Christian families’ homes destroyed in southern Laos

10 families evicted in September were given new land elsewhere but no compensation.
By RFA Lao
2023.11.30
Christian families’ homes destroyed in southern Laos A family of six Christians lived in this home in Tang Vai Nam Village, Chonburi district, Savannakhet province, Laos, before it was destroyed in July 2023.
(Citizen journalist)

The homes of 10 Christian families were recently destroyed by local authorities and nearby residents, the latest instance of religious harassment in southern Laos.

The families were driven from three villages in Saravan Province’s Samoey District about two months ago, according to some fellow Christians and officials.

District authorities eventually arranged for new land for the families in one of the villages where they could rebuild their homes, but no compensation or financial assistance has been provided, the sources told Radio Free Asia.

“Now, the authorities have put them together in one place separated from the other villages,” a Christian who has been assisting the families with the resettlement said. 

“Our brothers and sisters have to build their own new homes,” he told RFA on Wednesday on condition of anonymity; “They can’t be on their feet yet. They don’t have much money.”

Even though Laos has a national law protecting the free exercise of faith, similar assaults on Christians have become common in the one-party communist state with a mostly Buddhist population.

In Saravane province, 15 Christians from seven families were evicted from villages between 2020 and 2021.  

Earlier this year, 15 families and a pastor were forced to leave Mai village in northwestern Luang Namtha because of their Christian beliefs. 

The village is home to many members of the Ahka minority, which has its own spiritual beliefs. But when 15 families in the village converted to Christianity, their neighbors banded together and chased them out of town.

‘Religion of foreigners’

A Christian in a different village in southern Laos said he was told to leave by security guards.

“They don’t want us to live with them,” he said. “We can’t organize any ceremony like a wedding. We’re not allowed to get together or set up loudspeakers.”

A Christian pastor in northern Laos told RFA that some villagers think Christianity is a threat to their community because it’s “the religion of foreigners.”  

In several recent cases, crimes against Christian victims have gone unsolved in Laos. 

In February 2022, attackers burned the house of a Christian ethnic family in Savannakhet province. In Khammouane province, a pastor was found dead in October 2022. His body showed signs that he had been tortured prior to his death. 

No suspects have been arrested in either case.

The Christian who has been helping the families recently evicted in Samoey District said that no one has been charged in their case as well. 

“Even though they are now living in a separate village, they still receive threats and harassment from residents of their old villages, another Christian said of the families. “They can’t live in peace.”

A Samoey District official said that setting aside land for the families was the most important way for authorities to help the families. Additionally, other villagers and village authorities have been ordered to stop their harassment, he said.

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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