Lao Musician Ther Una Confirmed Released From Detention

The report contradicts the musician's statement this week that he had been absent from Facebook only to work on video projects.
2021-07-30
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Lao Musician Ther Una Confirmed Released From Detention Popular Lao performing artist Ther Una is shown in an undated photo.
Facebook / Ther Una

Popular young Lao musician Ther Una, a frequent critic of corruption in the one-party communist state, has been released from detention, a police officer in Laos says, contradicting statements this week by the musician himself that he had not been held by police and had dropped from sight only to work on video projects.

“It’s reported that he is already out,” RFA’s source, a police officer in Ther Una’s home Savannakhet province said on Friday. “I don’t know the details, but I can confirm that Ther Una has definitely been released.”

Friends and followers of the well-known performing artist expressed their relief at the news he was no longer in custody, following reports earlier this week that he had been detained by police in Savannakhet’s Sepon district and held for questioning.

“Oh, I’m relieved that he is out. This means that his situation was not that serious. At first, I expected the worst,” one fan said, speaking on condition of anonymity for reasons of security.

“He is now on Facebook again. What a relief! However, we still don’t know where he’s been,” another fan said, with a third source saying, “I’ve been following the news about him, and I know that he’s back on Facebook, but I still don’t know what happened to him or where he went.”

Speaking to RFA earlier this week, a police officer in Savannakhet told RFA that Ther Una, also named Syphone Vongchinda, had been taken into custody for questioning in the province’s Sepon district, while neighbors said his sudden and lengthy absence from Facebook pointed toward detention.

On Thursday, however, the 20-something entertainer and social critic popped up on his popular Facebook page to say he had only been busy editing and adding sound to a brief film and producing an ad for a transport firm.

Social, economic issues

In his late twenties, Ther Una is a well-known performing artist in Laos, with more than a million followers on YouTube and his Facebook page and fans in next-door Thailand.

He is also the owner of Una Studio, which produces songs, videos, news, and short feature stories about social and economic issues in the country.

On Oct. 14, 2018, police in Savannakhet’s Kaysone district shut down a benefit concert held by Ther Una to raise funds for schools in remote areas after they objected to a slogan found on T-shirts sold at the site, sources told RFA in an earlier report.

The concert had run for only 40 minutes before police closed it down and attempted to detain a concert organizer found wearing a T-shirt carrying the slogan “No bribes for jobs!”

In an annual survey of press freedom released in 2021, Laos was ranked 172 out of 180 countries for the previous year by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which said the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party “exercises absolute control over the media.”

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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