Friday 7.4.2017 in Latest Developments in Laos Country Page
Lao authorities impose severe restrictions on the right to freedom of expression. There is no free press; all media are state-controlled and used as a propaganda tool for the ruling Lao Peoples' Revolutionary Party. Freedom of expression on the internet is also tightly restricted and websites are frequently blocked or censored. Decree 327 regulates online discussion and freedom of expression on social media and individuals can be prosecuted if charged with “disrupting social order and undermining security”.
To illustrate how tightly freedom of expression is controlled, in March 2016 three Lao activists were detained and then disappeared after criticising the government. While working in Bangkok, Thailand, Somphone Phimmasone, his girlfriend, Lod Thammavong, and Soukane Chaithad published a post on Facebook, drawing attention to the lack of democracy in Laos and the government's atrocious human rights record. The authorities immediately detained the three upon return to Laos to renew their passports. The three dissents were forced to admit to their crimes on national television. To this day, in 2017 their whereabouts are still unknown.
Laos is known as one of the most repressive states for civic freedoms in the world. The authorities tightly control and monitor civic activities, and actions, protests and demonstrations are rarely held. In an August 2016 statement, the Vice Chair of the Association for Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) Parliamentarians for Human Rights commented on the situation in the country:
"Laos has now become one of the most rights repressing countries in the ASEAN: leaders in the region and from around the world must stop looking the other way, and demand that Vientiane end its asphyxiation of independent civil society".
There is no freedom of assembly or peaceful protest. There is virtually no space for Laotian citizens to criticise the government. Public protests or assemblies held without government permission are strictly forbidden, and any efforts to organise such events are promptly suppressed by the police and security forces.