Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new country update on religious freedom conditions in Laos following a staff delegation to the country in February 2020:
Laos Factsheet – This report provides a country update on religious freedom conditions in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. In 2016, the Lao government updated its regulation of religious freedom with the Decree on Management and Protection of Religious Activities, known as Decree 315. Despite the clarifications this decree provided, as well as efforts by the central authorities, religious freedom conditions in Laos remain of concern. All official faith communities must keep active communication with local and central religious authorities to function and operate, including in appointing leaders and in organizing faith-based activities. Unofficial faith communities struggle to obtain government recognition, and therefore legally cannot operate. This report examines the ongoing issues and barriers Laos faces to realize its international commitments to freedom of religious and belief.
Since 2009, USCIRF had placed Laos in its Tier 2 category, which was for governments that engaged in or tolerated serious religious violations. Beginning with the 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF replaced Tier 2 with recommendations for the State Department’s Special Watch List (SWL), which requires that the government engaged in or tolerated severe religious freedom violations, a higher standard. As a result of this change, Laos does not appear in the 2020 Annual Report, though religious freedom conditions remain a concern.