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PRESS RELEASE
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500, CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt Suisse.

14 July 2004

Re: Request urgent intervention for extradition of 16 Vang Tao Laotians Our organization, Foreign Prisoner Support Services [F.P.S.S] wish to express immediate concerns to the United Nations and the International Community, in relation to the decision made by the Thai Government that has enabled the extradition of 16 Laotians - arrested on July 3, 2000 at the Vang Tao frontier post in southern Champasak region of Laos.

The Thai Court initially rejected the Laos government's argument that the 'Vang Tao Laotians' were members of an armed group responsible for the theft of state and private property. The Laos Government conceded to the Thai court that two bags containing US$40,000 remained at the Vang Tao border checkpoint. No evidence was provided to the Thai Court to support allegations of criminal activity relating to theft.

The Thai Criminal Court said "the raising of the three-headed elephant flag to replace the Lao National Flag during the operation cannot be deemed as a normal robbery but it was a kind of political expression".

According to Thai law the 16 Vang Tao Laotians cannot be extradited to Laos. Thailand's 1929 extradition law prohibits returning people who have committed political crimes to face punishment in other countries. Ironically, the decision of the Thai authorities to extradite the 16 Vang Tao Laotians took place on the fourth birthday of the Vang Tao operation.

F.P.S.S wishes to express immediate concern over the processes that has led to the extradition of the 16 Vang Tao Laotians, particularly, given that on December 30, 2003 the Appellate court of Bangkok had ruled "inadmissible" the extradition request filed by the Lao dictatorship. Moreover, these persons had already been convicted in Oubol provincial court [Thailand] of illegally entering Thailand, and all had completed their sentences and were waiting for the reply of the High Commissioner for Refugees on their refugee status application. In that petition submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the 16 Vang Tao Laotians argued that, if they were returned to Laos, they would face "cruel treatment … to intimidate people who would try to fight the regime, to introduce freedom and democracy."

This claim is widely supported throughout the International community by human rights organisations, former political prisoners of Laos, and thousands of Laotians currently living in exile. The Laos Government is a totalitarian regime with a long history of violating international agreements, including the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], the Geneva Convention, the Paris Peace Agreement and inclusive, the various elements of the Lao law itself. F.P.S.S calls for immediate and urgent action from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to intervene and uphold the request submitted by lawyer Phuthisit Bounthon, on behalf of the 16 Vang Tao Laotians seeking political asylum and resettlement in the third country. Furthermore, F.P.S.S calls for the International community and the Foreign aid donor community in Laos to urgently seek cooperation from the Lao PDR Government to safeguard the legal and human rights and treatment of the 16 Vang Tao Laotians, in consideration to statements released by the US State Department and Amnesty International that accuse Lao authorities of committing both numerous and serious human rights violations of prisoners who are detained, abused, tortured and imprisoned in conditions that are extremely harsh and life- threatening.


Authorized for release:

Mr. Tony Fox [Director F.P.S.S]
F.P.S.S – Head Office: Po Box 5401, West End. Q. Australia 4101
Web address: http://www.foreignprisoners.com

Mrs. Kay Danes [Director F.P.S.S]
F.P.S.S – Head Office: Po Box 5401, West End. Q. Australia 4101
Web address: http://www.foreignprisoners.com
"All humans deserve to be treated with dignity"

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All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff
All information is © Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff