Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

January 16, 2015

Christians Tortured, Killed in Communist-Controlled Laos

Christians Tortured, Killed in Communist-Controlled Laos

Global persecution of Christians on the rise
BY:   |  January 9, 2015 12:21 pm
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://freebeacon.com/national-security/christians-tortured-killed-in-communist-controlled-laos/

Christians in the communist state of Laos were arrested, tortured, and killed over the Christmas holiday in the latest sign of more repressive conditions for Christians worldwide.

As first noted by the Wall Street Journal, the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington has tracked the worsening environment for Laotian Christians of the Hmong ethnic minority. CPPA’s executive director says the Communist Party in Laos is working with Vietnamese authorities to stifle any religious worship not sanctioned by the state:

“Intensified religious freedom violations directed against ethnic Laotian and Hmong Christian believers are increasingly violent and egregious, with independent religious ceremonies and Christmas celebrations prohibited, or under attack, by the Lao military and security forces,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. “In the latest crackdown, Lao and Hmong Christians, and Animist, believers have been arrested, tortured, killed, or have simply disappeared, on a systematic and more frequent basis, as the Marxist government of Laos, working in coordination with the Vietnam People’s Army and authorities in Hanoi, continues its policy of attacking independent religious believers who wish to worship freely outside of state-controlled, and state-monitored, religious institutions.”

“Clearly, under these dark and grim conditions, there is still no Christmas in Laos for those who seek to celebrate and worship outside of the watchful eye of the military, secret police and communist authorities in Vientiane and Hanoi,” Smith stated.

“It is also clear, and unfortunate, that the current Stalinist government in Laos is unwilling to cooperate on the many international appeals for the release of prominent political dissidents and prisoners, including Sombath Somphone, the Lao Students’ Movement for Democracy protesters, and significant numbers of Hmong refugees,” Smith concluded.

The Christian watchdog group Open Doors said in its annual report, released this week, that global persecution of Christians increased last year, especially at the hands of Islamic extremists.

January 10, 2015

Vietnamese Bank Official (Almost) Makes Off With Lao Buddha Statue

RFA. Thursday 15th January, 2015

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php/sid/229412883

vietnamese bank official (almost) makes off with lao buddha statue

A Vietnamese bank executive managed to get his hands on a Buddhist statue believed to be about 500 years old from a Lao Buddhist temple in the capital Vientiane–but only for five hours.

It all started last year when Ha Bac Tran, chairman and general director of the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) headquartered in Hanoi, visited Ongtue Wat in Mixay village near the Mekong River in the capital’s Chanthaburi district. He was accompanied by a deputy minister from Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense.

BIDV, which provides banking products and services to individuals, corporate customers and financial institutions in Vietnam, also has business interests in Laos where it owns a joint venture–Laos-Viet Bank (LVB)–with its partner Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao, according to the . LVB is one of the large-scale commercial banks operating in Laos.

The two banks have given millions of U.S. dollars to Laos for social welfare activities, such as health care, education and poverty reduction. Last October, they gave U.S. $300,000 to the Lao National Assembly, or parliament to build clean water tankers and provide medical equipment to ethnic minorities in Saysomboun province near Vientiane, according to local reports.

It was during this initial visit to Ongtue Wat, which houses one of the country’s largest bronze Buddhas, that Tran is believed to have expressed an interest in acquiring a particular 500-year-old Buddha statue, according to Sayadej Vongsopha, a monk who teaches at Sangha College in Vientiane, which plays a vital role in Buddhist education in the country.

After Tran returned to Vietnam, he had his bank send an official letter to the temple’s abbot, requesting the statue.

The abbot agreed to give it to him, and Sayadej, who is also personal secretary to the president of the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organization, notified the religious affairs department at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism as well as the high-ranking abbot of Wat Sisakhet, Vientiane’s oldest surviving monastery, about the deal.

The ministry’s religious affairs department referred the matter to the heritage department, which investigated the statue and found that it had been registered for national heritage status, and therefore, should not be taken out of the country.

Although Tran insisted that he should have the statue, the heritage department disagreed, but indicated that it was willing to offer an unregistered statue or make a new one for him, Sayadej told RFA’s Lao Service.

Religious pilgrimage

When the Lao Buddhist Lent period rolled around last July, Tran made a religious pilgrimage to Ongtue Wat and donated U.S. $10,000 to the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organization.

Buddhist Lent Day, or Wan Khao Phansa, marks the start of a retreat period where monks must stay in a particular temple for three lunar months and refrain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

The monks at Ongtue Wat saw Tran’s donation as a sign of not-so-subtle pressure to turn over the statue to him, said Sayadej, who was living at the temple at the time.

When word got out, locals who live in the area were outraged at what they saw as yet another ploy by the Vietnamese to come into the country and take whatever they want.

The Lao people harbor some animosity towards their much larger neighbor, the second-largest investor in the country after China. Lao critics say the Vietnamese disregard their land rights, their livelihoods and their religious beliefs while profiting at their expense.

Vietnam Rubber Group, which operates rubber plantations in Laos, for example, has come under fire from locals and rights groups for grabbing land from communities with little or no compensation, taking over burial grounds and sacred forests, and damaging the environment.

A collector?

On Jan. 9, some BIDV employees arrived at Ongtue Wat, took the statue, loaded it into a vehicle, and drove away, offending locals even more because the Buddha was removed without a proper and dignified religious ceremony.

Boualone Dalavongsaen, Chanthabouly district governor, called a meeting with the leaders of local villages and monks and religious organizations about the Vietnamese bank employees removing the Buddha statue, Mixay villagers told RFA.

One source familiar with the matter and the goings-on at Ongtue Wat, but who declined to be named, told RFA that he believes Tran is a collector and likely wanted the statue to sell rather than for religious purposes.

“It is impossible that the statue was obtained for prayers and religion because of the way that the Vietnamese people who came to take it out of the temple showed that they do not respect the statue as sacred the way that Lao people do,” he said. “Without any rituals, they carried the statue and put it into a truck and drove away.”

He went on to say: “I am afraid that they [the Vietnamese] likely collect ancient items for commercial purposes. It isn’t necessary for them to take Buddha statues from Laos because in Vietnam there are many Buddha statues to pray to.”

Local media in Laos told RFA they have not covered the event, because they are controlled by the information ministry, and some news agencies have ties to LVB.

But a source at the information ministry, who has knowledge of the matter but declined to be named, told RFA that a high-ranking ministry official had agreed to give the statue to Tran because his bank does business in Laos and is a partner in the LVB joint venture.

Nevertheless, after news had gotten out among local residents, some of whom saw the statue being taken away, the Lao information minister ordered the Vietnamese bank employees to return it to Ongtue Wat five hours after they had taken it.

Copyright 1998-2014, RFA. Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

January 3, 2015

Analysis: Thailand’s Political Crisis Could Hinge on Who’s in the Palace

 NBC News

2014 YEAR IN REVIEW

23 STORIES
STORYLINEThe stories, newsmakers, videos and images that defined 2014.

———————————-

Analysis: Thailand’s Political Crisis Could Hinge on Who’s in the Palace

BANGKOK — Seven months after seizing power, Thailand’s military rulers appear to be in no hurry to hand over political control. There is talk that elections won’t take place before 2016.

As they settle in for the long haul, Thailand’s gaffe-prone generals have been focused on their mission to “return happiness to the people.” Coup leader and now Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has written a sentimental ballad by that name and every Friday appears on his one-man television show to remind Thais of their duties — which don’t include deploying a “Hunger Games” salute.

That three-fingered gesture — adopted from the popular films — has been adopted by those protesting military rule. Students who’ve dared to flash it have been detained and sent for “attitude adjustment.”

However, as the year draws to a close, it is palace intrigue and not Thailand’s increasingly eccentric generals who are the talk of Bangkok — albeit in hushed or oblique tones because of draconian laws that limit open discussion of the monarchy.

Among a number of senior police officers arrested in late November for alleged corruption and defaming the monarchy were the uncle and three brothers of Princess Srirasmi.

Srirasmi — who was in line to be Queen of Thailand — was stripped of her royal title and promptly divorced by her husband, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The royal couple were married in 2001 and have one son. Now that Vajiralongkorn has split from Srirasmi, his third wife, many suspect he will soon wed his Munich-based mistress — with whom he has another son.

The marital (and extra-marital) adventures of the Crown Prince might well have been dismissed as nothing new if not for one thing: timing. Maneuvering for Thailand’s royal succession has been one of the key factors driving a decade of political conflict in the southeast Asian nation — and now it appears that succession may be imminent.

Image: Princess Srirasm, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti and Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkornon
RUNGROJ YONGRIT / EPA file

Thai Princess Srirasmi, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and their son Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti on Dec. 5, 2011.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving monarch, is 87 years old and ailing. Earlier this month, he cancelled a public appearance for his birthday on the advice of his doctors.

The newly-divorced Vajiralongkorn is the heir apparent — but his often erratic behavior and multiple partners have made him deeply unpopular among Thais.

Vajiralongkorn has also been close to deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is now in self-imposed exile. Shinawatra has been banking on the Crown Prince’s ascent as a means to pave the way for his triumphant return to Thailand — a prospect that horrifies the old elite which has spend most of the last decade trying to keep Thaksin, his proxies and family out of power.

The prince’s younger sister — Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn — has emerged a far more popular figure among Palace elites, the army and in the country at large. Most Thais would prefer to see her take over from her father.

But Princess Sirindhorn has never married — and therefore has no heir should she become Queen. In the carefully chosen words of palace courtiers, “she has never shown any interest in men.”

That leaves the palace in a pickle — though none of this can be openly discussed in Thailand due to the kingdom’s draconian “lese majeste” law, which bans defamation, insults and threats to the monarchy, with penalties of up to 15 years in jail.

So what is the crown prince Vajiralongkorn to do?

Speculation is rife that Vajiralongkorn’s move to strip his now ex-wife (and her family) of their royal titles was an attempt to clean up shop — and perhaps part of a wider deal with the military to clear the path to the crown.

Image: Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on his 85th birthday on Dec. 5, 2012
ROYAL HOUSEHOLD BUREAU via EPA file

King Bhumibol Adulyadej addresses to the crowd to mark his 85th birthday on the balcony of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok, Thailand, on Dec. 5, 2012.

Princess Srirasmi was never accepted by the Palace elite, widely dismissed as a “bar girl” with a questionable past. But Vajiralongkorn’s latest consort is believed to be a former flight attendant — and it is not clear if she would command the necessary respect from a royalist elite with a deep devotion to social hierarchy.

One widely-assumed and unspoken reason behind the coup is believed to be the military’s desire to oversee a royal succession, and Vajiralongkorn’s rapprochement could be just what the army needs.

If a deal is done on their watch for the Crown Prince to take the thrown — on their terms — then the generals might feel vindicated.

But there’s no escaping Vajiralongkorn’s unpopularity among ordinary Thais, who might find it hard accept a King Vajiralongkorn — making the palace under his watch a greatly diminished institution from that of his revered father.

January 3, 2015

Thailand and the Coup Trap

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributors

Thailand and the Coup Trap

January 3, 2015

Still No Christmas in Laos

For Immediate Release

Still No Christmas in Laos: State-Sponsored Persecution Directed Against

Lao Hmong Believers, Political Dissidents, Increases

December 25, 2014,

Washington, D.C. & Vientiane, Laos

On Christmas Day, 2014, the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) is raising concern about the increased persecution of minority Christian, Animist and independent Buddhist believers in Laos at the hands of military and security forces of Laos and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Religious freedom and human rights violations have dramatically increased under the Hanoi-backed, one-party communist government in Laos, especially against various Laotian and Hmong minority groups, including religious believers and political dissidents.

“Intensified religious freedom violations directed against ethnic Laotian and Hmong Christian believers are increasingly violent and egregious, with independent religious ceremonies and Christmas celebrations prohibited, or under attack, by the Lao military and security forces,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. “In the latest crackdown, Lao and Hmong Christians, and Animist, believers have been arrested, tortured, killed , or have simply disappeared, on a systematic and more frequent basis, as the Marxist government of Laos, working in coordination with the Vietnam People’s Army and authorities in Hanoi, continues its policy of attacking independent religious believers who wish to worship freely outside of state-controlled, and state-monitored, religious institutions.”

“Clearly, under these dark and grim conditions, there is still no Christmas in Laos for those who seek to celebrate and worship outside of the watchful eye of the military, secret police and communist authorities in Vientiane and Hanoi,” Smith stated.

“It is also clear, and unfortunate, that the current Stalinist government in Laos is unwilling to cooperate on the many international appeals for the release of prominent political dissidents and prisoners, including Sombath Somphone, the Lao Students’ Movement for Democracy protesters, and significant numbers of Hmong refugees,” Smith concluded.

Earlier this month, the CPPA and a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) urged the United Nations to address ongoing serious human rights violations, as well as religious and press freedom violations, by the government of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR). The NGOs also raised concern about the plight of a growing number of Lao and Hmong people who have disappeared at the hands of Lao military and security forces, including Sombath Somphone, Lao student protest leaders, Hmong refugees and others. http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org or send an e-mail to either Maria Gomez or Philip Smith at info@centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

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