ICC NOTE: Three Laotian dissidents have disappeared after returning home from work in Thailand. The three have been considered likely threats to the regime in Laos as they have been vocal in their opposition towards a lack of democracy and poor human rights record of the nation. Laos has been persecuting religious and ethnic minorities since the communist rise in 1975 with the most recent acts targeting the protestant minority.
5/17/2016 Laos (Asia News) – Arrested by the authorities or made disappear into thin air: This is what has happened to three Lao nationals, who in recent months had criticized the actions of the Vientiane government, denouncing the abuses committed against human rights. Somphone Phimmasone (29) and his girlfriend Lod Thammasong (30) were arrested by police in Navatai (Kammouane province) on March 5, after they had returned from Thailand to renew their passports.
A relative of the couple said: “At first we were told they had been arrested for drug possession, but two weeks later the prison policemen informed us their detention was due to political propaganda”. In April, the authorities transferred Somphone and Lod to Vientiane, but the families do not know where they are.
The two, along with others, had protested last December 2 in front of the Lao embassy in Bangkok, demanding the government respect democracy. They were also very active on social media, where they denounced the incidents of abuse by Vientiane.
Soukane Chaitad, one of the embassy protesters, disappeared last March 22 while he was renewing his passport at the police station in Savannakhet province. His wife, who works in Thailand, says: “We have not heard from him since he returned to his hometown on March 22 at three in the afternoon. He never reappeared. His family informed the police of his disappearance, but officers said they did not see him. ”
A family friend tells this story about some people who were in the area of the disappearance that day: “We asked some traders near the police station, and they told us that unidentified men loaded Soukane into a van.”
With the rise to power of the communists in 1975, Laos has implemented a repression of minorities, both religious and ethnic (such as Hmong). The most frequent cases of persecution based on religion take place at the expense of the Protestant Christian community: peasants deprived of food for their faith orpastors arrested by the authorities.
Sombath Somphone– a teacher, activist for human rights and winner of Magsaysay award – disappeared into thin air 15 December 2012 in Laos, near a police check point. Although CCTV cameras clearly filmed his abduction in broad daylight, the government has never given information about him.