Human rights

Australia: Press Laos to respect rights

(Sydney) – The Australian government should pressure the Lao government to take concrete steps to improve its poor human rights record during the seventh Australia-Laos Human Rights Dialogue on December 9, 2021, said Human Rights Watch today.

In a November communication, Human Rights Watch specifically urged the Australian government to use the dialogue to focus on the enforced disappearances of Lao and Thai nationals.

“The Lao government’s suppression of basic rights and lack of accountability for the abuses stands out in almost every respect,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “Australia should use its influence as Laos’ major development partner to push for specific actions to bring about meaningful rights improvements.”

Laos has an obligation under international human rights law to prevent, investigate and remedy any enforced disappearance, government refusal to detain or locate an arrested person. The Laotian government has responded to regional and international calls to account for disappearances enforced by denial or silence.

There has been no progress on at least 10 cases of enforced disappearance in Laos, Human Rights Watch said. The case of a prominent Lao civil society activist, Sombath Somphone, is emblematic of the government’s failure to act in accordance with its international obligations. Despite CCTV camera footage showing Sombath being taken from a police checkpoint in downtown Vientiane on December 15, 2012, Laotian authorities have repeatedly denied that the government had taken Sombath into custody or provided information about his fate or where he was.

There has also been no progress in the investigation into the enforced disappearance of five Thai nationals in Laos: Ittiphon Sukpaen, Wuthipong Kachathamakul, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatcharn Buppawan and Kraidej Luelert.

“The annual Australia-Laos Human Rights Dialogue should not be the only forum of the year where human rights are discussed,” said Pearson. “Human rights concerns should also be raised in private and in public at the highest level, so that Australian officials can convey the essential role that human rights and the rule of law play in its development. partnership with Laos. “