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Laos Officials Criticized for Obstructing Investigation

Laos Officials Criticized for Obstructing Investigation Into 3 Missing Americans From Minnesota

Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bangkok, Thailand, and Vientiane, Laos

March 17, 2013

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), United Lao for Democracy and Human Rights (ULDHR), the Lao Human Rights Council (LHRC), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), the Laos Institute for Democracy (LIFD), and a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are criticizing the government of Laos for its failure to cooperate with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Laos regarding an attempted American investigation into the disappearance in January of three Lao-American men from the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Reports about the Lao government’s efforts to obstruct the U.S. investigation about the whereabouts and status of the three missing Americans from Minneapolis and St. Paul are being reported by Radio Free Asia (RFA), family members, and others today.

“The disappearance of the three Lao-Americans is troubling to all Laotian people and we are concerned that the Lao government is deeply involved in a major cover-up about this case by blocking, and not allowing, the U.S. Embassy and international community from finding the full truth of what has really happened to these missing Americans,” stated Boon Boualaphanh, President of the Minnesota-based ULDHR. “Now, we are very concerned about the ongoing disappearance of civic activist Sombath Somphone as well as the three Lao-Americans from Minnesota; Clearly, they should all be returned to their families, if alive or dead, immediately.”

“It is deplorable that the Lao government, including key communist party officials, are not cooperating with the U.S. Embassy in Laos as well as independent journalists, family members, and non-governmental organizations who are all seeking concrete answers into the recent disappearance in Southern Laos, of three Lao-American men from Minnesota’s Twin Cities,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.

Smith continued: “Mr. Souli Kongmalavong, Mr. Bounthie Insixiengmai and Mr. Bounma Phannhotha, of Minnesota, all disappeared in Southern Laos’ Savannakhet Province in January, and are feared dead, under suspicious circumstances involving corrupt Lao officials.”

Smith stated further: “The three Lao-American from Minnesota were last seen in Laos on January 6th and appear to have gone missing under mysterious circumstance involving the Lao secret police and military who, we believe, extrajudically arrested the group without charges ; We have received credible reports that the three Americans may have been met with violence and deadly force by the Lao police and military when traveling in the Keng Kok area of Savannakhet Province, Laos.”

“Brutal and corrupt elements of the Lao security services, including the secret police, military and communist party apparatus, appear to be seeking to cover-up what has happened to these three Americans who have gone missing in Savannakhet Province and are now feared dead in Laos,” Smith stated. “We have new information that the three Lao-Americans from Minnesota were apparently subject to arrest, police brutality and extortion by corrupt elements of the Lao police and military who are seeking to hide their abuses of the American men .”

“A disturbing pattern of egregious human rights violations, ethnic and religious persecution, official corruption and state-sponsored extrajudicial killings, including targeted killings, has once again reemerged in Laos with full force under the current Marxist regime in Vientiane,” concluded Smith.

Three bodies were recently found in a burnt out van in Southern Laos, one of whom was reportedly identified as Souli Kongmalavong, of Minnesota, by a relative in Laos.
RFA is reporting the Lao government’s failure to cooperate, and obstructive efforts to block, the investigation of the missing three Americans in Laos by the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Department of State in Laos..

A coalition of non-governmental organizations is urging the United Nations and the international community to investigate the disappearance of prominent civic activist Sombath Somphone and the three missing Lao-Americans, as well as the killing by the Lao military of four (4) unarmed Hmong villagers in February. Persecution and political violence are on the upswing in Laos.


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