Lao Musician, Thought Arrested, Breaks Silence to Say He’s Been Busy Working

“Please don’t say that, if you don’t know what’s really going on,” Ther Una said of reports of his arrest.
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Lao Musician, Thought Arrested, Breaks Silence to Say He’s Been Busy Working Lao musician and social commentator Ther Una is shown in an undated photo.
Ther Una

A popular young Lao musician and producer known for songs and videos criticizing official corruption in the one-party communist state, thought to be detained by police, broke a recent spell of social media silence Thursday to say he’s merely editing a movie.

A local police officer in southern Laos’ Savannakhet province told RFA this week that Syphone Vongchinda, better known as Ther Una, was taken into custody last week in the Sepon district of the province, while neighbors said his 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’s merely been busy editing and adding sound to a brief film and producing an ad for a transport firm.

“Hello, my friends and followers. It’s been a big chaos on my Facebook page,” he wrote in the Lao language.

“A lot of people have been checking my Facebook page. Ten percent of them are worried about me and up to 90 percent of them are curious after hearing news about me,” Ther Una added.

Some say that Ther was arrested because he was involved in drug trafficking; some others say that Ther is so wealthy, receiving money from some unspecified sources,” he wrote.

“Please don’t say that, if you don’t know what’s really going on,” he said, before saying he was merely busy at work on the film and the advertisement.

“Right now, it’s difficult to shoot the ad because it’s constantly raining. That’s it; I have those two works to do,” said Ther Una.

“Please stay tuned for my short story movie and ad that will be published soon,” he added.

On Tuesday, the local Savannakhet police officer told RFA’s Lao Service that the musician “was summoned and taken away by provincial police” and was being held and questioned at the Savannakhet Provincial Police Headquarters in Kaysone Phomvihane City.

RFA was unable to reach the policeman following Ther Una’s Facebook comments Thursday.

One of Ther Una’s neighbors also told RFA he had been detained but that “the reason for his arrest is still unknown,” while fans said they were worried about his absence from Facebook.

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.

In a promotion for a December 2018 event featuring Ther Una, the American Center in the Lao capital Vientiane called him “the man behind Una Studio, Laos’s most popular Facebook page.

Reported by RFA's Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Paul Eckert.


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