ASEAN in Laos: Challenges of Leadership, Human Rights and Democracy

ASEAN logo 2016Press conference at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand

11am, Wednesday 31 August, 2016, Bangkok 

At a time when ASEAN is witnessing an alarming increase in human rights abuses, restrictions on civil liberties, and a shrinking of democratic space in a number of its member states, what kind of example does this year’s ASEAN Chair, Laos, set for the regional bloc?

The enforced disappearance of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone in December 2012, ongoing arbitrary detentions, and extremely tight controls on the media and civil society have instilled an environment of fear, silence, and repression in Laos. Little news about the serious human rights abuses occurring in the country ever comes out in the media, allowing the continued violation of basic liberties.

Despite this repressive environment, foreign aid and investment continue to flow into Laos.

In the week before the ASEAN Summit, scheduled for 6-8 September in Vientiane, and US President Barack Obama’s visit to Laos – the first-ever to be made by a sitting US President – for the East Asia Summit, it is important to shine a spotlight on Laos and the disturbing repression that pervades the country.

Speakers will include:

  • Shui Meng Ng, Spouse of Sombath Somphone
  • Walden Bello, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  • Laurent Meillan, Acting Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The moderator will be Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.

Press briefings about various issues in the Lao PDR will also be distributed (click on the link for the briefing):