Lao Group Wanted Help

Several hundred Lao people detained on their way to the capital weren’t dissidents, one man says.

Patuxaytower-305.jpg Tuk-tuks drive towards the Patuxay tower in the center of Vientiane, March 17, 2006.

BANGKOK—An ethnic Lao man briefly detained as he and several hundred others tried to converge on the Lao capital to petition the government has said the group was planning to seek help from the authorities rather than stage a political protest.

“What have we done that is so wrong, that we had to be detained? All we were doing was asking the government for help. I want to live with dignity even if it costs my life,” the man, 47 and an illegal migrant worker in Thailand, said in an interview.

He spoke on condition of anonymity to protect himself, his three children, and his wife—one of the nine people who remain in Lao custody after they were detained en route to the Lao capital, Vientiane, on Nov. 2. The man was detained briefly and then released.

He said he was legally “stateless,” having left Laos after the Communists took power in 1975, then met his wife and married in a Thai refugee center. He has no Lao identification documents and works illegally in Thailand, one of what he described as “hundreds of thousands” of illegal Lao laborers there.

The couple have three children: a 22-year-old daughter, a 21-year-old son, and an eight-year-old girl, all born in Thailand. The older two attended school through the sixth grade, he said, adding that the oldest child works in construction alongside her parents in Thailand.

“When you are so poor, you do what you have to do to survive—and you sell whatever you have to sell to survive, your labor or yourself. It’s so sad… We have become merchandise.”

The Seattle-based Lao Students Movement for Democracy estimated that authorities had detained more than 300 people traveling to Vientiane from both North and South.

Most were quickly released, but the nine still in custody have been moved to Samkhe Prison in Vientiane, the group said in a statement, dated Nov. 5 and written in Lao.

The Lao government has denied detaining anyone, saying the reports were "fabricated" to harm the country’s image.

Lao sources identified those still detained 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.

Family members confirmed that all nine were under arrest, sources who asked not to be named said. Some were connected with the Oct. 26, 1999 student protests in the communist Southeast Asian country—four of whose leaders remain in Samkhe prison in Vientiane after one died in custody.

‘Average people’

The man told RFA’s Lao service that the group, which last year decided to call itself Lao United for Economic and Social Renewal, was seeking economic and social support from the government as well as the re-integration of ethnic Lao returning from abroad.

“Everyone who was arrested was an average common person, not an activist,” he said. “They have grievances… they just wanted to petition.”

“The Vietnamese [living in Laos] have more rights than Lao people in Laos—it’s not right. Why this crackdown on us—when other vices are rampant and no one is doing anything about real crime?”

On Nov. 2, a convoy set out from the Nam Ngum dam area of Thalat in Vientiane province, heading to Vientiane by taxi when authorities intercepted them in Phone Hong town, some 60 kms from Vientiane and also in Vientiane province, at around 5 a.m., relatives said.

Two busloads carrying about 75 travelers each meanwhile set out from the south, and were detained in Pakading town some 70 kms from Vientiane in Borikhamxay province, witnesses said.

They had planned to meet several hundred others at the Patuxay monument in Vientiane, sources said.

Tiny, landlocked Laos, with a population nearing 7 million, is one of the world’s poorest countries. Literacy and life expectancy are low, and most of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture.

Original reporting by RFA’s Lao service. Lao service director: Viengsay Luangkhot. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Nov 16, 2009 10:04 AM


Nov 20, 2009 05:59 AM

Why you blaime everything on Hmong. only you killing people for living. you are not human.

Nov 16, 2009 11:19 AM

We all should protest until freedom rings from corners of Laos. I will sacrifice my life my country's freedom no matter how hard or how long. If the Laos and Vietnam troops, police, secret police wanted to kill us then go ahead and shoot all of us. Kill all your people and rule yourselves corruptors...

Nov 15, 2009 03:41 AM

No times in history that shows the Vietnamese has refrained their efforts from engulfing Laos, ( I mean swollow up Laos or wipe out Laos from the global map.) Now a day is even worse. ( I am talking about 21th century, or to be precise November 15,2009.

Nov 13, 2009 08:19 AM

Hi all lao not go across border to thailand these days due to war on people has been set up, it is a war between red shirts and yellow ones. Political crisis in this country keeps continuing because of coup d'etat still in power, you may be victims of unstable political conflict in this stupid country...OR IF YOU ARE LAOTIANS YOU WANT TO MAKE DEMONSTRATION YOU CAN GO TO THAILAND AND JOIN WITH THE YELLOW OR RED SHIRTS SOUND GREAT BUT DO NOT MAKE PROTEST IN LAOS BECAUSE IT IS ILLEGAL ILLEGAL ....DO NOT BE CONVINCED BY OUR POLITICAL ENEMY....THANKS!!!

Nov 22, 2009 08:21 AM

The is not fair for arrested this group of petition for democracy right for all.

Nov 20, 2009 12:39 AM

Stop killing one and others most problem in Laos today are the Hmong they doesn’t wanted to interact with majority Laotian. Hmong thinks they should be able to do what ever they want as dealing drug and smoke Opium all-day or out killing human.

Nov 18, 2009 03:10 AM

You know that in communist country you can not protest the govement.

Nov 20, 2009 08:34 AM

speed up for real freedom..............

Nov 16, 2009 10:47 AM

Laos PDR denied vietnamese troops and all the mass murders, rapes, genocide in Laos which all other countries known far well already. What fit best for Laos is put the Laos PDR and Vietnam back to the blacklist, take them out from NU, WTO
then partition the country to those seek freedom, free will to compete ideals of how to built the country but not corrupt the country. Removed all corruptors to a designated area/region and let them corrupt their lives there.

Nov 23, 2009 01:40 AM

Do not talk about Vietnames present in Laos. Your Laotian still owed us. We come to Laos, and thousand and thousan die in Laos. Laos is just a colony of Vietnam. We tell them what to do your guy have to do exactly like we have asked.

Nov 17, 2009 12:40 PM

I don't want to see Lao people to be like Thai people that all of them are now reaching the problems, difficulties of living because of many parties, many groups concern on their own interests. So, Laos is now improving unity, peace and prosperity are so important than other things. Or do you guide that recognise yourself as Laostian want ot be as Thai situation which is occuring straight away? Many parties, Many groups= Many problems, difficulties and unuity.

Nov 16, 2009 10:56 AM

Response Mr. Kek, all the people in Laos should all go proptest for our rights, democracy, freedom, leave the teenagers and kids only. If Laos people wanted freedom of speech, independence economically for all then do not do what Mr. Kek said, got protest in Thailand. Why not sticking your noses to yourself Kek. You get a punch in the noses or your life.

Nov 18, 2009 03:23 AM

I do not believe that put people in prison or killing people you do not trust will solve the problem. I believe we need to negociate or table talk for peace. I believe educators will be the one who can do the best. The yong generation is the leader of Laos. We need to educate them what is best and look at what the persperity nation do in order to be a persperity nation. We take for grant. Killing,torture, perscution, etc would not solve our nation's problem from generation to the next generation. We have to teach our governments and citizens to behave well and come up with a good solution to fit the needs of all Lao citizens.

Nov 17, 2009 12:45 PM

Do you wanna die like people in Thailand, go ahead mate protest the same as Thai people do. But I bet you in here not the same like in Thailand.

Nov 14, 2009 08:07 AM

The Lao communist regime must release those nine people immediately or they will face more protest in the near future.

Nov 16, 2009 11:29 AM

All Laotian come and protest until the last to go to their corrupted jail..

Nov 21, 2009 12:56 AM

Stop pick on Viet yes we do have more right in Laos. just remember we die for you during the war. you went to Thailand, and we came to Laos. we love Laos this is our state. Uncle Ho and Uncle Kayson said so. just live in peace Lao-Viet. we can pick on Thai so we can have our Issan back remember 1800 what did siame to Vientiane. LONG LIVE LAO_VIET.

Nov 16, 2009 10:52 AM

The loas government has sold their souls to the Vietnamese to protect them. They don't care and love their people. It is tragic to see the problems time and time again.The UN is there but they also do nothing. The United Nation now is known as the United for nothing. Through out history, communist has shown no mercy and love people.So let them do whatever they feel like. The end time for them to rule to torture people is on its way.

Nov 18, 2009 02:14 AM

Calm down gentlemen. Laotian are always well behave and have excellent manner. We don't need to be compared to others neighboring countries as an example. Just TALK to one another like Lao. NO leftist or Rightist just Decent Laotian who love our country pride. OK

Jan 04, 2010 04:16 PM

if vietnamese communist was not nice to laos country, then we will kill them all at that time. some people asked ong ho a question: why did loas, cambodia, and south vietname got the same situation? during 1975. where is the U.N at that time? the answere is: the U.N at that time is north vietnamese can you see?

Nov 18, 2009 01:25 AM

I believe it is time for the people in Laos to think what is the best for Laos. Every should goes with the majority. In order to be a prosperity nation, the government have to serve the people not to serve themselves. Governments have to listen to their citizens ant take their advices for the best, not to do with their believes.

Nov 24, 2009 07:14 AM

I don't know why the Laotian are not doing anything about this country. Laos is one of the Poorest countries the world. And I dont now why laotian dont reallized the situation. So many countries gave Laos Millions of Dollars every years and look at Laos right now. Economy is so bad and GOSH look at the streets, they are not even streets. Well, guys, especially those who still live in Laos, I think it is time for your people should make a chance now. The rest of the WORLD are not waiting for your Laotian people.

Jan 08, 2010 07:57 AM viet are everywhere in cambodia and in laos. You killed a lot hmongs but we killed you plenty too. The fact that deaths meant nothing to you viets--because you are overcrowded and just as poor.