Lao Soccer Club President Forced From Team For ‘Defaming’ Country

Phijika Boonkwang, the country's first female team president, had criticized the condition of a road leading to a playing field.

Phijika Boonkwang, former president of the Vientiane Football United club, is shown in an undated photo.

The popular president of a Lao soccer club has resigned her position after being banned for 90 days for “harming the reputation” of her country in a live Facebook video criticizing the condition of a local road.

Phijika Boonkwang, president of the the Vientiane Football United club, was walking on Aug. 25 along a muddy and uneven road leading to the headquarters of the Lao National Football Federation to see a game when she made her comments, which angered government authorities.

“This is the road to the Federation, not the Sanamxay District,” the 30-year-old Boonkwang said, referring to an area damaged earlier this month by widespread flooding after heavy rains breached a hydropower project’s containment dam.

“This is the capital, Vientiane, and this is the Lao National Football Federation. It’s flooded. This is very bad,” she said.

Three days later, on Aug. 28, the Federation issued a notice banning Boonkwang, the country’s first female soccer club president, from all soccer activities for 90 days “for damaging the reputation of the Federation and the country.”

In an Aug. 28 statement on her Facebook page, Boonkwang apologized for making the video clip and expressed regret for her choice of words.

“I said those things with good intentions.  I want to improve the game of soccer in the country, and I want to improve the condition of the road leading to the Federation.”

“I’m sorry that I used the wrong words,” she said.

But on Aug. 29, Boonkwang appeared on Facebook again, this time in tears, to announce her resignation from her team.

“It’s hard for me not to be president of the team anymore,” she said, adding, “I quit because the Federation said I had damaged the reputation of the country.”

“The Federation and the country are the same,” she said.

Speaking on Aug. 29 to RFA’s Lao Service, an unidentified Lao sports official defended the Federation’s action againt Boonkwang, saying she was “100 percent in the wrong.”

“She was on a live video clip complaining about the condition of the road leading to the Federation.”

“That was inappropriate and in violation of Federation rules,” he said.

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