A Lao woman arrested on Sept. 12 on charges of defaming the country is still being kept from seeing family members until completion of a police investigation into her activities, sources told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday.
Houayheuang Xayabouly, 30, was arrested on Sept. 12 after she posted criticism on Facebook of the slow government response to floods on Sept. 5 in the country’s southern Champassak and Salavan provinces, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
The delayed government response had left many Lao villagers stranded and cut off from help, Houayheuang, also called Mouay, said in her Sept. 5 Facebook Live video, which was viewed more than 150,000 times.
Speaking to RFA’s Lao Service, a close friend said that relatives and friends have not been allowed to visit Mouay in detention, adding, “The authorities are still in the process of investigating and interrogating her.”
Efforts by family members to have Mouay released on bail have also stalled, her brother said. “It’s been quiet. I don’t know whether my bail application has been granted or not.”
More information will be made available after police have finished their questioning in the case, a police officer in Champassak province, where Mouay is being held, told RFA.
“Once the investigation is complete, and when [the police] are ready, we will have a press conference and will invite everyone, including the media,” he said.
Champassak police had earlier announced that a press conference would be held on Sept. 18, but that conference was postponed, sources said.
Threat of long prison term
On Sept. 17, Lao state media reported that Mouay had confessed to the crime of defaming Laos and of having connections with “bad elements” inside the country and abroad.
Under Article 117 of the Lao penal code, she now faces a possible fine of between five million and 20 million kip (U.S.$567-$2270) and a jail term of from one to five years.
“In Laos, the threat of long prison terms for those who criticize the authorities is very real,” Andrea Giorgetta from the Bangkok office of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) told RFA last week in an interview.
“So silence, prison, or exile are the only three options available for those who don’t like the government,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.