Vientiane Times: 31 January 2015 ພາສາລາວ
Government officials held a news briefing in Vientiane on Friday about the outcome of Laos’ participation in the second cycle of the UN Human Rights Council Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland, from January 20-23.
Minister, Head of the President’s Office, Chairman of the Lao National Steering Committee on Human Rights, Mr Phongsavath Boupha, highlighted the Lao PDR’s achievements in advancing the promotion and protection of human rights in Laos since the first cycle of the review in 2010.
He also reiterated the progress made in the implementation of the country’s constitution and laws, policies, good governance, socio-economic development, poverty reduction, realisation of the MDGs, regional and international cooperation on human rights, and the implementation of human rights conventions to which Laos is a party.
Mr Phongsavath said the achievements made during the past five years enable the Lao multi-ethnic people to enjoy fundamental rights in accordance with the nation’s constitution and laws.
He noted that during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting, some 74 countries made statements and recommendations, many of which commended the efforts and achievements of the Lao PDR in the promotion and protection of human rights.
During the meeting, the Lao delegation provided further information, explanations and clarification on certain questions and issues of interest that led to a better understanding of the human rights situation in Laos.
The Lao delegation provided information regarding the ongoing investigation into the missing of Mr Sombath Somphone, among other issues raised by some countries.
Mr Phongsavath told Lao media “Like many other Lao people, Sombath sought and received funding from abroad and used the funds for the implementation of projects in different provinces of the country as a means of earning his living and contributing to the development of Laos.”
He said that over the past 30 years, Sombath had never been deemed detrimental to Laos. He lived his private life and performed his work normally like other Lao citizens.
As part of his work, he travelled to many parts of Laos, frequently travelled abroad, met and knew many people and had many contacts inside the country and abroad.
“The disappearance of Sombath Somphone was shocking news for the Lao government as it happened after the Lao PDR had just successfully hosted the 9th ASEM Summit in Vientiane,” Mr Phongsavath said.
“Therefore the Lao government has been wondering why he went missing exactly during this time. His disappearance is concerning for the Lao government as is the disappearance of any Lao citizen.”
“There have been many disappearance cases in the world for different reasons including conflict with criminal groups or personal or business conflicts. In some cases, the investigations yielded a result quickly, while many other missing cases are still pending.”
Mr Phongsavath said “Some organisations tried to discredit the Lao government and tarnish the growing international reputation of the country by readily using this case as a pretext. Some foreign media and organisations even raised suspicions that the Lao government might have been behind the missing.”
“These accusations or suspicions can be refuted by referring to the mere fact that the alleged incident happened in front of a police CCTV camera and the police authorities, based on their duties under the law, cooperated sincerely with his wife and relatives, allowing them to view and record the CCTV footage.”
“Furthermore, all investigation steps and actions undertaken so far by the concerned authorities in the investigation since the disappearance, as well as the close supervision and guidance by the Ministry of Public Security and the concerns openly expressed by the Lao PDR leadership are all indicative of the sincerity and seriousness of the Lao government in solving this case.”
Mr Phongsavath assured the Human Rights Council that the concerned authorities are still thoroughly conducting the investigation and will continue the investigation in order to find the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with the laws of the Lao PDR.
Other issues that the Lao delegation provided further information, explanations and clarification on include: the independence of the judiciary, the death penalty, freedom of religion, ethnic policies, resettlement and relocation policies, freedom of the press including use of the internet, prison conditions, gender equality, rights of women and children, anti-human trafficking, progress in national socio-economic development, and poverty reduction.
Altogether there were 196 recommendations made during this review session which the Lao PDR will consider and then inform the Human Rights Council in June 2015 regarding which recommendations it will accept.
According to Mr Phongsavath, the National Steering Committee on Human Rights will hold workshops and consultations among government ministries and agencies and all relevant stakeholders in the process of consideration of the recommendations.
The committee will report to the government for approval before informing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The outcome of the draft report during the review, which is prepared by the Troika for the Lao PDR namely Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire and Qatar, was adopted on January 23.
The outcome of the UPR second cycle review of the Lao PDR is scheduled to be held at the 29th Session of Human Rights Council in June 2015 in Geneva, during which the consideration of the recommendations by the Lao PDR will be presented.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update January 31, 2015)