US protests Lao dissident death in prison

(ADDS more quotes from embassy)

HANOI, March 10 (AFP) - The US Embassy in Vientiane said on Tuesday it regretted the death of a Lao dissident in prison, who was denied proper medical treatment.

"The United States particularly regrets the death in prison of Thongsouk Saysangkhi because we raised his fragile medical condition a number of times with all levels of the Lao government," a US embassy spokesperson said.

The embassy said it had been informed by the Lao Foreign Ministry that Thongsouk died last month of complications related to diabetes.

We urged the Lao government to assure that he received adequate medical care, including if necessary transferring him to a prison in Vientiane where he could have had access to better medical care," she said.

According to other diplomatic sources, Thongsouk died on February 10 in Prison Camp 7, which lacked proper medical facilities in the remote province of Houa Phanh.

The US government, which has raised human rights issues with Laos at every possible opportunity also deplored "the arrest of individuals who are seeking to express peacefully their political views," the spokesperson said.

We call upon the Lao government to release all those held for the peaceful expression of their political views," the spokesperson said.

Amnesty International said that two others imprisoned for their political views, Feng Sakchittaphong and Laisami Khamphoui, were seriously ill and in need of medical treatment.

The US spokesman said the embassy and representatives of other foreign missions in Vientiane had "raised the issue of the three political prisoners with the highest levels of the Lao government on numerous occasions since the prisoners' incarceration."

With Thongsouk now dead, Amnesty said the Lao authorities should ensure that the same fate does not befall the other two.

"It is too late for Thongsouk and his family, but how much more suffering do Feng Sakchittaphong and Latsami Khamphoui and their families have to undergo before the Lao authorities give them the medical treatment they need," it said in a statement issued out of its London office.

Thongsouk 59, was arrested in 1990 after reportedly advocating a multiparty system in Laos. He was serving a 14-year sentence handed down in 1992.

Before his arrest, Thongsouk held senior positions in the Lao government. He was vice minister of Communications, Transportation and Posts from 1985 to 1990 when he became vice minister of Science and Technology shortly before his arrest.


Laos - Amnesty International - News Release - ASA


26104/98 News Service 41/98 AI INDEX: ASA 26/04/98

9 MARCH 1998 Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos)

Prisoner of conscience left to die

Amnesty International is appalled to learn of the death of prisoner of conscience Thongsouk Saysangkhi in mid-February, months after the organisation alerted the Lao authorities to his deteriorating health.

In December 1997 the human rights organisation received information that 59 year old Thongsouk, a diabetic patient, and the two prisoners of conscience arrested and detained with him --Feng Sakchittaphong and Latsami Khamphouiwere seriously ill and in need of hospital treatment.

"Appeals to the Lao authorities to help these sick men have clearly fallen on deaf ears," Amnesty International stated. "That Thongsouk Saysangkhi should have been allowed to die, just for writing letters advocating peaceful political and economic change in Laos, is totally unacceptable.

Since their arrest in 1990 for their peaceful political opposition Amnesty International has been calling for the release of these men. The organisation has also consistently asked the Lao authorities to improve their conditions of detention which fell far short of minimum international standards and constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

At various times they have been held in small cold cells with no beds, forbidden to talk to each other, allowed out of their cells only once a fortnight to bathe, and have been threatened with beatings by prison guards. There are no medical facilities available at Prison Camp 7, which is in a remote area of Houa Phanh province. Their families have only rarely been given permission to visit them.

"It is too late for Thongsouk and his family, but how much more suffering do Feng Sakchittaphong and Latsami Khamphoui and their families have to undergo before the Lao authorities give them the medical treatment they need, Amnesty International said.

At the very least, the authorities should now take immediate steps to ensure that the two men do not suffer the same fate as Thongsouk. If they need hospitalization, then they should be released and transferred immediately. For months the Lao Government ignored appeals and requests for information concerning Thongsouk's health. Now that it has been learnt that he has died in custody, it is incumbent upon the government to immediately lift all restrictions on access to family and medical visits to the two other men.

For further information on the imprisonment of Thongsouk Saysanghi, Latsami Khamphoui and Feng Sakchittaphong, see Lao People's Democratic Republic: Prisoners of conscience suffering in isolation, November 1996 (ASA 26/02/96).


Laotian prisoner died in custody: Radio Free Asia


WASHINGTON, March 6 (AFP) - A Laotian prisoner jailed for peacefully criticising his government's political system has died in custody, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Friday, citing a senior Laotian official.

Thongsouk Saysangkiii, 59, was serving a 14-year sentence, handed down in 1992, for peacefully criticising the Laotian government and advocating a multi-party system, RFA said.

A senior official in the Lao Foreign Ministry confirmed late Thursday that Thongsouk had died in custody, it said. He was believed to have been denied medical attention despite his poor health.

Thongsouk had been held in a reeducation camp in the northern province of Houa Phanh near the Vietnamese border, RFA said. It did not indicate when his death occurred.


AFP 062327 GMT MAR 98