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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

#FreeMuay🚨 What happened to Lao human rights defenders?

The Lao government routinely targets activists and human rights defenders. Why? Because they speak Truth to power! The Government is scared to provide real access to information where everyone can speak freely because it could uncover its unethical and corrupt business! Who are these human rights defenders and what happened to them? Read more to find out ⤵️

Ms. Houayheuang Xayabouly, known as Muay, is a Lao environmental activist and woman human rights defender. Today will be her 879th day in jail. Do you remember her? She was arbitrarily arrested on 12 September 2019 and detained since then! The government of Lao PDR tries to make us believe Muay is a criminal and refuses to recognize her as a human rights defender. She bravely fought to bring attention to the Lao government’s corrupt activities and was detained just because of exercising her freedom of expression. And her case is not an isolated one.

📍 Ms. Lodkham Thammavong, Mr. Soukane Chaithad and Mr. Somphone Phimmasone were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years in 2017 after they had taken part in a demonstration outside the Lao Embassy in Thailand to protest against the Lao government's human rights violations.

📍 On January 29, 2022, Khoukham Keomanivong, a Laotian leader of the pro-democracy group Free Lao who is a UNHCR-recognized asylum seeker, was arrested by Thai police for his older political content. While he was bailed out with the help of the UN, he is in danger of being deported back to Laos where he could be detained and tortured!

📍 Mr. Sombath Somphone was an internationally acclaimed community development worker and prominent member of Lao civil society. He had challenged land deals negotiated by the Government that had left thousands of rural Lao villagers homeless with little paid in compensation. He was last seen in December 2012 in Vientiane, Laos when stopped by the police.

⚠️ In Laos, the prohibition to criticize the leading Party is enshrined in the Constitution and several articles of the Criminal Code, such as Article 65, make this prohibition even stronger, outlawing “slandering the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or distorting the guidelines of the party and policies of the government, or circulating false rumors causing disorder”.

❌ The provisions are used to silence activists and human rights defenders who speak out. Muay, Lodkham, Soukane, Somphone, Koukham, Sombath. All of them spoke Truth to power and they were punished just because it was too dangerous for the Lao government to let people hear them!

➡️ Why is the Government scared of letting them speak? Their work is crucial for informing ordinary people about the abuses taking place in Laos, as well as for documenting corruption of the Government and corporations. It is safer for the Government to silence them, sending a warning signal to all other human rights defenders who are then forced to self-censorship, just to ensure their personal safety.

#WeAreManushyan - Equal Human Beings

We stand in solidarity with all Lao human rights activists and human rights defenders. We have not forgotten!

✊ We urge the Lao government to #FreeMuay and other HRDs arbitrarily and unfairly detained and ensure the transparent investigation into the cases of enforced disappearances!

✊ Make a donation to help #FreeMuay here

✊ Do you know anyone who is interested in issues of human rights defenders in Laos? Put us in touch!



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