Corruption High in Laos As SEA Games Approach in Vientiane

Systemic human rights abuses and corruption in the Lao Peoples Army, which dominates Laos’ communist politburo and government, has fueled civil unrest and mass arrests by the LPDR government in recent weeks as hundreds of Laotians have sought to protest against the Lao government prior to the start of the Southeast Asia Games (SEA Games).

Online PR News – 18-November-2009 – – Washington, D.C., Chang Rai, Thailand, and Luang Prabang, Laos, November 18, 2009, For Immediate Release

Mr. Juan Lopez or Ms. Maria Gomez, CPPA - Center for Public Policy Analysis,
Washington, D.C., USA, Tele. 202.543.1444

The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) has scored almost at the bottom of countries globally as a result of high-levels of corruption, and is listed as among the globe’s most corrupt nations, in a new report and index regarding public sector corruption in nations around the world. Laos is a major risk to investors, businesses and tourists and is one of the most corrupt nations in the world today, according to study by a leading non-governmental organization. The LPDR is slated to hold the Southeast Games (SEA Games) in the coming weeks in Vientiane, Laos. The one-party communist regime in Laos, closely allied with the communist regime in North Korea has been besieged by marches, rallies, demonstrations and internal opposition to the one-party military regime that rules the country since its seized power in 1975 with the intervention of North Vietnam’s army. Religious and political dissidents, as well as average Laotian and Hmong citizens opposed to the Stalinist military junta, have cited endemic corruption as one of the key sources of civil discontent with the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) leadership that has boiled over into marches and demonstrations in Vientiane in recent weeks.

“Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International (TI).

“Corrupt money must not find safe haven. It is time to put an end to excuses,” said Labelle.

"When essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption also makes normal a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability," TI said in a recent statement about its newly released report.

As of November 18, over 1189 people have been arrested or imprisoned in Laos in November by the LPDR authorities as pro-democracy, human rights and anti-corruption protests, rallies and marches seeking change and reform in Laos were undertaken in Vientiane and elsewhere in the communist country. Many are being held in Laos’ notorious Sam Khe prison along with Lao student leaders of the October 1999 student protests. Thirteen more Laotians were arrested in the last several days by the Lao Peoples Army (LPA) and secret police.

Systemic human rights abuses and corruption in the LPA, which dominates Laos’ communist politburo and government, has fueled civil unrest and mass arrests by the LPDR government in recent weeks as hundreds of Laotians have sought to protest against the Lao government.

In emergency measures, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) has deployed more special combat troops and secret police to Laos in recent weeks to seek to stop the spread of opposition to the LPDR regime in recent weeks as the opening of the SEA games approaches in December.

“The LPDR in Laos is listed among the bottom countries in the world, in TI’s recent study, as one of the most corrupt nation’s globally, and give low marks based upon a corruption perception index (CPI) of public sector corruption. Business, and personal risk, is among the highest in the world in Laos as it relates to systemic corruption within the public sector in Laos,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Washington-D.C. based Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA).

Smith stated further: “Widespread bribery and extortion are common within the Lao government and public sector in the LPDR as well as other more elaborate and sophisticated forms of corruption in Laos."

"Currently, since Laos still does not have an independent judiciary under the LPDR military regime, efforts to report corruption by the government, army and public officials in Laos usually results in the arrest or imprisonment of the individual, company or business raising allegations of corruption,” Smith commented.

“Unfortunately, this tragic month, in November, the SEA Games have already been overshadowed by widespread, mass arrests and military intervention by Lao army and secret police units in Vientiane and elsewhere in Laos who, along with special units of the Vietnam Peoples Army (VPA), have arrested or imprisoned over 1189 Laotians this month, including students, political and religious dissidents, activists and ordinary Laotian and Hmong citizens, many of who were seeking reform and an end to systemic corruption among the governing political elite in Laos who are members of the communist party or military,” Smith commented.

“Now, today, people should be aware of the significant and serious corruption issue within the public-sector in Laos as pointed out by Transparency International and other non-governmental and human rights organizations, especially if they are thinking of traveling to Laos for the SEA Games, as tourists or doing business there. Ordinary Laotians from abroad should also be aware of this tragic ongoing reality and the cancer of corruption that continues to infect the public sector in Laos and erode Lao civil society under the LPDR regime,” Mr. Smith continued.

Over five-thousand and two-hundred (5,200) Laotian and Hmong political refugees are being threatened with forced repatriation back to the LPDR regime in Laos which they fled by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand, Army General and Chief-of-Staff Anupong Paochinda, Minister of the Interior (MOI) Chavarat Charnvirakulhave and other Thai officials.

"Lack of discipline, low morale and widespread atrocities, looting, rape and corruption are common in the Lao Peoples Army, which along with VPA owned military companies from Vietnam, are engaged in illegal and environmentally destructive logging in key provinces in Laos," Mr. Smith concluded.

According to independent non-governmental organizations, journalists and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council, the BBC, New York Times, Al Jazeera and others, the Lao Army and VPA are also engaged in military attacks and atrocities against Laotian and Hmong civilians and political and religious dissident groups at Phou Bia Mountain, Phou Da Phao, Xieng Khouang Province, Vientiane Province, Luang Prabang Province, Khammoune Province and elsewhere in Laos.

Thousands of Laotian and Hmong refugees have fled religious and political persecution in Laos in recent years and are living as refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand. The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington, D.C. has listed Laos, under the LPDR, on its watch list of countries engaged in religious persecution, violations of religious freedom and persecution of religious believers including minority Lao and Hmong Christians and animists.

In Washington, D.C. earlier this year, Freedom House, the non-profit and non-governmental human rights organization, has listed Laos, under the LPDR regime, as among the worst regimes for its egregious human rights violations in its recent “Worst of the Worst” reports of 2009.

TI is a global civil society organization leading the fight against corruption. TI's mission is to create change towards a world free of corruption. TI's annual report is available online.

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