NGOs Call for United Nations to Pressure Laos on Sombath Somphone, Human Rights, Press and Religious Freedom Violations

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The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), and a coalition of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are a calling for United Nations’ (UN) members to urge the government of Laos to cease ongoing human rights violations, religious freedom violations, and to restore fundamental human freedoms, including press freedom. They are also calling for the release of Sombath Somphone and other imprisoned Lao and Hmong political and religious dissidents.

Joining the CPPA and LMHR, in coalition, are the: Lao Human Rights Council, Inc.; the United League for Democracy in Lao, Inc.; Lao Veterans of America, Inc.; Laos Institute for Democracy; Lao Students Movement for Democracy; Hmong Advance, Inc.; Hmong Advancement, Inc.; and, others.

“We are calling for increased transparency and human rights reforms by the Lao government, military and communist party, as well as press and religious freedom,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C. “The NGOs and civil society organizations have also joined together to call for the immediate release of Sombath Somphone, and others who have disappeared at the hands of the Lao military and secret police, including the leaders of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy of 1999, ethnic Hmong refugee leaders, Lao and Hmong minority Christian believers, and many other political prisoners and religious and political dissidents.”

Smith continued: “Unfortunately, in Laos, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPRD or Lao PDR) is still a one-party Marxist government largely controlled by the military and communist party; It continues to be strongly allied with Stalinist North Korea.”

Mrs. Vanida Thephsouvanh of the Paris, France-based Lao Movement for Human Rights [(LMHR or Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme (MLDH)] expressed: “deep concerns about violations of freedom of expression, enforced disappearances and religious freedom in Laos.”

Mrs. Thephsouvanh said the LMHR along with other civil society organizations are urging United Nations’ members to press the Lao PDR government for urgent reforms at its upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) schedule for the 20th of January, 2015 in Geneva.

“In advance of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR)’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) scheduled for 20 January 2015 in Geneva, the Geneva-based UPR-Info invited diplomats to hear the concerns of civil society organizations at a UPR pre-session in Geneva today,” stated Thephsouvanh.

“The UPR is a key mechanism for addressing the state of human rights in all 193 United Nations member states. The UPR is designed to treat all states equally with respect to their human rights records. The UPR process includes the opportunity for each state to declare what efforts they have undertaken to fulfill their obligations to respect human rights;

“We have deep concerns about violations of freedom of expression, enforced disappearances and religious freedom in Laos. Regretting that Lao PDR has not implemented recommendations it accepted at its first UPR in 2010, she urged States to raise concerns on these human rights abuses and presented concrete recommendations for human rights progress in Laos,” continued

Thephsouvanh, speaking on behalf of the LMHR, which is also a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Twenty one representatives from the Geneva-based missions attended the pre-session.

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