Xaysana Keopimpha led a lavish lifestyle prior to his 2017 arrest at a Bangkok airport.
The group was held in a room surrounded by wire fencing and forced to work under threat for long hours at little pay.
Somkot Mangnomek, governor of Xieng Khouang province, had authorized a shipment of timber without central government approval.
But workers say the raise is necessary to combat increases in living costs.
Zhao Wei says accusations his network is trafficking in drugs, people and wildlife are "unreasonable" and "malicious."
Authorities arrest two Laotians for wildlife smuggling after the endangered mammals are rescued.
Sources say the two-month-old decree is stifling civil society work.
The numbers held in captivity continue to grow despite a year-old government pledge to close the farms.
Projects are planned across many sectors, with Laos's leaders counting on economic growth to support their legitimacy.
The cross-border traffic in valuable timber continues despite government efforts to halt the trade, sources say.
Two affected provinces have already approved the plans, with two other provinces and the capital still considering them.
Lack of funds and available workers have slowed attempts to restore forest cover in the heavily logged country.
Local authorities had forbidden Christians from neighboring villages to join each other for festivities, a local source says.
Two valuable caches are uncovered in one week, suggesting the trade will be difficult to shut down.
The ceremony marks the fifth anniversary of the abduction of Sombath Somphone.
Signs posted at a major crossing warn would-be migrants against being lured into servitude by false promises.