Amnesty International is delighted by the safe arrival in France today of
two Lao former prisoners of conscience, Feng Sakchittaphong and Latsami
Khamphoui. The pair were released from prison in October this year having
served a 14-year sentence for charges including "making preparations for
rebellion" and "propaganda against the Lao People's Democratic Republic".
Both men had advocated peaceful economic and political
reform in Laos -- a country which has a zero-tolerance policy towards
dissent in any form.
"Amnesty International shares in the delight of Feng and
Latsami's families and hopes that their release marks another step on the
road towards the full respect of human rights for all in Laos," said
Natalie Hill, Deputy Asia Director at Amnesty International.
There were widely-held concerns that the pair may not
have been released at the end of their sentence -- an all too common
occurrence in Laos. It was also feared that the pair would not be
allowed to leave the country to seek medical help abroad. Feng and
Latsami are both 62 years old and suffering from poor health, including
heart and kidney problems. Both men have close family connections in France.
Sadly, fellow prisoner of conscience Thongsouk Saysangkhi
died in prison before he could be released. The former colleague of Feng
and Latsami died in 1998 aged 59. The three men were arrested at the same
time and lived under extremely harsh conditions in a prison camp, with
few family visits allowed. Thongsouk had been denied adequate medical
care for serious health problems.
"Our hearts go out to the family of Thongsouk Saysangkhi
who should also have been rejoicing today," said Natalie Hill.
Feng Sakchittaphong, Latsami Khamphoui, and Thongsouk Saysangkhi were
former high-ranking government officials arrested in October 1990 for
writing letters advocating peaceful political and economic change in Laos.
Feng had held a high-ranking position in the Ministry of Justice; Latsami
was a Vice Minister of Economics and Planning; and Thongsouk a Vice
Minister of Science and Technology.
The three were tried in a grossly unfair trial in
November 1992 on various charges including "making preparations for
rebellion", "propaganda against the Lao People's Democratic Republic" and
"libel and slander". All three were adopted as prisoners of conscience by
Amnesty International in 1991.