BANGKOK—Laos denied Friday reports that it has detained people on their way to stage a pro-democracy protest in the Lao capital, saying the reports were "fabricated" to harm the country’s image ahead of two major events.
The Seattle-based Lao Students Movement for Democracy meanwhile reported that authorities had detained more than 300 people Nov. 2 as they tried to converge in the Lao capital, Vientiane, to stage a pro-democracy protest.
Most were quickly released, but the nine who remain in custody have now been moved to Samkhe Prison in Vientiane, the group said in a statement, dated Nov. 5 and written in Lao.
“RFA’s news does not have any foundation,” Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenethong Nouanthasing said in a statement, referring to Radio Free Asia's initial report on the detentions.
“It has been fabricated by people with bad intentions to tarnish the reputation and destroy the image of the Lao PDR [People’s Democratic Republic] as it is getting ready to celebrate its national day on Dec. 2, and host the 25th SEA Games in December as well,” he said.
Scores of people in several different groups were taken into custody, held briefly, and released on Nov. 2, Lao sources have said.
Those still detained have been identified as Ms. Kingkeo, 39; Mr. Soubin, 35; Mr. Souane, 50; Mr. Sinprasong, 43; Khamsone, 36; Mr. Nou, 54; Ms. Somchit, 29; Mr. Somkhit, 28; and Sourigna, 26.
They had planned to meet several hundred others at the Patuxay monument in Vientiane, according to sources who asked not to be identified.
Most were connected with the Oct. 26, 1999 student protests in the communist Southeast Asian country. Four of the leaders of that protest remain in Samkhe prison after one died in custody.
According to the Paris-based Lao Movement for Human Rights, the planned protest aimed at promoting “a real democracy, respect for human rights, cancellation of the Laos-Vietnam Cooperation Treaty of 1977, the release of all political prisoners, and a multiparty system.”
Original reporting by RFA’s Lao service. Lao service director: Viengsay Luangkhot. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.