April 5, 2008

Hmong: Religious Persecution Puts Lao Regime on Watch List

The Lao regime has been put on a watch list for its worsening religious freedom violations in recent months.

Below is an article written by Anna Jones and published by Media Newswire Press Release Distribution / Center for Public Policy Analysis: 

Religious persecution against Lao and Hmong Christians and religious minorities has dramatically increased in Laos according to the Center for Public Policy Analysis, the Lao Human Rights Council, Lao and Hmong human rights organizations as well as reports by Open Doors USA a non-governmental organization serving persecuted Christians, Compass Direct News, Christian Freedom International and others.

Laos is listed by Open Doors USA on its international watch list of the ten top violators of religious freedom in the world.

http://www.opendoorsusa.org/content/view/432
http://www.opendoorsusa.org

Laos, formally known as the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) is a one-party, authoritarian regime ruled by a communist military junta.  It is heavily influenced and dominated by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ( SRV ) which has repeatedly intervened militarily and politically in Laos.

“Sadly, thousands of innocent Laotian and Hmong Christians and animist believers are now being targeted in Laos by Lao and Vietnamese security forces for arrest, persecution, torture and execution, including thousands of unarmed civilians who are Christian and animist religious believers who are being subjected to brutal ethnic cleansing operations and helicopter gunship attacks on Phou Bia Mountian, Phou Da Phao, Vang Vieng and elsewhere in Laos,” stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council.

“In recent weeks [March 2008] hundreds of Lao and Hmong Christians have been arrested and are being persecuted and summarily executed in Laos; Morevoer, thousands of unarmed Laotian and Hmong civilians are now being hunted and killed in Laos by the Lao military regime in a massive military mobilization in cooperation with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which are opposed to the spread of Christianity and freedom of religion in Laos among its people as well as the free exercise of Buddhism in temples not under surveillance and official control of the security forces,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis.

Christian Freedom International reported on February 13, 2008 about increased religious persecution in Laos of Laotian and Hmong Christian believers and has reportedly sought to deliver assistance to them. http://christiannewswire.com/news/816865675.html

On March 11, 2008, Compass Direct News has reported that: Laotian officials arrested some fifteen Hmong Christian families in Bokeo district on February 22, [2008]. This was reportedly a day before a court sentenced nine area Hmong church leaders to 15 years in prison for conducting Christian ministry and meetings that had grown beyond acceptable levels for communist officials. Moreover, the day before the sentencing, Compass Direct and other independent sources reported that Laotian authorities arrived in Ban Sai Jarern village in Bokeo district with six trucks in which they hauled away eight Christian families. Compass Direct reported and other sources confirmed that Lao authorities also arrested at least seven families from Fai village three miles away.
http://www.compassdirect.org/en/display.php?page=news&lang=en&length=short&idelement=5284&backpage=summaries

Compass Direct is a Christian news service about situations and events facing Christians persecuted for their faith. 
http://www.compassdirect.org

Christian website Crosswalk.com ( http://www.crosswalk.com )  citing Compass Direct News provided further details about the hostility that is doubled for Christian Hmong, since the Lao government reportedly considers Protestant Christianity an imperialist foreign religion backed by political interests in the West, particularly the United States. Lao government forces reportedly have indiscriminately detained or killed Hmong Christians whom they also mistakenly associated with separatists since previous generations aided U.S. forces in the Vietnam War.
http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/11570574/

“Many of the Laotian and Hmong Christians now being arrested in the latest government crack-down and massive military offensive in Laos are considered a threat to the Lao and Vietnamese regime for practicing their faith outside the official controls of these authoritarian regimes;  Intervening security and military forces from Vietnam who are supervising, directing and advising in these efforts in Laos have put a high priority on eliminating Christians who practice their faith independently from state control and who are hiding from political and religious persecution in the jungle, mountains and rural villages,”  Smith continued.  “The increasing intervention and mobilization of Vietnam’s military and ruthless security forces in Vientiane Province, Luangprabang Province, Xieng Khouang Province, Bokeo and Sayamboune Closed Military Zone, in support of Lao military attacks and security force operations against Hmong and Laotian Christian and animist groups hiding in the jungle and villages has intensified;  This new military and secret police campaign of terror and religious persecution directed against the Hmong and Laotian believers, unarmed civilians and political dissidents is creating a Bosnia and Darfur-like humanitarian and human rights catastrophe that will soon cost the lives of many  thousands of additional innocent people ,” Smith said.

“The arrest, killing and mass starvation of thousands of  religious believers, especially Lao and Hmong Christians, who are in hiding in the jungles and mountains of Laos, and who are often falsely accused of passively or actively opposing the Lao regime and intervening Vietnamese military and security forces is in clear violation of international law as well as various resolutions passed in recent years by the U.S. Congress, including H. Res. 402 and the United Nations Committee on Racial Discrimination in Geneva,” concluded Smith.

Currently some 15,000 unarmed Lao and Hmong civilians, mostly women and children, many of whom are minority Christians and animist religious believers, are now being subjected to large-scale military attacks and mass starvation in key areas of Laos by Lao and Vietnamese military forces who have mobilized large numbers of troops as well as helicopter gunships to seek to exterminate or capture them in coming weeks. http://www.presszoom.com/story_144108.html
http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1063009.html

Some 8,000 Laotian and Hmong asylum seekers, including many Christians and religious believers who fled Laos because of religious and political persecution, or Lao government military attacks, are now under the threat of forced repatriation back to Laos by Thai and Lao military authorities.  They are largely located in Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, Thailand and Nong Khai Detention Center, Nong Khai, Thailand.
In August of 2007, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), U.S. Congressman Ron Kind ( D-WI ) and U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ) and a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress sent an letter appealing to His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej  the King of Thailand to seek his help to intervene and halt the repatriation of the refugees back to the Communist regime in Lao that they fled until the Lao-Hmong could be resettled in third countries.  Hundreds of the Hmong at Ban Huay Nam Khao are minority Christians and animists who fear persecution or abduction in Laos, including many Hmong children.

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