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07VIENTIANE383 2007-05-11 03:08:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vientiane
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DE RUEHVN #0383/01 1310308
R 110308Z MAY 07
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VIENTIANE 000383 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/10/2017

Classified By: Patricia M. Haslach for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: The Seventh Day Adventists have had an
active church in Laos since 1974. There are approximately
1,250 Adventists country-wide, with the largest concentration
in Vientiane Municipality. With only one church structure,
most Adventists in Laos meet in house churches. While the
Adventists have not faced as many restrictions as other
Protestant groups in Laos, primarily a function of their
small size and negligible growth, they too cited an inability
to legally import religious materials. Lao Adventists are
supported by the Southeast Asia Union Mission (SAUM), which
is based in Singapore and maintains a seminary college in
Thailand. With SAUM's assistance, the Adventists plan to
construct four new churches in Laos during the coming twelve
months. End Summary.

Background: Lao Adventists


2. (SBU) On May 4 PolOff visited the Seventh Day Adventist
Church in Vientiane and met with Mr. Bounprany Vannady,
Director of Personal Ministry, and Mr. Phoumsaming Keovanna,
Director of Communication and Education. The two explained
that the first Adventist congregation in Laos began in Luang
Namtha Province in 1957 following the visit of a U.S.
missionary. In 1967, Adventists from the Philippines visited
Vientiane and, in 1974, the first Adventist Church in Laos
was established in Vientiane. This church, the only existing
Adventist Church in Laos, has remained open since its
construction in 1974. Some smaller Adventist churches that
had been built in other provinces, however, were seized by
the Government of Laos (GoL) following the regime change in

1975. (Note: The Seventh Day Adventists and the Lao
Evangelical Church are the only two Protestant religious
groups recognized by the GoL. End Note.)

3. (SBU) Keovanna informed PolOff that there are currently
1,249 Adventists in Laos. While the largest concentration,
approximately 600, is in Vientiane Municipality, there are
Adventist congregations that meet in some 15 house churches
in Bolikhamsay, Bokeo, Champassak, Luang Prabang, and Xieng
Khouang provinces. He also noted that the Adventist Church
in Vientiane is required to report its membership and other
information to the Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC)
on a monthly basis. (Note: The LFNC is a mass organization
that oversees religious, social, and cultural issues. The
LFNC requires frequent reporting from both Protestant groups
-- the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC) and the Adventists,
occasional reporting from the Baha'i and Muslims (once every
four to six months), and does not require such reports from
the Buddhists. The Catholics report that, as of about five
years ago, they too are no longer required to submit these
reports. End Note.)

4. (C) Both Keovanna and Bounprany noted that the Adventists
in Laos are supported by Southeast Asia Union Mission (SAUM),
a regional Adventist organization based in Singapore. Both
church officials graduated from Mission College, a four-year
seminary in Thailand that is funded by SAUM. SAUM has also
funded their attendance at regular meetings in Singapore and
other Southeast Asian countries. Both men plan to visit
Adventist organizations in the United States in July, a trip
that will be funded by SAUM. (Note: The Adventist Church
maintains regular contact with SAUM's Mission College in
Thailand. An American who works for Mission College was
visiting the church at the time of PolOff's meeting. End

5. (C) Keovanna remarked that the church has tried to build
a positive relationship with the GoL by providing "gifts" of
equipment and supplies. On an annual basis, he estimated
that the church spends approximately $2,000 USD to fund items
requested by the LFNC. Most recently, the LFNC requested
that the Adventists provide $50,000 USD for the construction
of a school dormitory in Xieng Khouang Province. Keovanna
said SAUM has provided the money for the project to the
church but noted that the church has not yet provided funds
to the GoL due to accountability issues. He told PolOff that
the GoL wants the church to provide the money directly to
provincial authorities while the church plans to pay for
construction directly to ensure the money is used for its
intended purpose.

Importing Religious Materials


6. (C) Keovanna told PolOff that the Adventist Church has
not been as restricted by the GoL as have some other
Protestant groups. For example, he said it has been several
years since an Adventist has been arrested for religious
activities. However, he indicated that some problems do

VIENTIANE 00000383 002 OF 002

exist, the most significant being the inability of the Church
to import religious materials. Because of import
restrictions, he said the church generally tries to
circumvent the GoL by importing Bibles illegally. GoL
officials have at times, however, visited the Church and
confiscated Bibles that were imported illegally. In the near
future, he said, the Adventists plan to seek approval from
the LFNC to print Bibles in China for import to Laos.

Expansion Plans


7. (C) Keovanna and Bounprany told PolOff that Lao
Adventists plan to build four new churches during the coming
twelve months. The Adventists, however, have not yet
requested GoL approval for construction of the churches. The
SAUM has reportedly provided funding for the construction of
one church in Bokeo Province, two in Bolikhamsay Province,
and one in Champassak Province. Bounprany noted that the
churches will be the first Adventist churches to be
constructed in Laos since 1974.



8. (C) Despite difficulties importing religious materials,
the Adventists have generally been free to practice their
beliefs. This is primarily due to the fact that the
Adventists are few in number, have not experienced
significant growth in the number of believers, have not yet
requested permission to build new church structures, and have
maintained a low profile. The fact that the Adventists now
plan to build new churches, however, may result in increased
attention by the GoL.

9. (C) While problems may result from efforts to build new
churches, the Adventists have in recent years been able to
maintain a relatively positive relationship with the GoL.
Symbolic of the GoL's apparent acceptance, or at least
tolerance, of the Adventists, in 2003 officials from the LFNC
asked the Seventh Day Adventist Church to incorporate a
Christian congregation in Xieng Khouang Province into its
community in order to bring its doctrines in line with those
of an approved denomination. Leading up to this request, the
Hmong Christian congregation had adopted millenarian
practices as part of its worship services. According to
provincial officials, these beliefs led a senior church
member to kill his wife, predicting her resurrection in three
days. Since being absorbed by the Adventists, the
congregation has not had any apparent problems.