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Laos: Treatment of Buddhist monks

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 September 1998
Citation / Document Symbol LAO30042.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Laos: Treatment of Buddhist monks, 1 September 1998, LAO30042.E, available at: [accessed 2 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


In a 31 August 1998 telephone interview a representative of Asia Watch, a division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in New York City, stated to the Research Directorate that she had no reports on the treatment or mistreatment of Buddhists monks in Laos.

The following information was obtained during a 31 August 1998 telephone interview with the director for East Asia at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) International in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The MCC runs two rural development projects involving Laotian locals dealing with sanitation, health and educational services. The director has held this position since 1993. She has travelled to Laos at least once a year since becoming director and was there for the last time in March 1998.

The director stated that she has no reports and has never witnessed or heard about any mistreatment directed at Buddhist monks in Laos. She added that her statement does not mean that such mistreatment cannot, could not or is not happening. She reported that, in general in Laos, Christians are subject to mistreatment and not Buddhists.

This information was corroborated during a 31 August 1998 telephone interview with a former international development consultant for American Friend Services Committee, a Quaker relief organization, in Missouri. He worked in Laos from 1978 to 1981, 1986 to 1990 and 1994 to 1996 and now acts as an independent aid worker. He followed closely the human rights situation in that country during his stays.

He stated that Buddhism is the majority religion in Laos for which the government, despite its communist ideology, expresses understanding and tolerance as opposed to foreign religions often suspected of covering for subversive activities. He added that many Laotian communist leaders are Buddhist, and that in all the years he spent in Laos he never witnessed nor heard reports of mistreatment of Buddhist monks. 

Please note that Contemporary Religions: A World Guide reports that 85 per cent of Laos' four million population are Theravada Buddhists (1992, 434). It also states that "despite many restrictions, it could be said that Theravada Buddhism in Laos is recovering from its nadir in the early 1970s (ibid.)." According to a Vientiane KPL report, a government agency, "the Constitution recognizes all forms of belief and prohibits any act of using religion to cleave a wedge among the lao citizenry (ibid.)."

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


American Friend Services Committee, Missouri. 31 August 1998. Telephone interview with a former international development consultant.

Asia Watch, New York City. 31 August 1998. Telephone interview with representative.

Contemporay Religions: A World Guide. 1992. Edited by Ian Harris et al. London: Longman Current Affairs.

Mennonite Central Committee, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 31 August 1998. Telephone interview with the director of the East Asia Division.

Vientiane KPL [Vientiane, in Spanish]. 4 February 1998. "Laos: Americans, Others Detained For Causing 'Instability'. (FBIS-EAS-98-035  4 Feb. 1998/WNC)

Additional Sources Consulted

Asian Survey [Berkeley, Ca]. 1997-1998.

Asiaweek [Hong Kong]. 1997-1998.

Human Rights Watch Update [New York]. 1997-1998.

Far Eastern Economic Review [Hong Kong]. 1997-1998.

Pacific Affairs [Vancouver]. 1997-1998.

On line search.

Electronic sources: Electronic Sources: IRB Databases, Global News Bank,  Internet, REFWORLD, World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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