Laos Student Movement for Democracy Issues Statement in Vientiane, Washington DC
"Many in the U.S. Congress and Washington, D.C. remember and pray for the Laos student leaders still imprisoned as political prisoners in Laos for peacefully protesting and opposing the corrupt one-party military regime in Vientiane that continues to kill and oppress its own people," said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., Vientiane, Laos, and Bangkok, Thailand - April 3, 2009 - The following is the text of the statement by Oudong Saysana of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy of October 1999, presented at events in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Congress ( at a U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos, U.S. Congressional Briefing and Laos National Policy Conference held on February 5-6, 2009 ).
"We recognize the moral and political courage of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy of October 1999; we are grateful for those who survived and escaped from the LPDR regime in Laos, in October of 1999, and many in the U.S. Congress and Washington, D.C. remember and pray for the Lao student leaders still imprisoned as political prisoners in Laos for peacefully opposing the corrupt one-party military regime in Vientiane that continues to kill and oppress its own people," said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis.
The following statement by the Lao Students Movement for Democracy was translated into the Lao, Thai and Hmong language and issued in Vientiane, Laos, and Bangkok, Thailand:
"Testimony of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy Movement of October 26, 1999
U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos U.S. Capitol & Cannon House Office Building U.S. Congress
February 5-6, 2009
Honorable Senators and Congressmen, T. Kumar, Amnesty International, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director, Center for Public Policy Analysis, Bounthanh Rathigna and Thongchanh Boulum, United League for Democracy in Laos, Colonel Wangyee Vang, Lao Veterans of America Institute, Lia Vang and Pamela Xiong, Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council, Vaughn Vang, Lao Human Rights Council, Hmong Human Rights Organization student leaders from Wisconsin-Madison, Porsia Vang and Bao Lee, Hmong Students Club, University of Wisconsin Plattville, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman:
My name is Oudong Saysana, advisor of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy ( LSMD ) of October 1999. I would like to convey our deepest appreciation to all of you in the U.S. Congress for making this meeting possible, especially, Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director, Center for Public Policy Analysis. Some of the LSMD students were not able to be here today, so I was asked to help represent them and to deliver their important message to the American and Lao people in the U.S. Congress and Washington, D.C.
I also want to recognize and thank all of the U.S. Congressmen and U.S. Congressional staff here today, and Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, human rights and humanitarian advocate, who we are here to honor as well for her important work for the Lao and Hmong people and to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of her book Tragic Mountains: the Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos ( Indiana University Press ).
I want to express our special thanks, on behalf of the freedom-loving Lao people, to U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), U.S. Congressman Ron Kind ( D-WI ), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Kagan ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), U.S. Congressman Jim Moran ( D-VA ), U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ), U.S. Congressman George Radanovich ( R-CA ), U.S. Congressman Costa ( D-CA ) and others for helping to make these event so very successful and our visit to Washington, D.C. so enjoyable.
We especially want to thank you for introducing H. Res. 1273 in 2008, legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress to help raise awareness about the human rights and refugee crisis facing the Lao and Hmong people, in Thailand and Laos, including the Lao Students Movement for Democracy members still imprisoned in Laos.
I want to welcome the Lao and Hmong students from the United States who today who have joined our events, especially those from Wisconsin.
As you may know On October 26, 1999 the Lao Students Movement for Democracy along with hundreds of supporters peacefully rallied in front of the Lao Presidential Palace and then marched to the Veterans ' monument afterward in Vientiane, Laos.
The purpose and main objective of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy ( LSMD ) are ( please refer to our "White Paper" below which I will now read from and encourage you to read as well, which is a part of my official testimony today--see below ).
Unfortunately, during the peaceful demonstration in Vientiane, Laos in October 1999, the Lao Communist Government, the LPDR regime, used their special military and security forces to crush the demonstrators and captured five ( 5 ) of eleven ( 11 ) key leaders such as Mr. Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Khamphouvieng Sisa-at, Seng-Aroun Phengphanh, Keochay and Bouavanh Chanmanivong.
The Lao communist government, the LPDR regime, arrested, tortured, and incarcerated these Lao students at that time, October 1999and now to this day without trials, which violates the one-year statutory limitation. Until today the fate of these gentlemen are unknown since they were arrested. We are very concerned for their health, welfare and personal safety.
We are here to urge and ask for your assistance in obtaining freedom for these men, these Lao Student leaders, as well as other political prisoners being jailed in Laos. We are here in the U.S. Congress to urge all of you to join us to campaign to fight for peace, justice, freedom and democracy in Laos.
As you may know, freedom of expression, association and religion continue to be severely restricted.
Laotian and Lao-Hmong people continued to be arrested and harassed for their Christian beliefs, and for other independent religious practices. The Lao PDR military and security forces promptly denies, and frequently does not inform family or relatives of the arrest( s ) and where people are held.
The Lao PDR do not respect basic human rights as guaranteed by the Lao Constitution and the Charter of the United Nations ( 1951 Geneva Convention ).
We strongly believe the human rights are basic rights and freedom that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language.
And human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and of expression.
The LPDR regime is denying its citizens basic human rights and fundamental freedoms which has impoverished our nation economically, politically and spiritually.
Thank you for your high commitment to seeking justice and freedom for Laos.
Oudong Saysana Lao Students Movement for Democracy
WHITE PAPER OF THE LAO STUDENTS MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRACY ( LSMD ) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This paper is to bring to the attention of the Government of the United States of America, including the U.S. Congress, as well as the United Nations, more specifically the United High Commissioner for Human Rights ( UNHCHR ), and various International Organizations, the terrible human rights violations and horrific situation caused by the one-party, authoritarian government of Laos, the so-called Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ).
It is universally known that the current Lao Government, the LPDR regime, since taking over the country, has been ignoring the basic human rights of the Lao people, especially as guaranteed by the constitution and the Charter of the United Nations.
In fact, since 1975, the current Lao government is one of the worst governments in regards to respect of basic human rights. There were a number of serious problems that have never been brought to the attention of the international community. In the LPDR, citizens do not have the right to express their opinion about their government. The LPDR security forces abuse detainees, especially those suspected of insurgent or anti-government activities.
The LPDR judiciary in Laos is subject to executive and military influence, is corrupted, and doesn't ensure citizens' due process. The LPDR government restricts freedom of speech, the press, assembly and association.
The purpose of establishing this movementthe LSMD-- is to bring together teachers, students, and government officials from all over the land who have similar vision for pushing for Peace, Freedom, Independence, Liberty and above all National Reconciliation for the Laotian people on the globe.
SHORT TERM OBJECTIVES
To release unconditionally the four key leaders of our movement ( Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Keochay, Bo uavanh Chanmanivong, and Seng-Aroun Thengphanh ).
To continuously raise matters of human rights with the Laotian government at every opportunity to seek the release of those imprisoned for human rights and religious reasons.
LONG TERM OBJECTIVES
The main objectives of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy are: To restore true democracy for Laos To have full Independence for Laos To respect the basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution To provide framework for peaceful national reconciliation To establish multi-political party system of government To find solutions for existing economic, social, and political problems; To develop the country toward prosperity's To abolish all forms of corruption's. To abolish the "friendship and cooperation agreement between Laos and Viet Nam" signed on July 17, 1977 ; To provide adequate healthcare for the needy To provide quality education for all
On October 26, 1999, the Lao Students Movement for Democracy along with hundreds of supporters were peacefully rallied in front of the Lao Presidential Palace and then marched to the veterans' monument afterward. The purposes of the rally were as followed: To call for democratic reforms. To urge the Lao government to respect people's rights and freedoms in accordance with the government's Constitution and international laws. To demand the unconditional releases of all political prisoners. To grant amnesty to former government officials.
The peaceful demonstration also focused on the concerns that Laos has continuously struggled with a worsening economic crisis for most three decades.
DEMONSTRATION CHAOS CAUSED BY LPDR REGIME
Unfortunately, during the peaceful demonstration, the Lao Government used their military and security special forces to crush the demonstrators and captured five ( 5 ) of eleven ( 11 ) key leaders such as Mr. Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Khamphouvieng Sisa-at, Keochay, Bouavanh Chanhmanivong, and Seng-Aroun Phengphanh.
The Lao Communist government arrested, tortured, and incarcerated them to this day without trial or due process, which violates the one-year statutory limitation.
Six of these key Lao student leaders managed to escape to Thailand, were granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees ( UNHCR ) and political asylum by the United States of America.
The six leaders are: Ms. Nouamkham Khamphylavong, Mr. Lae Phalakhone, Mr, Ket-Anong Souphahack, Mr. Vongsavath Phetpakaisaeng, Ms. Lidsyda Nouanphachanh, and Mr. Aloungnaphonh Chantala. In addition, there were between 300 to 400 other demonstrators also were arrested, questioned, and released. The remainders were able to disappear into the festival crowd in Vientiane. However, most were later arrested in their home while the fate of the rests remained unknown.
The Lao demonstrators were students, teachers, government officials, and peasant. Three former high government officials detained since 1990 for advocating a multiparty system and criticizing restrictions on political liberties, were not tried until 1992. One has died in prison since that time. Also, the court tried and handed down life sentences to three men detained since 1975 for crimes allegedly committed during their tenure as officials of the previous regime. One of these people reportedly died in prison. On denial of fair trial, the constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary and the prosecutor's office; however, senior government and party officials influence the court. Impunity is a problem, as is corruption. In many cases, judges can be bribed and cases w ould never be resolved.
SHORT TERM RECOMMENDATION
The Lao Students Movement for Democracy would strongly request the assistance of the U.S. government, the United Nations, and various Human Rights institutions. Our demands are as follows:
To release immediately and unconditionally the four ( 4 ) key leaders of our movement ( Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Keochay, Bouavanh Chanmanivong, and Seng-Aroun Thengphanh ). To continuously raise matters of human rights with the Laotian government at every opportunity to seek the release of those imprisoned for human rights and religious reasons.
LONG TERM RECOMMENDATION
The Lao Students Movement for Democracy would strongly request the assistance of the U.S. government, the United Nations, and various Human rights organizations. Our demands are as follows:
To release unconditionally all political and religious prisoners in Laos. To respect basic human rights as guaranteed by the Lao Constitution and the Charter of the United Nations ( 1951 Geneva Convention ). To fight all forms of corruption in Laos by the LPDR regime. To restore true democracy to Laos. ; To organize free and fair elections in Laos. To guarantee the basic rights, the freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion Laos. To promote national reconciliation in Laos. To have full independence for Laos."
( End Testimony, Statement and White Paper By Oudong Saysana and the Lao Students Movement for Democracy of October 1999, issued in Washington, D.C., Vientiane, Laos and Bangkok, Thailand )
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