APPENDIX: Laos’ right to reply to the written statement made by Asian Legal Resource Centre on Item 11(e): Civil and political rights, including the question of religious intolerance, 9 April 2003

The delegation of Lao Peoples Democratic Republic wishes to provide facts and clarification concerning the unjustifiable and unsubstantiated allegations put by Asian Legal Resource Centre, the statement of which was circulated under E/CN.4/2003/NGO/92, 10 March 2003.

1. The Lao Government has consistently pursued a right and fair policy towards religious practices in Laos, no matter undertaken by religious majorities or minorities. This conforms to the county’s constitution as well as decree relating to the protection of freedom of religion, which stipulate that the Lao people of multi ethnics have the right and freedom to practice and not to practice religious beliefs. In accordance with the laws and regulations, at all times the Lao authorities concerned discharge their functions and duties as to ensure that there is no discrimination between religious believers and no propaganda abused by any group of religious believers to take advantage over another.

As stipulated in the constitution, all acts of discrimination against religions are prohibited. This provision also applies to those cases where there is any attempt to, by means of bribery, persuade believers of a religion to convert to another. With a duty to preserve social harmony it is necessary for the Lao authorities concerned to make sure no such attempt is made.

2. There have been no arrest or detention of any Christian on the ground of worship, except for the purpose of investigation and interrogation in case of some Christians having violent disputes among them selves. Some Christian believers appeared to have disputed and split over their own ways of practice. This led to the provisional closing of their church pending settlement of the dispute, which also related to ownership of the property.

The Lao government and authorities have never forced any person to flee their land on any ground. Instead, the government has carried out a program of handing over lands and forest areas to its population so that they can have a means of sustaining and improving their lives.

3. With regards to conditions of imprisonment in Laos, they are not of serious concerns as alleged by ALRC. The Lao people have a tradition of loving their nation and being friendly, tolerant, generous, honest and hospitable. Based on this tradition and its practical actions undertaken for socio economic development, the Lao government has no intention of leaving, and has never left, its population in harsh and hard conditions without food. It must be stressed that compared to the present level of socio-economic development of the country, conditions of imprisonment in Laos are not unacceptable by Lao standards. The program of poverty eradication being carried out by the Lao government is also aimed at realizing the promotion and protection of human rights.

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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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