Archive for December, 2010

December 30, 2010

Lao officials destroy rice paddies, expel more Christians

Katin villagers lose homes, livestock, land rights because of their faith.

By: Sarah Page
Compass Direct News
Thursday, 30 December 2010, 2:12 (EST)

DUBLIN – Officials and residents of Katin village in Ta Oih district, Saravan Province, on Sunday (Dec. 26) destroyed rice paddies farmed by 11 Christian families previously living in the village. The destruction followed the expulsion of another seven families last Thursday (Dec. 23).

Residents drained water from the rice paddies, burned fencing that protected the crop from animals and stamped on new seedlings to ensure the rice would not grow, advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reported.

“All 11 families were doing off-season farming on their old rice paddies on communally-owned village land,” a spokesman from HRWLRF told Compass. “If they don’t farm, they will most likely lose the right to work on their land. Also, they need the rice to sustain themselves.”

The fields were destroyed just a few days after the Katin village chief and other village authorities armed with guns entered the homes of another seven Christian families, totaling 15 people, and ordered them to give up their faith.

When they refused, officials marched them out of the village and warned them not to return.

Two of these families professed faith after officials expelled 11 Christian families last January, and another four families joined them after officials in July threatened to shoot any of the expelled Christians who attempted to return to Katin.

Yet another family professed allegiance to Jesus Christ after officials in late October warned that the six Christian families would be evicted in January 2011 if they held to their beliefs. (See, “Officials to Expel More Christian Families from Village,” Nov. 9)

The newly-expelled Christians then sought shelter with the 11 families who were still living at the edge of the jungle despite assurances from provincial and district officials that they had every right to remain in Katin village. (See, “Lao Officials Visit Expelled Christians, Give Assurances,” March 19.)

HRWLRF believes district-level officials may have secretly approved the expulsions.

“Village officials don’t usually do anything without informally consulting the district head,” a spokesman told Compass. “So it’s hard to believe that Katin village officials are simply acting on their own authority.”

Last Thursday’s (Dec. 23) incident was immediately reported to the Ta Oih district religious affairs office, but at press time no officials had responded.

The families whose rice paddies were destroyed also reported the incident to district agricultural and religious affairs offices, but authorities have yet to respond.

Deprived of Rights
When village officials last January expelled the 11 families, totaling 48 people, for refusing to give up their faith, the Christians built simple shelters at the edge of the jungle but suffered from a lack of adequate food and water.

Officials also destroyed their houses, confiscated livestock and essential registration documents and denied their children access to the village school.

In May, village officials granted the families permission to take rice stored in their family rice barns to ward off starvation.

Shortly afterwards, members of the 11 families returned off-season to farm their family rice paddies, adjacent to the village, in order to preserve land rights and maintain their food supplies.

Life in Communist Laos is highly communal. Residents of Katin village don’t have title deeds but are granted the right to farm plots of communally-owned land. If the land is left idle, these rights revert to the village, according to HRWLRF.

Laos is 1.5 percent Christian and 67 percent Buddhist, with the remainder unspecified. Article 6 and Article 30 of the Lao Constitution guarantee the right of Christians and other religious minorities to practice the religion of their choice without discrimination or penalty. In reality, however, other laws and policies contradict and restrict these rights, as confirmed by the U.S. State Department in its 2010 report on International Religious Freedom.

For more information, visit


More articles

– On December 23 (Lao Time) , seven Katin Christian families,
consisitng of 15 believers, expelled from their home village
(Katin) due to their Christian faith…Read More
– In November, Katin village officials threated to evict six
additional families of Christians if the Christians continue
to exercise their religious freedom and hold on to their Christian
faith… Read More
– Lao Officials Deny Schooling for 10 Children of Christian
Believers in Linsai Village Due to Christian Faith…
February 10, 2010, Advocacy Alert 02/2010…Read More
– Official Use of Weapons and Starvation to Force Katin Village
Christians  to Renounce Christian Faith… February 4, Advocacy
Alert 01/2010…Read More
– Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion
or belief, Asma Jahangir, MISSION TO THE LAO PEOPLE’S
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, 27 January 2010… Read More
– The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion
or belief, Ms. Asma Jahangir, first visit to Laos, 23 November
2009…Read More
– Laos finally ratified the International Covernant of Civil
and Political Rights…Sept 29, Bangkok Post, The Nation…Read
– Lao Authorities Jailed and Denied Access to Water, Schooling,
Protection… Sept 9, Advocacy Alert 4/2009…Read More
– Authorities in Laos Jail, Threaten to Kill Christians, Sept 11,
Compass Direct News…Read more
– Authorities in Laos Jail, Threaten to Kill Christians… Sept 14,
Religion Today… Read more
– U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
designated Laos on USCIRF Watch List 2009… Read more
– Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief plans to
visit Laos in November 2009 and January 2010…Read more
– Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or
belief on case in Boukham village, Savannakhet…Read more
– Laos in Top 10 world’s most persecuting countries, World
Watch List 2009 of Open Doors…Read more
December 30, 2010

‘Nirvana Icons: Sacred Luang Prabang’ is the world’s first exhibition of platinum-palladium prints

Photography to last


  • Published: 30/12/2010 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: Outlook

When Hans Georg Berger came to Laos almost 20 years ago, he never expected to still be living there today.

However, the ancient city of Luang Prabang has provided the photographer with the opportunity of a lifetime – to artistically document Theravada Buddhist practices and the monastic life of sangha members and laypersons in the area. In the “Nirvana Icons: Sacred Luang Prabang” exhibition at the Serindia Gallery, Berger showcases a collection of 23 photos, chosen from over 15,000 images he has taken over two decades.

This is the world’s first exhibition of platinum-palladium prints, an exceptional technology allowing the photographs to last for thousands of years.

Since the late ’80s, the German-born photographer has been focusing on world religions in his work, particularly Theravada Buddhism in Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. His work has been displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, among others. Previously, he has worked as a theatre director and playwright.

According to Berger, platinum-palladium prints are a special way of putting a black-and-white image onto paper. It’s a very ancient technique; these prints can last for thousands of years unaltered – longer than any other printing material.

“We used them not because we wanted to play with platinum, but we think that these photos are so important that they have to be produced in the most archival form possible. We think that these photos are part of the history of humanity and should be documented as such,” he said.

Besides, the artist is intrigued by the ancient city of Luang Prabang.

“It’s a royal city and also a city of Theravada Buddhism. For centuries it’s been the focus of Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia. It’s a small and beautiful town isolated in the north of Laos and for 20 years it’s been cut off from the world, he said.

“This is why I went there in 1993 when the country was opened to foreigners. It was clear Luang Prabang had something very special preserved there because of its isolation. When I came and started my work I found some learned monks who understood this and who had been thinking in the same direction. It is with them that I set up this project of community work to document the ceremonies, meditation and everyday life in the monasteries.”

The artist noted that “Nirvana” demonstrates the particularity of his work. “I work with the community I am interested in and ask them what I should photograph, how and why we should photograph it. I put my skill into their hands so they can decide what is important in their cultural context. I’m not a photographer who goes somewhere, sees something nice, goes ‘click’ and brings that back. I’m exactly the opposite of that.

“I would not dare to touch a camera if I wasn’t going to tell the lives of people. I do not want to tell my own opinion on the lives of people through photographs. I want my photographs to be part of the social and political development of a country and to help people have a better life.”

More importantly, Burger said the message of the Luang Prabang community is that they have a very strong cultural identity. “They have survived one of the most difficult centuries of their history – civil war, revolution, bombings – but they are greatly surviving with dignity. They have a future.”

However, the city has accommodated changes in recent years.

“When I came there, they had only two cars and not one motorbike. Now they have thousands of motorbikes so there’s traffic. There are no traffic lights yet, though.

But the situation has changed. Now the young people there are able to find work, there’s a decent hospital, there are new schools and there is access to the information of the world.”

Burger said he is involved in several projects with the Buddhist Heritage Project of the sangha of Luang Prabang.

“Currently, we working on a project with the British Library. We have discovered over 3,500 photographs the Lao monks have been taking of themselves for the past 120 years, so we are digitising and archiving them. It’s one of the greatest discoveries in the history of photography.

He is also completing a project about Shi’ite Islam in Iran and another about early Christian churches in Palestine and Syria. He moves between these places where he is working.

“But Luang Prabang is a very important place for me. I’ve been received there with such generosity and friendliness that it’s difficult for me to go away.”

‘Nirvana Icons: Sacred Luang Prabang’ is on view at the Serindia Gallery until January 16 and will soon be on display in San Francisco and Paris next year. A percentage of proceeds from the sale of photographs go to the Buddhist Heritage Project of the Luang Prabang monks. Visit

About the author

Writer: Barbara Woolsey
Position: Writer

Nirvanic Icons: Exhibition Openings

นิทรรศการ ภาพถ่ายพลาตินัม “แลรูปสู่นิพพาน: วิถีพุทธแห่งหลวงพระบาง”

25 NOVEMBER 2010 – 16 JANUARY 2011
25 พฤศจิกายน 2553 – 16 มกราคม 2554

Nirvanic Icons: Sacred Luang Prabang, an exhibition of platinum prints by Hans Georg Berger, explores Theravada Buddhism in present-day Laos, offering an artistic perspective on the lives of the Buddhist Sangha and laypersons of Luang Prabang. For over two decades, from 1993 to today, Berger, a photographic artist-documentarian, has created a unique photographic documentation of Lao Buddhist culture. The photographs shown in this exhibition are done in “platinum prints” format, a century-old photographic process that has been used by great masters of photography. It has been called the “king of visual print” for its exceptional refinement, its expanded tonal range, and a unique luminous quality. This exhibition combines the images of an ancient Buddhist tradition with the most subtle of all techniques in photographic print-making — a distinct combination that has never before been done in such a scale.


December 29, 2010

Thailand: ค้าชายแดน 11 เดือนพุ่ง 7.1แสนล้าน


29 ธันวาคม 2553 เวลา 20:49 น.

ค้าชายแดนเฟื่องฟู 11 เดือน พุ่งทะลุ 7.12 แสนล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 23.75% เหตุจากการเปิดเสรีอาฟตา ช่วยดันการค้าชายแดนให้สูงขึ้น และเศรษฐกิจประเทศเพื่อนบ้านฟื้นตัว

นางสาวผ่องพรรณ เจียรวิริยะพันธ์ รองอธิบดีกรมการค้าต่างประเทศ เปิดเผยว่า การค้าชายแดนไทยกับประเทศเพื่อนบ้าน ในช่วง 11 เดือนของปี 2553 (ม.ค.-พ.ย.) มีมูลค่ารวม 7.12 แสนล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 23.7% เป็นการส่งออก 4.43 แสนล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 35.5% และนำเข้า 2.68 แสนล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 8% โดยไทยเป็นฝ่ายได้ดุลการค้า 1.74 แสนล้านบาท

“ปัจจัยสำคัญที่ทำให้ยอดการค้าชายแดนในช่วง 11 เดือน ยังคงขยายตัวได้ต่อเนื่อง เพราะได้รับผลดีมาจากการเปิดเขตการค้าเสรีอาเซียน (อาฟตา) ที่มีการลดภาษีนำเข้าสินค้ากว่า 8,300 รายการเหลือ 0% ตั้งแต่วันที่ 1 ม.ค.2553 ประกอบกับประเทศเพื่อนบ้านได้ฟื้นตัวจากภาวะวิกฤตเศรษฐกิจ ทำให้มีความต้องการสินค้าเพิ่มขึ้นตามภาวะเศรษฐกิจ จึงมีการซื้อสินค้าไทยมากขึ้น” นางสาวผ่องพรรณ กล่าว

ทั้งนี้ การส่งออกตามแนวชายแดนที่เพิ่มขึ้น เป็นการส่งออกไปมาเลเซียมากที่สุด โดยมีมูลค่าส่งออก 2.92 แสนล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 66% รองลงมา ได้แก่ ลาว ส่งออกมูลค่า 5.77 หมื่นล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 13% พม่า มูลค่า 4.63 หมื่นล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 10.4% และกัมพูชา มูลค่า 4.67 หมื่นล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 10.5% โดยสินค้าส่งออกที่มีมูลค่าสูงสุด 5 อันดับแรก ได้แก่ ยางพารา เครื่องคอมพิวเตอร์และส่วนประกอบ ผลิตภัณฑ์ยาง รถยนต์และส่วนประกอบ และน้ำมันดีเซล

ขณะที่นำเข้า เป็นการนำเข้าจากมาเลเซียมากที่สุด โดยมีมูลค่านำเข้า 1.63 แสนล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 60.9% รองลงมา ได้แก่ พม่า นำเข้า 8.03 หมื่นล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 29.9% ลาว นำเข้า 2.1 หมื่นล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 7.8% และกัมพูชา นำเข้า 3,854.8 ล้านบาท เพิ่มขึ้น 1.4% โดยสินค้าที่มีมูลค่านำเข้าสูงสุด 5 อันดับแรก ได้แก่ ก๊าซธรรมชาติ ส่วนประกอบคอมพิวเตอร์ สื่อบันทึกข้อมูล ภาพ เสียง เทปและจานแม่เหล็กทองแดงและผลิตภัณฑ์

สำหรับดุลการค้า ไทยได้ดุลการค้าชายแดน 1.74 แสนล้านบาท โดยได้เปรียบดุลการค้ากับมาเลเซีย 1.29 แสนล้านบาท ลาว 3.67 หมื่นล้านบาท กัมพูชา 4.28 หมื่นล้านบาท แต่ขาดดุลการค้ากับพม่า 3.39 หมื่นล้านบาท เนื่องจากมีการนำเข้าก๊าซธรรมชาติจากพม่าทางจังหวัดกาญจนบุรี และการนำเข้าสัตว์น้ำทางจังหวัดระนอง

December 29, 2010

Message for International Migrants Day, 18 December 2010


On 4 December 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day. On 18 December 1990, the General Assembly had adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

UN Member States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are invited to observe International Migrants Day through the dissemination of information on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, and through the sharing of experiences and the design of actions to ensure their protection.

The 132 Member States that participated in the General Assembly’s High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development on 14-15 September 2006 reaffirmed a number of key messages. First, they underscored that international migration was a growing phenomenon and that it could make a positive contribution to development in countries of origin and countries of destination provided it was supported by the right policies. Secondly, they emphasized that respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all migrants was essential to reap the benefits of international migration. Thirdly, they recognized the importance of strengthening international cooperation on international migration bilaterally, regionally and globally.


UN refugee agency calls on Thailand not to forcibly return Myanmar nationals


Two women refugees and their children in one of the camps on the Thailand-Myanmar border

28 December 2010 – The United Nations refugee agency today urged Thailand not to forcibly return a group of some 166 Myanmar nationals who fled their country amid renewed fighting and are currently seeking temporary protection from the Royal Government.

On 25 December, the Thai authorities asked the group from Myanmar to return to their villages from the Wa Lay temporary site, located at the Pob Phra District in Tak Province, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The group, which includes 50 women and over 70 children, told UNHCR that they were not ready to return because of security concerns. Many of them had already fled their villages more than once since early November after fighting erupted.

UNHCR urged the Thai Government to adhere to the internationally accepted principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits returns to a situation of danger.

“While strongly appreciating Thailand’s continued policy to allow access to its territory for Myanmar nationals when fighting occurs, UNHCR appeals to the Royal Thai Government that returns should take place on a strictly voluntary basis, and only when conditions are in place to return in safety and dignity,” the Geneva-based agency stated.

“While the majority of Myanmar nationals currently seeking temporary protection in Thailand express their wish to return their villages of origin when conditions permit, they should be allowed to make a free and fully informed decision when to do so,” it added.

UNHCR said it has already voiced its concern to the Thai authorities over the “hasty manner” in which some returns took place, where some persons returned home only to have to flee again when fighting resumed shortly afterwards.

In November UNHCR assisted over 15,000 refugees who fled into northern Thailand after fighting broke out between ethnic Karen rebels and government troops in the Myawaddy area of Myanmar.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue



UNHCR urges Thailand against forced returns to Myanmar


Press Releases, 28 December 2010

Geneva, Tuesday 28 December 2010

The UN refugee agency is concerned over the circumstances of the return of some 166 Myanmar nationals seeking temporary protection from Thailand on 25 December, urging the Royal Thai government to adhere to the internationally accepted principle of non-refoulement (which prohibits returns to a situation of danger).

On Christmas Day, the Thai authorities asked the group of recently displaced from Myanmar to return to their villages from the Wa Lay temporary site, located at the Pob Phra District in Tak Province.

The group which included 50 women and over 70 children informed UNHCR that they were not ready to return because of security concerns. Many among them had fled their villages of origin already more than once since early November 2010 when fighting erupted in these areas.

While strongly appreciating Thailand’s continued policy to allow access to its territory for Myanmar nationals when fighting occurs, UNHCR appeals to the Royal Thai Government that returns should take place on a strictly voluntary basis, and only when conditions are in place to return in safety and dignity.

These conditions were not met on December 25 and in the past few weeks, UNHCR had already expressed its concern to the Royal Thai Government over the hasty manner in which some returns took place, where some persons returned home only to have to flee again when fighting resumed shortly afterwards.

While the majority of Myanmar nationals currently seeking temporary protection in Thailand express their wish to return their villages of origin when conditions permit, they should be allowed to make a free and fully informed decision when to do so.


December 29, 2010

Report: Laos deports Uighurs back to China


The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 28, 2010; 11:43 PM

BEIJING — A media report says Laos has deported seven Uighurs who fled China after ethnic riots last year, raising concerns over the treatment of Uighurs forcibly returned to face prosecution by the Chinese government.

The U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia said that the Laotian government arrested Memet Eli Rozi, his wife Gulbahar Sadiq, and their five children in the country in March and deported them back to China. The report was based on an interview conducted last week with Gulbahar Sadiq, who was now back in western Xinjiang.

The new information has emerged a year after Cambodia’s controversial deportation in December 2009 of 20 Uighurs who had sought asylum there after fleeing deadly ethnic riots in Xinjiang’s capital earlier that year.

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