Laos arrests human rights and land activist-FrontLine Defenders
July 9, 2012
Laos – Arrest and detention of human rights defender and land rights activist Mr Souvanh
FrontLine Defenders: July 6, 2012
On 18 June 2012, human rights defender Mr Souvanh from Yeup village, Thateng District, Sekong Province was arrested by the military for urging the authorities to seek a solution to a land dispute in his community.
It is reported that since his arrest he has been detained at a provincial military jail, and that he has been given one meal per day and has not been allowed to meet his relatives and lawyer. A local contact fears that Souvanh could be badly treated in jail. Souvanh is a farmer who has been active in advocating for land rights in his community.
The arrest of Souvanh came after a series of arrests of human rights defenders and land rights activists by Lao authorities. Seven human rights defenders from Ban Yeup village in Sekong Province were reportedly arrested by Provincial Security Police on 13 and 14 June 2012. They were detained at Thateng district police station and were released on 26 June 2012. These villagers have been opposing the land concession given to Cong Ty Cao Su Nghi Lao-Viet (LVF) company. The company was granted a 50 year land concession in 2006 to plant rubber in Thateng and Daksing districts. At least four villagers have been affected by this concession.
Before their arrest, in the absence of progress on a solution, Souvanh and the seven human rights defenders had met with local authorities to demand better compensation for the villagers affected by the concession. They had also submitted a petition to the National Assembly, the Lao Front for National Reconstruction, and the Prime Minister’s Office which responded by assigning provincial authorities to look into the dispute, although to this date, no action has been taken.
Front Line Defenders believes that the arrest and detention of Souvanh is directly related to his work in the defence of human rights, in particular his work in defending land rights. Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned for his physical and psychological integrity while in detention.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Laos to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release Souvanh, as Front Line Defenders believes that he is being held solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
2. Ensure that the treatment of Souvanh, while in detention, adheres to all those conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment’, adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
3. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the arrest of Souvanh, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
4. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Souvanh and other human rights defenders from Yeup village;
5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Laos are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Matthew McEvoy. Frank Jennings Intern, Front Line Defenders, Second Floor, Grattan House, Temple Road, Blackrock
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