Lao Police Beat Villagers Arrested in Lengthy Land Dispute in Sekong Province

2017-09-27
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Suvanh (R) and Vikhan (L), residents of Yeub village in southeastern Laos' Sekong province, were arrested in June 2012 for submitting a petition against a Vietnamese rubber company. The men, who appear here in an October 2011 photo, are believed to be among a group of villagers arrested in July 2017 for cutting down rubber trees on the company's property.
Suvanh (R) and Vikhan (L), residents of Yeub village in southeastern Laos' Sekong province, were arrested in June 2012 for submitting a petition against a Vietnamese rubber company. The men, who appear here in an October 2011 photo, are believed to be among a group of villagers arrested in July 2017 for cutting down rubber trees on the company's property.
RFA

Police in southeastern Laos’ Sekong province have arrested 14 villagers in Thateng district since late July for their involvement in an 11-year-old land conflict, and have brutally assaulted three of them, a relative of the one of the detainees said.

The villagers were arrested with others on July 25 for cutting down rubber trees belonging to the Vietnamese rubber company Cong Ty Cao Su Nghi Lao-Viet (LVF).

The residents of Yeub village have been fighting for alternative land and additional compensation since the government granted their land — in what is believed to have been a 50-year concession — to LVF in 2006 for rubber cultivation.

The three who were beaten are named Suvanh, Bounleang, and Nak, a 15-year-old, the relative told RFA's Lao Service on Sept. 19.

“During the first day in jail, Suvanh was brutally beaten until his face bled,” he said. “Bounleang was beaten to unconsciousness with a gun by police. Nak was shocked to unconsciousness with an electric baton by police in the village’s schoolyard.”

Another detainee named Vikham became so depressed that he tried to commit suicide by hanging himself, but other detainees rescued him, he said.

Family members of the detainees who want to visit them must pay police 20,000 kip (U.S. $2.37), he said.

None of the villagers dare to discuss the land issue now because police have threatened to throw them in jail if they do, the source said.

RFA tried repeatedly to contact Sekong’s governor Khampheuay Boutdaving, Colonel Somxay Phounlamany, chief of the provincial police station, Somnith Silibounlieng, a provincial prosecutor, and other relevant officials for comment, but they refused to take the calls.

The 14 detainees have been split into two groups in jail, the source said.

The first group includes Vikham, Nounleang, Nounpoke, Nak, and Bountia who are detained in the KM 3 jail in the provincial capital also known as Sekong.

The second group consists of Suvanh, Bountean, Po, Nai, Vihanh, Somsawanh, Sonh, Bounsod, and a 15-year-old girl named Ny who are being held in a jail in Lamam district of the provincial capital.

“The police abused their power during the arrests,” said a Lao lawyer who declined to be named “The police don’t adhere to the rule of law, so they should be punished because they know how the law is implemented.”

“The police who are in charge of the investigation have abused their power by physically threatening and assaulting the villagers who are just suspects, which is considered a felony,” he said.

“In particular, they are only suspects,” the lawyers said. “They have not been found guilty and sentenced by a court,” the lawyer said.

A local police officer and resident of Yeub village told RFA in August that only 12 people had been arrested for chopping down trees on the disputed land which is being used by a Vietnamese rubber company. At the time, police had not publicly released the names of those detained.

Previous arrests

The conflict over the land has been going on since 2006 when LVF “grabbed” 121 hectares (300 acres) from 55 families, though its concession from authorities legally allowed it to take only 42 hectares (104 acres), the villager who declined to be named told RFA in August.

He went on to say that in March 2017, the office of Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued a notice directing Sekong province authorities to address the land dispute problem and assigned the ministries of natural resources and the environment; agriculture and forestry; and public security to take the lead in resolving it.

The notice, however, did not specify the timing.

It is not the first time that Yeub villagers have been arrested in the ongoing land dispute. Eight residents were arrested by provincial authorities for submitting a petition against LVF to the prime minister’s office in May 2012, because the provincial governor was not happy with their actions.

Later that month, the prime minister’s office ordered Sekong’s governor to rectify the situation, and authorities responded by arresting the villagers in June and July of that year, the villager said.

Suvanh, who was arrested on July 26 of that year, was physically assaulted, given only eight meals during the 15 days he spent in jail, and was handcuffed, forcing him to urinate and defecate in place, he said.

Authorities detained the others for almost two weeks, then released them, he said.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (5)
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Henki

from Pluto

Dont put free radio dont tell people you are a great man the so call police beat villagers your evidence where is it you are bloody puster you just dont like to see asia progress what arse you are having in your mind shit we are in a very bad situation if we here miss the boat we will not know when can we get out poverty yet you want to create turmoil in our country do you know we really expect that we will look like Singapore I mean I dont hope much but I really feel happy our ladies when going oversea dont have to be prostitute Free Radio put you hands off let us have a chance get out povery!!

Oct 19, 2017 04:49 AM

Anonymous Reader

@Superman I don't think so. I think they dislike the government deep inside, it's just that they're too afraid to say anything even a little bad about its governance nor calling for limited liberalization so they pretend to like the government out of responsibility, it's called having a society ruled by fear and paranoia, which describes today's Laos perfectly. Not to mention the overall condition of the lives are not improving overall. Even worse comes Sombath's disappearance.

I can already see the regime not lasting anything more than 10 years given how much of a failure it was politically-wise and also in many other factors.

Oct 12, 2017 06:48 AM

Superman

from Krypton

The Lao Communist Government will not fall. The Lao citizens here are just too content with their lives to incite a protest or a revolution.

Oct 03, 2017 12:12 AM

Anonymous Reader

The countries of east Europe said the same things long ago but...well sorry to say they collapsed. Good luck Sir.

Oct 05, 2017 02:43 PM

Anonymous Reader

Dear Mr Freedom from the US, Laos will collapse by itself. A regime like this cannot last forever. Their days are numbered. There are 5 blood-sucking commie dictatorships in this world of ours. The 1st 3 that will fall are Cuba, Vietnam and Laos, then China and North Korea will follow. Regards

Sep 29, 2017 11:42 AM

Freedom

from USA

The stupid government taking land from its people. Selling it to Vietnam for some cheap money while screwing the citizens. This is very sad. Lao people should just move to the United States or Thailand because Laos is so corrupt.

Sep 27, 2017 11:15 PM

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