Laos releases Thailand-based Lao democracy activist

Ounkeo Souksavanh for RFA Lao
Laos releases Thailand-based Lao democracy activist Savang Phaleuth, a human rights activist and member of the Free Laos group, is seen in this June 2022 photo.
Citizen journalist

Laos has released a Thailand-based human rights activist whom authorities arrested in April when he returned to Laos to visit family, sources with knowledge of his case told Radio Free Asia.

Savang Phaleuth had been working in Thailand for years and was a member of the Free Laos group. On April 20, he attempted to travel to his hometown in Laos’ Savannakhet province but was arrested for his political campaign work, RFA reported at the time.

He was released last month, a source who requested anonymity for safety reasons told RFA’s Lao Service.

“At the present time, Mr. Savang has been released,” the source said. “He returned to live with his family in Thailand.”

Savang was arrested because he had two nationalities and carried two passports, and was a member of an anti-Lao government organization in Thailand, a Lao official said. 

Other members of the Free Laos group told RFA that it was unlikely that authorities arrested Savang for having dual nationality. It was more likely that there were political charges, they said.

Savang was not the first Thai-based activist to be arrested when returning to Laos. In 2017, Somphone Pimmasone, Lodkham Thammavong, and Soukane Chaithad, were arrested when they entered Laos.

They were charged with criticizing the Lao government online while working abroad and for taking part in a protest outside the Lao embassy in Thailand. The three were handed prison terms described by rights groups as harsh at a secret trial in April of that year.

In another case, democracy activist Od Sayavong vanished under mysterious circumstances in Bangkok in 2019 after posting a video clip online criticizing the government. 

Listed as a “person of concern” by the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR because of his advocacy for democracy and human rights, his whereabouts remain unknown. 

This report was produced by Radio Free Asia, a news service affiliated with BenarNews.


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