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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

#JusticforNesxy - A Lao student has been sexually assaulted by a government employee!












CONTEXT


Nanthida is a student at the National University of Laos. From April 8-12th 2024, she attended the ‘Parliamentary Committee’ conference of French-speaking countries, held in Luang Prabang, with participation from 9 countries and 2 organizations. Nanthida was assigned to assist representatives of the Council from Vietnam and FAO. As part of a group of 5 female students helping to facilitate the conference at Santi Resort & Spa, they faced budget constraints and were asked to share a single hotel room. 


THE INCIDENT


On April 10, 2024, Nanthida’s classmates decided to share a van back to their personal accommodations after finishing their work early. Nanthida stayed behind to fulfill her duties assisting the Vietnamese Council in preparation for their early flight the next morning. 


At around 10pm, while Nanthida was sleeping in her hotel room, government official Chanthone Luangphan forced entry and attempted to molest Nanthida in her sleep. Nanthida awoke in shock and fought back,  an incoming call from Nanthida’s phone stopped Mr. Chanthone, and Nanthida quickly turned the lights on, identifying him as the perpetrator. He was nude from the waist down. When Nanthida declared she would report this incident, Mr. Chanthone argued that nobody would believe her and fled the room.


“Then, I locked the room again and sat on the bed in shock. I was shaking and couldn’t do anything.” Nanthida’s Facebook Statement, June 15 2024


Later that same night, Mr. Chanthone returned and opened the hotel room door using a spare key. Nanthida, confused and afraid, tried to close the door to prevent him from entering. Mr Chantone claimed he had returned to retrieve items he left behind, asserting there were no other rooms available and asked if he could sleep in the same room as Nanthida. She quickly placed his belongings outside, and managed to shut the door, preventing his entry for the second time. 


In her statement, Nanthida expressed her distress over the hotel staff willingly giving a man a spare key to a room they knew was already occupied by a woman and their lack of concern for her safety. When Nanthida and her family requested the hotel CCTV footage, the hotel owner claimed the footage had “expired” but reassured her family that they would contact IT. Even after visits from the authorities, the hotel owner never followed up on this promise and stopped replying to Nanthida’s messages completely.


NANTHIDA’S COURAGE CANNOT BE IGNORED


”When I talk about this incident, I am still shaking, tearful and unable to sleep”, she stated, fearful Chanthone would do this to others if she didn’t speak out. 

Nanthida asked Chanthone if he felt guilty, to which he denied having done anything wrong. Instead, he claimed he could legally fight her and she would suffer more damage. She rightly lamented “if he fights legally, he is not wrong...as he is a man, and an educated and important civil servant”. 


However, she did not back down, and told him she would reveal his behaviour to the public. In response, he called her, and she managed to get him to admit his wrongdoing.


THE CONFESSION


Message from Chanthone to Nanthida’s Facebook direct messages on the 10th June, translated from Lao to English.


I, Mr. Chanthone Luang Phan, 30 years old, hereby confess that on April 10, 2024, at around 11:30pm, I assaulted Nanthida Phumichit, at the staff hotel room of Santi Resort, Luang Phabang province during the conference. Initially I had the intention to go in and retrieve my personal items I left behind in the hotel room (because the previous night I was staying in the said room) knowing that on the night of the incident there was a victim sleeping in the room, when I arrived it appeared that no one answered so I had the opportunity to use another spare key to open the room and saw the victim sleeping in the said room. Due to drunkenness and lack of consciousness, I assaulted the victim, who fought back and called someone on her phone. This made me regain consciousness and so I left the room. After leaving the room I then remembered that I had forgotten the items I had planned to retrieve and went back to get the items again. My second return shocked the victim but I didn't do anything, I took the items and left to sleep in another room. 


From this incident, I confess that I harassed Ms. Nanthida Phumichit, which deeply shocked her, but nothing happened between the victim and I. Therefore, I have made this note to confirm my own guilt to the victim and ask to heal the mind of the person concerned according to the strength that I have. In addition, I would like to apologise to Ms. Nanthida Phumichit, the victim and her family from the bottom of my heart. I vow not to do this kind of damage again, which I hope the victim will accept my apology and not bring this matter to the attention of the establishment or publish it on various social media.


With respect, in Vientiane, on June 10 2024.”


THE AFTERMATH


After Nanthida received Chanthone’s confession she proceeded to call the head of department as well as four other professors at the National University of Laos. Nanthida bravely explained her experience but was instead met with blame for not informing the faculty sooner. Nanthida expressed that she “felt really guilty because I was afraid that I had done something wrong. I came to tell them now because I have the evidence of the confession."


The conversation below is of a group chat between the professors translated from Lao to English after their phone call with Nanthida:


Professor 1 : “She already set this plan up.”


Professor 2 : “Wow well put, she deserves an Oscar Award.”


Professor 2  : “What a columnist! Let's give her a round of applause! Even though she didn’t graduate with a degree in journalism.”


VICTIM BLAMING MUST STOP 


Why did a Professor remove Nanthida from the Geotourisme chat group on 13/6/2024?


Why did her classmate expel her from the 3rd year French travel students class the next day?

Why did her classroom teacher block her on Facebook?


Instead of being supported, she was blamed and ostracised  by her teachers and peers even though a confession was made by Chanthone himself.


“I am a victim in this incident but they treated me as if I was the perpetrator and still do not want me to go back to school. Now I am in the dark, I don't know what to do next, I don't know where to go, I don't know if it will be safe to go back or not, there is no one to help me, everything that happened to me is as I have written.” Nanthida’s Facebook Statement, June 15 2024


WE STAND WITH NESXY


No one should face retribution for seeking justice. Nanthida’s bravery in confronting her assailant who was in a position of power, and exposing the truth despite attempts to silence her, exemplifies the courage needed to combat sexual assault. 


WE MUST end victim blaming, and ensure we live in a society where survivors are believed, supported, and protected and where perpetrators do not escape accountability.


We send solidarity to all survivors for their bravery and courage - may their voices always be taken seriously and be met with care, compassion and protection.


#WeAreManushyan ♾️ Equal Human Beings


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