A US-based human rights coalition has strongly condemned Laos for obstructing attempts to find three Hmong-Americans missing since early January.
“Brutal and corrupt elements of the Lao security services, including the secret police, military and communist party apparatus, appear to be seeking to cover-up what has happened to these three Americans,” said the statement, issued on Tuesday and posted on the CCPA website.
The US State Department said it had sent three embassy officials to Savannakhet to investigate the disappearances, but they were assaulted by Lao security forces.
“Local Lao officials refused to provide any information or assistance in determining the welfare and whereabouts of the missing men, and physically prevented the Embassy officials from entering an incident site which may be related to the case,” a US Embassy spokesman in Vientiane said.
The human rights group Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) on Tuesday charged that Laos was obstructing attempts to learn the fates of the three missing men.
The ethnic men were last seen in Savannakhet province in southern Laos.
Souli Kongmalavong, Bounma Phannhotha and Bounthie Insixiengmai, all from Minnesota state, “appear to have gone missing under mysterious circumstance involving the Lao secret police and military,” Tuesday’s statement said.
The activists linked the disappearance of the three US citizens to the case of civic activist Sombath Somphone.
Mr Sombath, a Lao citizen, disappeared in Vientiane on Dec 15. The government has stonewalled all information about his disappearance.
The CPPA’s statement came with support from United Lao for Democracy and Human Rights (ULDHR), the Lao Human Rights Council (LHRC), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), the Laos Institute for Democracy (LIFD), and a coalition of non-governmental organisations.
The Vientiane embassy’s statement on Sunday said the US government had received information the three Americans died in a traffic accident.
But when consular officials tried to get information on the scene, Lao security stopped them.
“We will continue to vigorously press the Lao government for information and assistance with this case,” it said.
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Discussion 1 : 19 Mar 2013 at 11.081
A Lao refugee colleague told me that bad things can happen to those who go back. She did pay a visit, until her uncle advised her to leave for her safety. Those who fled are still referred to as “traitors” by the government, even though she was only a child at the time.