A Christian family of twelve, driven from their home in southern Laos because of their faith, are being pressurized to remove social media posts describing their ordeal.
District officials in Savannakhet province called family members to a meeting on March 15 and told them to take down, or change, posts and videos showing attacks on the coffin of the family’s father in December, and the burning of the family home in Dong Savanh village in February.
The authorities demanded the family alter the posts to remove any reference to the involvement of the village chief in the attacks, which led to the family fleeing the village to a nearby forest.
Family members are refusing to remove the posts and say they will lodge complaints with provincial and central governments.
Widow Seng Aloun, who is struggling to raise her children alone, said that government officials promised on several occasions to help the family and find the arsonists, but nothing has happened so far.
“Right now, we still live in the forest outside the village,” she said. “Nothing has been resolved.”
Seng Aloun said they were attacked because Buddhists were angered at the family’s practice of a “foreign” religion.
A member of the Evangelical Church of Savannakhet, where the family worship, expressed concern about the authorities’ lack of support for Seng Aloun and her children. He said the government is duty bound to help a family persecuted for their faith and to pursue legal action against their attackers.
The country’s Law on the Evangelical Church, introduced in December 2019, gives Lao Christians the right to conduct services and preach throughout the country, and to maintain contacts with believers outside Laos. However, locally Christians are often subjected to harassment and violence, especially in rural areas, while the government imposes onerous registration requirements on churches.