04/06/2012 Laos (CDN) - Lao officials on Thursday (April 5) confiscated and sealed a church building in southern Laos after holding a two-day seminar warning against religious belief, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).
Besides sealing the church building in Khamnonsung village, Saybuly district, they also warned that other unrecognized churches in the district in Savannakhet Province would soon be shut down.
Local Communist Party official Saysamorn, along with Saysana, district deputy chief of police, and Bountha, district head of religious affairs, ordered all villages to attend the seminar, held from Tuesday through Thursday (April 3 to 5) and entitled “Tricks of the Enemy.”
According to villagers present at the seminar, the officials declared that Westerners, particularly those from the United States, were using the Christian faith to destabilize the government. They then declared that the 745 Christians in the village could only meet in private homes, claiming that they did not have permission to construct the Khamnonsung church building – although it was erected in 1963, prior to the 1975 Communist takeover of Laos.
“How do these officials know that Khamnonsung did not follow proper procedures back in 1968?” HRWLRF asked in a press release issued today. “And if a permit is required for this building, why wait 49 years to tell them?”
The officials also declared that only one church in the district, located in Dongpoong village, was officially recognized and that all others would soon be shut down, HRWLRF reported.
There are a total of 30 church buildings scattered throughout Savannakhet Province – but only seven are approved by the government.