USCIRF Releases Factsheet on Laos’ Decree 315

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Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report highlighting the religious freedom implications of Laos’ Decree on Management and Protection of Religious Activities, known as Decree 315.

Laos’ Decree 315 Factsheet – This factsheet assesses the religious freedom implications of Decree 315, the implementation of the decree, as well as the ongoing internal review conducted by the government of Laos. Issued in 2016, Decree 315 was an improvement over its predecessor, Decree 92, providing clearer expectations for religious communities and a path for minority religious groups to become recognized by the state. However, it still provides a legal framework for the government to significantly interfere with the administration and practices of faith communities. The central authorities are currently conducting an ongoing review of this decree in Laos’ provinces. The factsheet includes USCIRF’s recommendation to the U.S. government to help develop an updated decree that secures freedom of religion and belief for all Laotians, regardless of faith.

From 2009 to 2019, USCIRF placed Laos in its Tier 2 category. The following year, USCIRF no longer included a Tier 2 category and instead made recommendations for countries to be placed on the State Department’s Special Watch List (SWL), which has different standards. As a result of this change, Laos does not appear in USCIRF’s 2020 or 2021 Annual Report. However, USCIRF remains concerned about religious freedom conditions in Laos, even if the country does not meet the criteria for USCIRF to recommend placement on the SWL.

SOURCE United States Commission on International Religious Freedom