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ICC Note: The following report details the recent questioning of two new U.S. ambassadors to Laos and Malaysia by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during their nomination proceedings. Encouragingly both potential future ambassadors recognized not only the need to promote religious freedom, but were familiar with specific situations were religious minorities are facing discrimination. In Laos new converts to Christianity in rural areas are sometimes driven from their homes and occasionally arrested by local authorities, who pressure the converts to renounce their faith. In Malaysia tension over the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God by Christians is rising as a new court case tries to make such usage illegal. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is to be given credit for posing the questions regarding religious freedom to the ambassadorial nominees. 
9/2/2013 Malaysia & Laos (CSW) – US senators questioned the two Asian-Pacific ambassador nominees to Laos and Malaysia on how they would advance human rights and good
The questioning took place at a Senate Foreign Relations meeting in which Senator Marco Rubio questioned Daniel Clune, a nominee to become ambassador of Laos, and Joseph Yun, a nominee for the ambassador of Malaysia, on their commitment to religious freedom in each country.
Rubio expressed his concern that religious freedoms in the region are not being respected, particularly religious freedom for Southeast Asian Christians. He asked the two nominees what they would do to stop the encroachment on religious liberties. He said he wanted to see real action rather than just lip service.
Rubio added that he hoped the nominees, if confirmed, would not only monitor religious persecution, but also become forceful advocates for religious minorities around the world.
“Our hope is that if you are confirmed, you won’t just monitor and bring [to our] attention [the issues], but that you’ll be a forceful advocate on behalf of those being oppressed,” Rubio said. “I think it’s important for the U.S. that our representative there be someone who speaks clearly on these issues.”
Rubio pointed to recent alleged human rights and religious transgressions involving the countries, including the incident in May in which Laotian authorities arrested nine North Korean defectors en route to South Korea, and sent them back to their homeland where they were likely to face punishment in labour camps for their “disloyalty”.
For his part, Clune said he would seek to promote human rights and reform of the Laotian legal systems. He also expressed concern over the disappearance of Lao civil society leader, Sombath Somphone, from a police station in the capital, Vientiane, in 2012 and the recent forced repatriation of nine young orphaned North Korean asylum seekers.
Referring to Malaysia, Rubio expressed concern at the “increasing encroachment on religious liberties” there. Yun replied that he shared the senator’s concern, noting that the lack of religious tolerance in Malaysia, particularly between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority, is becoming serious.

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