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WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 - Lao police arrested five activists late Friday in the Laotian capital, Vientiane, after the group unfurled a banner calling for freedom and democracy in the Southeast Asian country, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. The five detainees, members of Europe's Transnational Radical Party (TRP), include two members of the European Parliament and three Laotians, according to the TRP, a European-based nongovernmental organization. They have declined to publicize their identities "as a sign of solidarity with ... five Laotians" whom Lao authorities have held incommunicado since Oct. 26, 1999, the party said in a statement. The five protesters had also handed out leaflets on Friday similar to those given out by student protesters in Vientiane exactly two years earlier, the party said. The five demonstrators detained since 1999 are identified as Bouavanh Chanmanivong, Khamphouvieng Sisa-at, Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Seng-Aloun Phengphanh, and Keochay. Their abortive protest, which the Lao government has denied ever took place, was the first known organized demonstration in Laos since the Communists took power in 1975. Hong Thong, a leader of the Oct. 26, 1999 protest who fled Laos and now lives in the United States, urged the Lao government to embrace democracy and human rights. "Most of all, I beg the Lao government to release my colleagues who were arrested two years ago," she told RFA in a telephone interview from Federal Way, Washington. Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to listeners in those Asian countries where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news reports - along with opinions and commentaries - and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Khmer, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Mandarin, Laotian, Vietnamese, Korean, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.


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