Stopping Acts of Aggression Against the Pornsaad Christian Minority and Allow Them the Religious Freedom to Assemble
TO: Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom: Suzan Johnson COOK, Office of International Religious Freedom, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs , Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520. Telephone: 202-647-4000
Ambassador: H.E. Mr. Alounkeo KITTIKHOUN, Permanent Mission of the Lao People's Democratic Republic to the United Nations, 317 East 51st Street, New York, NY 10022, United States of America. Telephone: (212) 832-2734, 832-0095, Fax: (212) 750-0039, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ambassador: H.E. Mr. Seng SOUKHATHIVONG, Embassy: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. Telephone: (202) 332-6416, (202) 332-6416, 6417, Fax: (202) 332-4923, (202) 332-4923
Ambassador: Karen B. STEWART, 19 Rue Bartholonie, Vientiane Mailing address: B. P. 114, Vientiane; American Embassy, Box V, APO AP 96546. Telephone:  (21) 267000, 267089, 267160, Fax:  (21) 267190, 267160, Email: email@example.com
Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on freedom of religion or belief, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva, 8-14 avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. Telephone:  (22) 9179006, Fax:  (22) 9179006, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leonard A. Leo, Chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 800 N. Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 790, Washington, D.C. 20002, Phone: (202) 523-3240 (202) 523-3240, Fax: (202) 523-5020, Email: email@example.com
In June 2011 (on Sunday), while five Christian families (consisting of 13 individuals) in Pornsaad village gathered to worship God in a home of one of the believers, three Hongsa district police directed that the worship services be stopped. The police authorities ordered: “Since you do not official approved for gathering, you must cease gathering for worship. You must first seek approval from appropriate authorities before you can continue gathering.” The believers were threatened with arrest if they continue to gather for worship.
On July 15, 2011, Pornsaad Christians thus submitted documents to Hongsa district religious affairs (the Front) for approval to gather for worship. The district authorities have forwarded the documents to Sayabuli provincial authorities for approval. However, it has been over 2 months since the submission of the application and no response has been given. Meanwhile, the believers are now unable to gather and exercise their religious freedom.
The Lao Constitution recognizes the RIGHT and FREEDOM of the Lao citizens “to believe or not to believe in religions (Article 30). The U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Article 18) of which Laos is a signatory party also recognizes the RIGHT of every Lao citizen to FREEDOM of religion and stipulates that the FREEDOM to manifest (individually or in community with others and in public or private) one’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching cannot be impaired by any act, process or power of coercing or threats.
While the Lao government recognizes the RIGHT of the Lao national to religious faith, they however restrict FREEDOM to that religious RIGHT. The Lao government’s restrictions on the FREEDOM of the Lao believers to manifest their religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching are almost always based on Articles 11 of the Decree on management and Protection of Religious Activities in the Lao PDR, Prime Minister’s Office No. 92/PM (also referred to as Decree 92).
Specifically, Article 11 restricts religious activities, such as worship and prayer meeting, to certain TIME and LOCATION. It stipulates that religious activities be conducted only on “normal important days of each religion” and in places “where its own monastery or church is located.” This Article places condition or necessitates the TIME and LOCATION where a worship gathering can be held. The Lao authorities’ aggression against Christian communities throughout Laos is always related to these two factors: TIME and LOCATION of religious activities.
By placing restrictions and conditions on FREEDOM of religion—stipulating when (TIME) and where (LOCATION) that freedom can be exercised—Article 11 of Decree 92 clearly contradicts the Lao Constitution (Article 30) as well as the U.N. ICCPR (Article 18) . The Lao government’s aggressive acts based on the Article 11 of Decree 92 against the Christian minority in Pornsaad village and in other locations across Laos are unconstitutional and contravene the U.N. ICCPR.
We, the undersigned, urge the Government of Lao PDR, U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom the American Embassy in Vientiane, and U.N. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on freedom of religion or belief to respect the Lao Constitution and the Lao government-ratified U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to cease all acts of aggression against the Pornsaad Christian minority and allow them to exercise their FREEDOM to manifest (individually or in community with others and in public or private) their religion faith in worship, observance, practice and teaching. Additionally, we urge the Lao government to adopt legislation in replacement of Decree 92 in order to avoid violating the Lao Constitution and the U.N. ICCPR. Meanwhile, the Lao government is urged not to restrict the manifestation of religion faith or belief to certain TIME and LOCATION as long as the Pornsaad believers are not infringing on religious liberty of others.