The Observatory has been informed about the attempted murder of Mr Anousa Luangsouphom, aka “Jack”, a 25-year-old activist, who has been outspoken on justice and human rights issues in Laos, in particular through social media. Anousa is the administrator of several private and public Facebook pages discussing democracy and human rights in Laos, and reporting on a wide range of social, environmental, economic, and political issues in the country.
On April 29, 2023, at approximately 10:30pm, Anousa was shot multiple times by an unknown individual while he was sitting at the “After School Chocolate & Bar”, a coffee shop in Dongmieng Village, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane. From the coffee shop’s CCTV footage, a masked individual can be seen entering the bar, approaching Anousa, shooting him twice at close range in the face and chest, and immediately running away. Anousa was subsequently transported to Vientiane’s Friendship Hospital. On May 9, 2023, Anousa was medically evacuated abroad to receive proper medical treatment. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Anousa was recovering from the surgeries in a hospital at an undisclosed location outside of Laos.
The Observatory is extremely concerned over the attempt on Anousa’s life and the apparent impunity surrounding this attack. To date, the Lao authorities have failed to identify and hold accountable the perpetrator of the attack. On May 5, 2023, the Deputy Head of the Vientiane Public Security Headquarters, Col. Oubon Chounlamany, speculated the attack had been carried in connection with a business dispute or a love affair. Col. Oubon offered no evidence to support his claim, and offered no details concerning the steps taken by the authorities to investigate Anousa’s attempted murder.
The Observatory notes that “The Power of the Keyboard” Facebook page, co-administered by Anousa, has rapidly become a platform where young people can exchange their views and express their criticism on the Lao government and the authorities. The page also advocates for multi-party democracy in Laos and for an end to China’s controversial infrastructure and investment projects in the country.
The Observatory also notes with concern that the attempted murder of Anousa perpetuates the chilling effect on civil society in the country, where serious human rights violations have routinely remained unaddressed by the authorities. An emblematic example of another act that created a chilling effect on civil society in Laos was the enforced disappearance, more than 10 years ago, of Sombath Somphone, a pioneer in community-based development and youth empowerment. Since his abduction in Vientiane on December 15, 2012, and despite numerous calls made by international NGOs and United Nations member states and human rights mechanisms, the Lao authorities have not conducted a proper investigation to determine his fate and whereabouts, which constitutes a grave violation of international human rights law.
The Observatory strongly condemns the attempted murder of Anousa, which seems to be merely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities and exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
The Observatory urges the authorities in Laos to carry out an immediate, thorough, and impartial investigation into his attempted murder, in order to hold the perpetrator accountable.
The Observatory further urges the Lao authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders in the country, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Laos, asking them to:
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Anousa Luangsouphom and all other human rights defenders in Laos;
- Carry out an immediate, thorough, and impartial investigation into the attempted murder of Anousa Luangsouphom, in order to hold the perpetrator accountable;
- Put an end to all acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in the country, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
- Provide prompt and adequate reparations to Anousa Luangsouphom and his family;
- Guarantee in all circumstances the rights to life and to freedom of expression, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 6 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), respectively, to which Laos is a state party.
- Sonexay Siphandone, Prime Minister of Laos, Fax: + 856 21 213560
- Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Laos, Email: email@example.com
- Phayvy Syboualypha, Minister of Justice of Laos, Fax: + 856 21 414102
- Thongchanh Manixay, Minister of Home Affairs: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- H.E. Latsamy Keomany, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Laos to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- H.E. Phoukhong Sisoulath, Embassy of Laos in Brussels, Belgium, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Laos in your respective country.