I was appalled (sadly again) by the President in Laos and I did not approve what amounted to an apology for the Vietnam War. Now I know full well we did not win in Vietnam but I contend that was a failure of will on our part not that we could not win. And Laos was invaded by the North Vietnamese first or we would have not had to bomb Laos – remember the Ho Chi Minh Trail? – and I would first go to the winners – Vietnam (and China, too) and ask them to clean up THEIR mess!
But President Obama said this in the Laotian capital, Vientiane:
But there is still much more work to do. So today, I’m proud to announce a historic increase in these efforts. The United States will double our annual funding to $90 million over the next three years to help Laos expand its work. (Applause.) This will help Laos expand its work to remove even more bombs, allow Laotians to farm more land, and increase support for victims. I’ll bear witness to this work tomorrow when I meet with survivors.
Given our history here, I believe that the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal. And even as we continue to deal with the past, our new partnership is focused on the future. We want to be your partners as you invest in the well-being of your people, and especially your children. I believe that when any child anywhere goes hungry, when their growth is stunted, that’s a profound injustice. So we’re joining with Laos to promote nutrition and bring more healthy meals to children in school so they can grow strong, focus in class, and realize their full potential.
Now I might get four whatevers from that liberal factchecker at wherever but the Us didn’t start the war. This is a apology. There’s more:
We want to be your partner in improving education. I’m told that there’s a saying here — “a tray full of silver is not worth a mind full of knowledge.” So we’ll help more children learn how to read. We’ll bring more American teachers here to help teach English, and more Lao teachers to America to strengthen their English. And I’m proud to announce that an initiative that’s very important to me and to my wife Michelle, an initiative called Let Girls Learn, is coming to Laos and Nepal. (Applause.) We believe that the daughters of Laos have just as much talent and potential as your sons. (Applause.) And none of our countries anywhere in the world can truly succeed unless our girls and our women have every opportunity to succeed, the same opportunities as boys and men do. (Applause.)
We want to be your partner with the young people of Laos as you strengthen your communities and start businesses, and use Facebook to raise awareness for the rights and dignity of all people. And that’s why, as part of our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, we’re helping young men and women across Laos develop the skills you need to succeed. Two of our top companies — Microsoft and General Electric — are helping to increase training in engineering and technology. Young people in Laos shouldn’t have to move someplace else in order to prosper. You should be able to work and build a better life right here in Laos.
And we want to be your partners as Laos forges greater trade and commerce with the world. When other countries invest here, it should create jobs here for the people of Laos. So as Laos pursues economic and labor reforms, we’ll work to encourage more trade and investment between our two countries, and between Laos and the rest of this region. As a result of my visit, I hope that more Americans come here as well, to experience your country and the beautiful culture, and to forge new friendships between our peoples.
And as Laos grows, we want to be your partner in protecting the natural beauty of your country, from your forests to your rivers. As Laos works to meet its growing need for energy, I want to work with you to pursue clean, renewable energies like solar. And let’s help farmers protect their crops, and villages adapt to a changing climate. We should work together so that development is sustainable — especially along the Mekong, upon which millions of people depend for their livelihood and their food and their health. The Mekong is a treasure that has to be protected for future generations, and we want to be your partner in that process.
Never mind we don’t have the money (maybe when we default on the debt, Laos will bail us out!) but that is an ambitious foreign aid plan.
But we are going to bail Laos out – let’s insist on one thing: They stop persecuting Christians. And Laos is very bad about that. Let’s start with the US State Department:
There were reports of the extrajudicial killing of a Christian religious leader by individuals claiming to operate on behalf of the police. There were reports minority religious believers were subjected to attempted forced renunciations, imprisonment, arrest, and detention. In some cases local officials reportedly threatened Protestants with arrest or expulsion from their villages if they did not comply with certain orders. NGOs stated the relatively decentralized nature of the government structure contributed to abuses on the part of local officials, some of whom were reportedly unaware of laws and policies protecting religious freedom or unwilling to implement them.
In Luang Prabang Province, assailants stabbed a Protestant pastor to death during a home invasion in September. According to media reports, one assailant claimed to be operating on behalf of the secret police. The pastor had received repeated threats by police to stop spreading Christianity in Chomphet District. Government authorities did not release any information regarding the investigation.
On March 20, five Christian pastors from Atsaphangthong District, Savannakhet Province were released from prison after serving nine-month sentences on charges related to praying for a dying woman in her home. They were detained on charges of holding an illegal church congregation in a building without a permit. In February the pastors were sentenced to jail for practicing medicine without a license, because they prayed for the woman instead of providing immediate medical attention. According to the Christians involved and an NGO working on their case, after their release from prison they continued to be harassed by village authorities seeking financial compensation for violating traditional animist practices. According to the NGO following the case, six months after their release one of the Christians died. According to reports, authorities denied repeated requests to provide him diabetes medication during his detention, which exacerbated his condition and weakened him to the point of death.
Remember this is the State Department’s own Religious Freedom Report for 2015:
In September police in Khounkham District, Khammuan Province arrested two Christian men in a home raid for spreading Christianity, according to reports from advocacy organizations. The two men had been invited by a Christian family to share a meal and pray for them. They were released after one week without details regarding any charges against them.
In September authorities from Nhang and Don Keo villages in Nakai District, Khammuan Province detained four local Christians and took them to the Nakai district police station where police threatened to put them in jail unless they signed a document recanting their beliefs, according to media reports. The Christians refused to sign the documents and were later released. Reports state local authorities began harassing the Christians in July, seized Bibles in August, and forbid any religious ceremonies.
Police in Bolikhamxay Province reportedly threatened to banish 45 Christians if they did not sign a document renouncing their faith. At least six families of the 45 Christians were arrested and then expelled by the village chief for not renouncing their Christian faith.
There’s more; but let’s go to some Christian groups who monitor persecution:
Open Doors (a respected Christian organization that helps the persecuted church started by Brother Andrew about 60 years ago – Brother Andrew is the guy who took Bibles illegally into Poland) has Laos at 29th on the World Watch List (Afghanistan , that nation we liberated in 2002 is FOURTH on the list of infamy – topped only by North Korea, IRAQ and Eritrea) and the persecution level as “moderate”.
The Voice of the Martyrs (founded by another Christian hero – Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand who wrote Tortured for Christ) says this about Laos:
As one of the few remaining communist nations, Laos is a volatile area for Christians. Officially, the government permits the practice of four religions, including Christianity. In reality, however, Christians are harassed, evicted from their homes and forcibly relocated, denied education opportunities, arrested and forced to deny their faith. Churches are watched carefully by the government.
Local authorities in two villages in a central Lao province have violated the rights of Christians by threatening to jail those who continue to practice their religion after banning their activities last month, a source inside the country said.
Authorities from the villages of Nhang and Don Keo in Nakai district, Khammouane province, have been threatening the Christians since the beginning of July, seizing bibles from them on August 13 and forbidding them to read passages from the holy book and holding religious ceremonies, the source said.
One village chief surnamed Sone and four police officers detained four local Christians and took them to the Nakai district police station where an officer named Phonxay threatened to put them in jail unless they signed a document recanting their beliefs, he told RFA’s Lao Service via email.
The Christians initially refused to sign the document, but asked for more time to consider the agreement after police intimidated them for two hours, he said.
So what I propose – if we cannot stop this crazy use of taxpayers’ funds for a Communist government – my first preference – I propose that the money be tied to proof that the persecution of Christians stop immediately.
Now let’s answer some objections:
- It’s meddling in another nation’s internal affairs
- It’s economic sanctions
It would be meddling if we forced Laos to stop persecuting followers of Christ and it would be sanctions if we prevented private parties from investing in Laos.
This is OUR money – taxpayers’ money. We have a right to say what strings are attached to OUR money. To all foreign aid.
It would be my preference to ban foreign aid entirely (except maybe Israel); Cong. Ron Paul said (and I paraphrase) foreign aid is giving from poor Americans to rich foreigners. BUT if we must do foreign aid – we must tie our aid to insisting that Christians not be persecuted.
I’ll send this blog to Cong. Brat and Wittman for their consideration. Keep you posted.