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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

Emilie Palamy Pradichit Denounces the Enforced Disappearances of Lao Democracy Activists!

Emilie Palamy Pradichit, Founder & Executive Director of Manushya, took part in an impactful discussion titled "Enforced Disappearance in Laos and Southeast Asia" at the FCCT (Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand) on December 20, 2023.

She fearlessly exposed the authoritarian tactics of the Lao government, shedding light on their violation of human rights through attacks, transnational repression, and enforced disappearances targeting Lao citizens and human rights defenders. What did Emilie share? Read on, and find out more ⤵️

Voices Silenced: Plight of Human Rights Defenders in Laos

Emilie starkly illustrated the dire situations faced by Human Rights Defenders in Laos, and highlighted key cases

  • Muay: A valiant Woman Human Rights Defender, silenced for exposing government corruption and corporate exploitation's impact on communities. Unjustly sentenced to 5 years in prison on fabricated charges of defamation and distributing anti-State propaganda in September 2019. Manushya Foundation has legally represented Muay at the United Nations through impact litigation, successfully securing a ruling from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that deemed Muay's arrest and detention as arbitrary. Despite the UN experts' opinion and call for Muay's immediate release, the Lao government has persistently ignored their recommendations.

  • Sombath Somphone: A human rights advocate who disappeared in December 2012 for championing human rights causes. Shui Meng, Sombath Somphone's wife, expressed deep frustration over the 11-year silence from Lao authorities regarding his abduction. Despite clear CCTV evidence capturing his abduction by police personnel in Vientiane, there has been no credible investigation or updates. The repeated false reassurances from Lao authorities reflect a systemic issue, revealing the government's impunity and disregard for international standards, where principles like the rule of law and human rights hold little value.

  • Od Sayavong: A vocal human rights advocate vanished after meeting the UN Special Rapporteur in August 2019, advocating for imprisoned Free Lao members. Despite global appeals, Thai authorities inadequately probed his disappearance, revealing Laos' glaring political apathy.

  • Jack (Anousa Luangsouphom): Survived a brutal shooting in Vientiane on April 29, 2023. Known for his unwavering advocacy for human rights and democracy, Jack's ordeal highlights the dangers faced by outspoken activists.

  • Joseph Akaravong: A Lao political refugee in France since March 2022. His courageous citizen journalism in Laos made him a target for repression by Lao authorities in August 2018, after he denounced the corruption of the Lao government around the Attapeu Lao dam collapse. Even in exile, he continues to face threats from Lao authorities, shedding light on the ongoing risks for dissenters.

Watch Emilie speaking at the FCCT event ⤵️

Emilie passionately shed light on the grave concerns of transnational repression and enforced disappearances affecting Laos Human Rights Defenders. 

Written Messages from the video:

"We’ve seen the rise of authoritarianism, the rise of inequality, and in particular in Laos with a high rate of inflation and the bad economic direction that the country is taking. We are seeing the impoverishment of the population, and we’re seeing rich people getting richer.  We’re seeing the country being led by one political party, a few rich families in the country, and human rights defenders who are trying to speak the truth to power, facing attacks, facing repression, facing intimidation, and enforced disappearance, attempted killing like in the case of Jack."

"Who are those people who are actually fighting for human rights in Laos? Most of the time they are very normal people, they are not human rights defenders, or human rights activists to start with, they are very normal citizens. In the case of Lao activists inside Laos, there are many young people now. Obviously we had Sombath Somphone who was a leading civil society figure for the Lao movement and especially for the economic development of the country for his work on Sustainable Development. But talking about human rights inside Laos is not allowed. Civil Society does not necessarily use the word “human rights'' when they work inside Laos. They are only allowed to use the SDGs when they want to talk about human rights."

Lao Youth Awakening: Struggle, Inspiration, and the Call for Real Accountability

Emilie fervently believes in the potential of Lao youth to initiate a transformative movement, inspired by the Thai democracy movement and resonating with the spirit of change seen in Hong Kong. Despite the risks, they refuse silence in the face of a broken system. The failure of established frameworks like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), international justice systems, and UN human rights reviews in Laos is evident. While the United Nations holds the Laos government accountable, their disregard is disheartening, particularly as they seek a place in the UN Human Rights Council, undermining the struggles of local human rights activists.

Emilie emphasized the pivotal roles played by donors and the diplomatic community, urging them not only to engage through the UN system but to genuinely hold the Laos government accountable. The indifference of the Lao government towards human rights issues despite the 75 years of the UDHR is a grave concern.

Risks and Realities: Advocacy Challenges for Human Rights Defenders in Laos

Manushya Foundation operates amidst apprehension in Laos, navigating the complexities of engaging both within and outside the country. As a small group, daily decisions involve assessing risks: publishing reports, speaking at forums like the FCCT, issuing statements, or submitting UN complaints. “These risks are taken because if not us, then who?”, asserted Emilie. Yet, the haunting question remains - “does anyone truly care?”, she added. 

Donors’ Dissonance: Investing Millions into the Lao government’s bank account, while investing Peanuts in those fighting for True Democracy

While there's support for the Laos government, seeking entry points to collaborate and funding their capacity, cases like Jack's complicate matters. In such instances, assistance must occur discreetly, avoiding visibility in the international arena. This raises concerns for young individuals like Jack - can the UN or donors aid them? Restrictions confine donors, and international NGOs channeling emergency assistance support, limiting their aid to $2,000, while the actual need might be $70,000 for hospital emergencies. This stark contrast in support reveals a dissonance: substantial aid to the government despite their blatant violations, versus minimal aid to restore democracy and protect the rights of the Laotian people and defenders.

Watch the Full Panel Discussion on YouTube



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