Lao Provincial Youth Union Warns Social Media Users Not to Criticize Government

laos-monk-using-computer-mar8-2009.jpg A monk and other young people use computers in Luang Prabang in a file photo.

A Lao youth organization in a northwestern province has issued a warning to young people about using social media to criticize the ruling Communist Party or the government of Prime Minister Thonsing Thammavong.

The Lao Youth Union in Bokeo, a province wedged between the Mekong River border with Thailand and Myanmar, has cautioned its members to not use social media, especially Facebook, to express displeasure about the government and its leaders, according to a copy of the document obtained by RFA’s Lao Service.

The warning, released on Feb. 6, is addressed to all youth organizations in the province and references an internet decree that Deputy Prime Minister Somsavath Lengsavath suggested all youth organizations should implement.

The government decree, which is numbered 327 and dated Sept. 16, 2014, mandates that all youth groups at the provincial and district levels, police and army departments, schools, hospitals, state enterprises and other offices abide by a Lao law that bans people from defaming and attacking the government via social media.

The warning from the Lao Youth Union in Bokeo union requests that young people use social media in a progressive manner that is not harmful to individuals, organizations, Communist Party policy, state law, and defense and security tasks, and does not engage in other behavior which is illegal.

It prohibits posts on Facebook and other social media sites, which can be shared with others, and bans the “Like” click function.

The provincial warning also prohibits messages, videos, pictures, sounds and pornographic videos that are contrary to Lao tradition, culture and law as well as pictures about extravagance, gambling, drugs and drinking alcohol.

Furthermore, it cautions young users of social media to not express opinions on issues about which they do not know the facts.

Expressing opinions

Many young people have criticized the warning, arguing that it is impossible to ban the clicking of the “Like” on Facebook. They also say that individuals have a right to share and express their opinions on social media.

One young person in the capital Vientiane, who declined to be named, told RFA’s Lao Service that the policy not only was taking effect in Bokeo province, but also would apply to the rest of the country.

RFA could not reach the Lao Youth Union in Bokeo province for comment.

An unidentified Lao Youth Union official also in Vientiane, however, said the Youth Union in Bokeo province issued the warning to implement the Lao law banning people from defaming and attacking the government via social media.

“The warning was issued because Laos has improved the law,” he said, but did not provide further details.

He also said the warning would be slowly and gradually circulated to young people throughout the country by youth administrations in schools, the National University of Laos and other offices with youth organizations.

Reported and translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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