhist faith, including Magsaysay Award winner Sombath Somphone, who have tirelessly advocated for the poor in Laos, have also disappeared in Laos, at the hands of police and security forces, in recent months,” stated Khamphoua Naovarangsy (Khampoua Naovarangsy), a prominent advocate and leader in the Laotian-American community.

ENDS

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