Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

The top economies of 2012: From Macau to Laos, with China in between

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.economist.com/blogs/theworldin2012/2011/12/top-economies-2012

Dec 30th 2011, 19:22 by J.A.

“LIES, damn lies and statistics”, as Britain’s Benjamin Disraeli supposedly said—and Mark Twain definitely said. The phrase came to Cassandra’s mind when ruminating on the “world in figures” section of The World in 2012, in particular when looking at the predicted rankings for economic growth in the year ahead.

I have no quarrel with the figures themselves, all drawn from the acknowledged number-crunchers at the Economist Intelligence Unit. But as Bobby Kennedy famously said in his 1968 speech at the University of Kansas:

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

With Kennedy’s words in mind a 15% growth rate for Macau—a tiny gambling haven for punters from Hong Kong and China—is meaningless.  And should we really be impressed by the figures for Libya and Iraq, since they so clearly reflect a virtually automatic bounce-back from war? Much more significant in Cassandra’s view is the healthy 8.2% prediction for China. That may, of course, reflect a boom that eventually must burst (The World in 2012 worries about China’s growing debt), but with the  economies of the western world in the doldrums we had better keep our fingers crossed that the prediction proves right.

December 29, 2011

OPINION: No Christmas for Lao Christians

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/No-Christmas-for-Lao-Christians-30172761.html

December 28, 2011 1:00 am

Again this year, many Christians in Laos are prohibited from celebrating Christmas, or are being arrested and imprisoned for seeking to practice their faith independent of government control.

Lao and Hmong Christians continue to be arrested, imprisoned and tortured in Laos by security forces and the army.

On December 21, authorities of Natoo village, Phalansay district, Savannakhet province threatened four leaders of a community of 47 Christians and “chased them from the village unless they renounced their faith”. This intimidation happened less than a week after authorities of Boukham village, Adsaphanthong district, Savannakhet province, arrested eight leaders of a community of 200 Christians for having organised Christmas celebrations, although a formal authorisation had already been obtained. The arrested persons are still in prison, their hands and legs blocked by wooden stocks.

On January 4, 2011 the police of Nakoon village, Hinboun district, Khammouane province arrested nine Christians for having celebrated Christmas without authorisation. To this day, Pastor Vanna and Pastor Yohan are imprisoned.

On March 28, 2011 four Christians of Phoukong village, Viengkham district, Luang Prabang province were arrested for “spreading foreign religion and evading Lao traditional religion”. In the same village on July 11 another Christian, Mr Vong Veu, was arrested for having chosen the Christian religion, and is still imprisoned.

On July 16, 10 Christians were forced by the authorities to leave their village in Nonsavang, Thapangthong district, Savannakhet province after they refused to renounce their religion. They took refuge in their rice fields, building a temporary bamboo shelter, but were chased away at the end of August, with the warning that they could return to the village only if they renounced their religion.

The Lao Movement for Human Rights firmly condemns these basic human rights violations that are contrary to the International Conventions ratified by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and contrary to the LPDR Constitution’s provisions on religious freedom. The Lao Movement for Human Rights asks the Lao government to implement its international engagements related to the UN agreements on human rights with the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners detained for their faith or their opinion and in ending all forms of religious repression.

Philip Smith

Washington, DC

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE

International Communique: No Christmas in Laos For Persecuted Christians

Washington, D.C., Paris, France and Vientiane, Laos, December 25, 2011
Center for Public Policy Analysis
info@centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

The Lao Movement for Human Rights, the Center for Public Policy Analysis, and a coalition of Laotian and Hmong non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have issued a statement and international communique, on Christmas Day, to raise awareness about ongoing religious persecution in Laos directed against Christian believers in the Southeast Asian nation.

“Sadly, Laotian and Hmong Christians continue to be arrested, imprisoned and tortured in Laos by security forces and the army,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis. “Again this year, many Protestant Christians and Roman Catholic believers in Laos are prohibited from celebrating Christmas, or are being arrested and imprisoned for seeking to practice their religious faith independent of government monitoring and control.”
http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

The Paris, France – based Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), in cooperation with the CPPA and other NGOs issued the following international communique on Christmas Day in English and French:

“ LAOS : MERRY CHRISTMAS TO CHRISTIANS WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF THREATS, INTIMIDATION AND ARREST,” the LMHR proclaimed.

“On this day of joy, love and hope for Christians in the whole world, the Lao Movement for Human Rights wishes a Merry Christmas to the Christian community of Laos, particularly to those Christians arrested in the year 2011 and still detained to this day in the prisons of the Lao People’s Demcratic Republic (LPDR). The Lao Movement for Human Rights expresses its deep concerns on the plight of the Christians in LPDR, victims of threats and arrests in different provinces in the course of 2011, until these last days which were marked by an intimidation campaign aiming to prevent them from celebrating Christmas.

“On 21 December 2011, authorities of Natoo village, Phalansay district, Savannakhet province (South) threatened four leaders of a community of forty seven Christians and ‘’chasing them from the village unless they renounce their faith’’. This intimidation happened less than a week after authorities of Boukham village (3 km from Natou), Adsaphanthong district, Savannakhet province, arrested eight leaders of a community of 200 Christians —- Mr. Phouphet, Mr Oun, Mr Somphong, Mr Ma, Mr Kai, Mr Wanta, Mr Kingmanosorn and Mrs Kaithong — for having organized Christmas celebrations although a formal authorization has already been obtained. If Mr kingmanosone was freed after a caution paid by the ‘’Lao Evangelical Church’’, the only Anglican Church recognised by the LPDR, the other persons are still in prison, their hand and legs blocked by wooden stocks.

“ Just like the other past years, the LPDR government has not given a rest to the Christians who have continued to suffer in 2011. The list is long. The Lao Movement for Human Rights recalls some cases :

“ On January 4th, 2011, the police of Nakoon village, Hinboun district, Khammouane province (Centre) arrested nine Christians for ‘’having celebrated Christmas without authorization’’. To this day, pastor Vanna and Pastor Yohan are still continually imprisoned.

“ On March28th, 2011, four Christians of Phoukong village, Viengkham district, Luang Prabang province (North) were arrested for ‘’spreading foreign religion and evading Lao traditional religion’’. In the same village, on July 11th, 2011, another Christian, Mr Vong Veu, was arrested for having chosen the Christian religion and is imprisoned until this day.

“ In Luang Namtha province (North), Namtha district, village of Sounya, four Christians — Mr Seng Aroun, Mr Souchiad, Mr Naikouang and Mr Kofa — were arrested on July 10th, 2011 , for ‘’ having practiced Christianism’.


“On July 16th, 2011, ten Christians were forced by the authorities to leave their village Nonsavang, Thapangthong district, Savannakhet province (South), after they refused to renounce their religion. These persons, including women and children, took refuge in their rice fields, 3 km from the village, by building a temporary bamboo shelter, but then, were again chased from their rice fields at the end of August 2011, with the promises that they could return to the village the day they renounce their religion.

“ The Lao Movement for Human Rights firmly condemns these basic human rights violations against the Lao people, that are contrary to the International Conventions ratified by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and contrary to the LPDR Constitution’s provisions on ’’religious freedom.’
“The Lao Movement for Human Rights asks the LPDR government to implement its international engagements and agreements related to the United Nations on Human Rights with the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners detained for their faith or their opinion and in ending all forms of religious repression,” the LMHR statement concluded.

The international coalition of Laotian and Hmong non-governmental organizations (NGOs) joining in support of the statement and international communique include the LMHR, the CPPA, Hmong Advancement, Inc., Hmong Advance, Inc., the United League for Democracy in Laos, United Lao for Human Rights and Democracy , the Laos Institute for Democracy, Inc., Laos Students for Democracy, the Lao Veterans of America and others.

From CPPA
In French:


Communiqué



LAOS : JOYEUX NOËL AUX CHRETIENS VICTIMES DE MENACES , D ’INTIMIDATIONS ET D’ARRESTATIONS


En ce jour de joie, d’amour et d’espérance pour la chrétienté du monde entier, le Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme ( MLDH), présente ses vœux de Joyeux Noël à la communauté chrétienne du Laos, et plus particulièrement aux chrétiens laotiens arrêtés au cours de l’année 2011 et encore détenus à cette date dans les prisons de la République Démocratique Populaire Lao (RDPL).


Le MLDH exprime ses profondes inquiétudes sur le sort des chrétiens en RDPL, victimes de menaces et d’arrestations dans divers provinces au cours de cette année 2001, jusqu’à ces derniers jours marqués par une campagne d’intimidations visant à les empêcher de célébrer Noël.

Ainsi, le 21 décembre 2011, les autorités du village de Natou, district de Phalansay, province de Savannakhet (Sud), ont convoqué quatre responsables d’une communauté de quarante sept chrétiens du village, menaçant de les ’chasser du village à moins qu’ils ne renoncent à la pratique de leur foi’’.

Cet événement intervient moins d’une semaine après que les autorités du village Boukham ( localisé à cinq kilomètres de Natou), district Adsaphangthong, province de Savannakhet, ont arrêté huit responsables d’une communauté de 200 chrétiens — MM. Phouphet, Oun, Somphong, Ma, Kai, Wanta, Kingmanosorn et Mme Kaithong — pour avoir organisé les célébrations de Noël, malgré une autorisation déjà obtenue en bonne et due forme. Si Mr Kingmanosone a été libéré sous caution payée par le ‘’Lao Evangelical Church’’, seule église protestante reconnue par la RDPL, les sept autres sont toujours en détention, leurs mains et pieds bloqués dans des carcans en bois

Comme les autres années, le gouvernement de la RDPL n’a pas donné de répit aux chrétiens qui n’ont pas fini de souffrir en 2011 La liste est longue. Le MLDH en rappelle quelques cas :

* Le 4 janvier 2011, la police du village de Nakoun, district de Hinboun, province de Khammouane (Centre), a arrêté manu militari neuf chrétiens pour avoir ‘’célébré Noël sans autorisation’’. A ce jour, le pasteur Vanna et le pasteur Yohan sont toujours emprisonnés.

* Le 28 mars 2011, quatre chrétiens du village de Phoukong, district de Viengkham, province de LuangPrabang (Nord) ont été détenus pour avoir ‘’propagé la religion chrétienne’’. Dans le même village, le 11 juillet 2011, un autre chrétien, Mr Vong Veu a été arrêté pour avoir choisi la religion chrétienne, et reste à ce jour en prison pour avoir refusé de renoncer à sa foi.

*Dans la province de Luang Namtha, district Namtha, le village de Sounya, quatre chrétiens, MM. Seng Aroun, Souchiad, Naikouang et Kofa sont arrêtés le 10 juillet 2011 pour ‘’avoir pratiqué de la chrétienté’’.

*Le 16 juillet 2011, dix chrétiens ont été chassés du village Nonsavang, district de Thapangthonh, province de Savannakhet (Sud) par les autorités après qu’ils aient refusé de renoncer à la pratique de leur religion. Ces personnes, incluant femmes et enfants, se sont réfugiés dans leurs rizières ( à 3 kms du village) en construisant des abris en bambous. Fin août 2011, ils furent également chassés de leurs rizières, avec la promesses qu’ils pourraient retourner au village lorsqu’ils auront quitté leur religion.

Le Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme condamne fermement ces violations des droits fondamentaux de la population laotienne, contraires aux Conventions Internationales ratifiées par la République Démocratique Populaire Lao, et contraires à la Constitution de la RDPL traitant de “la liberté religieuse”.

Le MLDH exige au gouvernement de respecter ses engagements internationaux liés à la déclaration des Nations Unies sur les Droits de l’Homme en procédant à la libération immédiate et inconditionnelle de tous les prisonniers détenus en raison de leur opinion ou de leur croyance et en mettant fin à toute répression religieuse.


end.

December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Voices for the Laotian Who do not have Voices


I wish to all friends Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

I wanted to express my sincere thanks for your interest over the years for the

Voices for the Laotian Who do not have Voices.

Again, happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year.

This holiday is the perfect time to give thanks to the men and women in uniform and the families who support them.

Please join me in thanking our troops, military families and veterans for their service and sacrifice to protect our country.

Happy Holidays!

Stay Connected

December 24, 2011

Lao Officials: Give Up Your Faith Or Face Eviction

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.eurasiareview.com/23122011-lao-officials-give-up-your-faith-or-face-eviction/

Written by:

December 23, 2011

By Sarah Page

Nearly 50 Christians await their fate today after officials in Natoo village, southern Laos, on Wednesday (Dec. 21) summoned four of their leaders and warned that they would evict the entire church “within 24 hours” if they refused to give up their faith.

Officials told the Christians they had forfeited their right to live in the village because of their faith, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reported.

Established just two years ago, the church in Natoo village, Palansai district of Savannakhet Province meets every week in the home of church leader Sompu. The forty-seven members include men, women and children belonging to four extended families.

Immediately after the discussion with Natoo officials, Sompu reported the incident to sub-district police, but at press time district officials had not intervened, according to HRWLRF.

“We are alarmed because the police and military seem to have taken over authority from the religious affairs department in Savannakhet,” a spokesman from HRWLRF told Compass.

Religious affairs staff should take action, he added, because village officials have violated Lao law, the Constitution and international human rights standards by threatening eviction on the basis of religious belief.

The Natoo eviction notice came less than a week after officials in Boukham village, just five kilometers away from Natoo, arrested eight church leaders for organizing a Christmas event attended by some 200 Christians. The arrests – and putting seven of the leaders in wooden stocks – came even though Christians had secured permission for the event.

Two of the church leaders have since been released after paying steep fines, the first on Sunday (Dec. 18) and the second one this morning, according to a source who preferred to go unnamed.

“We are at a critical juncture,” the HRWLRF spokesman told Compass. “Persecution is likely to spread without strong intervention from central government.”

HRWLRF strongly suspects the involvement of higher-level officials in these incidents.

“It is unheard of that a village headquarters would have access to wooden stocks – they have to obtain them from district or provincial authorities,” the spokesman explained. “So it’s clear that the arrest in Boukham was pre-planned and was approved by at least the district officials and possibly provincial authorities as well.”

Police List

Six of the eight church leaders arrested in Boukham were still detained in wooden stocks at press time.

Representatives of the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC), the only Protestant denomination recognized by the Lao government, on Sunday (Dec. 18) paid a fine of 1 million kip (US$123) to secure the release of the eighth leader, identified by the single name Kingmanosorn, who pastors a church in Savannakhet city.

A second detainee was released yesterday after paying the same fine, a source who preferred to go unnamed told Compass today.

“Seven of the eight leaders initially detained in Boukham were on a police list to be arrested for the Christmas event,” a spokesman from HRWLRF told Compass. “The police had been following them because they were actively building the church and spreading the faith. However, Kingmanosorn was not on the list.”

Last year, when Boukham officials gave permission for a Christmas event, the village chief spoke to the 70-odd Christians who had gathered and gave them his blessing. In December 2009, however, officials tore down the tent where some 40 Christians had gathered to celebrate Christmas. At that time there were no arrests.

In July 2008, district police stormed into the home of Pastor Sompong in Boukham and ordered the approximately 60 Christians present to cease worshipping God or face imprisonment. When they refused, officials arrested Sompong, three other leaders identified as Kai, Sisompu and Phuphet, and Kunkham, the 17-year-old daughter of Phuphet. Police took all five to a district prison and charged them with spreading the Christian faith and conducting a religious meeting without permission.

Police released them two days later after Christians from Savannakhet city intervened, arguing that the Boukham Christians were neither spreading their faith nor holding a public meeting – but simply worshiping God in a private residence. The five were ordered to pay a fine of 350,000 kip (then US$42) for expenses related to the arrest.

Officials re-arrested Sompong along with two other leaders in August 2008. Although Boukham’s chief had threatened to sentence them to life terms in a maximum security prison and ordered family members to renounce their faith, local and international advocacy efforts secured their release in October 2008.

The present chief of Boukham has been in office for just six months and has not shown any antagonism towards Christian residents until now, HRWLRF told Compass.

About the author:Compass Direct News is a news service dedicated to providing exclusive news, penetrating reports, moving interviews and insightful analyses of situations and events facing Christians persecuted for their faith.
December 23, 2011

Activists concerned for returned Lao Hmong refugee

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2011/s3397430.htm

Zoe Daniel reported this story on Friday, December 23, 2011 18:22:00

TIM PALMER: Thailand has forcibly returned a registered refugee to Laos for the second time in violation of international law. Ka Yang was one of a group of refugees offered resettlement by a number of countries, including Australia, but he was forcibly deported by Thailand on Christmas Eve 2009.

He subsequently fled Laos again and was in hiding in Thailand until he and his family were arrested by immigration authorities earlier this year. Ka Yang is part of the persecuted Hmong minority, and human rights groups hold grave fears for his safety in Laos, as Southeast Asia correspondent, Zoe Daniel, reports from Bangkok.

ZOE DANIEL: It was an incident that attracted attention from around the world – 158 declared Hmong refugees who are known to face persecution in Laos were deported by Thailand anyway. Sent back into danger on December 24th, 2009.

Various countries, including Australia, had asked for their release and offered resettlement. But regional politics won out over humanity.

Human Rights Watch spokesman, Phil Robertson.

PHIL ROBERTSON: Unfortunately we don’t have an answer from the Thai government, which is continuing to maintain a silence about this. What we suspect is this is connected to Thai-Lao bilateral relations; the Thai trying to prove to the Lao government that their past support for the Hmong is now ended.

And unfortunately Ka Yang and his family and other Hmong refugees are pawns in this game.

ZOE DANIEL: Ka Yang was one of the group, despite a standing offer of resettlement in the United States, he’s still on the run. Having snuck out of Laos again, he and his family were again hiding in Thailand until they were again picked up by immigration authorities earlier this year.

Now, on the eve of Christmas, they’ve been again sent back, twice victims of refoulement which is supposed to prohibit countries from forcibly returning people to a place where their life or freedom is threatened.

Phil Robertson.

PHIL ROBERTSON: Countries including Australia, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, had all offered them refugee resettlement. So Ka Yang actually has a pending resettlement offer from the United States to go to the United States. Unfortunately, the Thai government is not allowing him to exercise that and now have, of course, aborted that a possibility by again deporting him back to Laos.

Unfortunately the problem also is that the Thai government doesn’t have a recognition of refugee status under national law. Persons who are UNHCR (United Nations Human Rights Commissioner) registered refugees are considered by the Thai authorities when they meet them, to be undocumented migrants. There is no provision in Thai law for refugee status.

ZOE DANIEL: Which sort of puts paid to the whole UNHCR process; I mean there’s not much point having a refugee status according to one organisation if others don’t recognise that?

PHIL ROBERTSON: Well, I mean UNHCR does what it can. In this instance they were trying to negotiate with the Thais to not send him back. The US government through their embassy here was also doing the same. Unfortunately the Thai government was not in the mood to listen.

And sometimes it works that UNHCR can prevail on the Thais to cut some people a break or, if they have refugee status, to allow them to go to a third country once that third country actually puts the offer on the table.

But in the case of the Lao Hmong this is a particularly sensitive issue between the Thais and the Laos. And as a I said, the Thais appear to be willing to give short shrift to their obligations under international law on protection of refugees in order to make and build closer ties with the Lao government.

ZOE DANIEL: Ka Yang’s whereabouts is now unknown. His only option may be to again attempt to reach Thailand and international help before he’s once again deported.

In Bangkok, this is Zoe Daniel reporting for PM.

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