US, European Union denounce "totalitarian" Laos

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Jul 6 09:08:35 MDT 2003


Were these embedded journalists helping the remnants of the
US-organized Hmong army to continue their fight against Laos and
Vietnam?  I have my doubts that any European journalists are currently
reporting regularly on this very low-intensity war, and I note that no
reference is made in these articles to the publications in which their
reports appeared.

Of course, it is quite likely that they had credentials from
cooperative press agencies.

Attacks on human rights in Laos are attacks on Vietnam.  The
denunciations of Laos by US and European Union diplomats indicates
that initial steps are being taken to limit or ultimately even end the
detente with Vietnam that has existed since the end of the
US-sponsored  war in Cambodia,.

Although Vietnam's withfdrawal from Cambodia has often been compared
to the Soviet rout in Afghanistan, the fact is that the political
forces and army that Vietnam sponsored and helped build up in
Cambodia, after the Vietnamese invasion removed the Pol Pot regime,
still rule the country and have defeated all opponents from the Khmer
Rouge to the monarch-in-informal-exile Sihanouk.  Although the regime
that developed in Cambodia was thoroughly bourgeois, Vietnam won that
war.
This war was entirely defensive in nature, a response to a virtually
all-out war waged by the Pol Pot regime against Vietnam beginning in
mid-1977.

This, among other issues including Vietnam's ties with Cuba,
opposition to the war on terrorism, and the limits on procapitalist
reforms resulting in part from popular opposition to some of these
reforms, seems to be involved in the beginnings of an increase of
imperialist pressure on Indochina.,  Thios pressure must be opposed
unconditionally. Fred Feldman

Laos Jails European Reporters, American for 15 Years Mon June 30, 2003
12:51 PM ET By Martin Petty

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Laotian court handed 15-year prison sentences on
Monday to two European journalists and an American citizen who had
been reporting in a conflict zone where a security guard was murdered,
a Lao diplomat said. The ruling prompted widespread condemnation, with
Paris-based media support group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) saying
it was profoundly shocked by the sentences and called the trial a
farce.

Belgian Thierry Falise, Frenchman Vincent Reynaud and Naw Karl Mua, an
American pastor of Laotian origin, were handed the jail terms in a
court in remote northern Xieng Xhouang province. They were also fined
$1,000 and ordered to pay combined compensation of about $8,080 to the
family of the dead man, Laotian ambassador to neighboring Thailand,
Hiem Phommachanh, told Reuters.

The foreigners and three local Hmong men were convicted of obstructing
officers, possession of war weapons and explosives, possession of
drugs and being involved in an incident that caused the death of a
local militiaman, the ambassador said. The three Hmong men received
20-year jail terms. "All six defendants have the right to appeal
within 15 days," the ambassador said. "Whether to deport or pardon
them depends on if they appeal, and negotiations and diplomacy between
the Lao government and the three countries of the men," he said. It
was not immediately clear how the three pleaded in court. "Laos always
bares in mind good bilateral relations with other countries,"

Hiem added. Falise, a former Associated Press employee, is a Bangkok-
based freelance reporter who writes for the French weekly L'Express
and Belgian publications. Reynaud is a freelance cameraman and
photographer and Mua is a pastor in Minnesota. He was acting as an
interpreter. (SIC) The reporters had been working on an article on
rebels from the ethnic Hmong hilltribe. Vientiane denies the Hmong are
rebels, preferring to call them bandits.

Many Hmong sided with the United States to fight communist rebels who
eventually took control of the country in 1975.

TRIAL UNFAIR -- U.S.

A statement from the American embassy in Vientiane said the three men
were not given a fair trial. "The trial has fallen well short of
international standards of jurisprudence," the statement said. A
European Union spokesman said the Commission was in consultations with
EU member states "with a view to taking appropriate action if
necessary" on the matter.

"We have taken note of what appears to be a very hard sentence and we
are looking at the circumstances of the trial," European Commission
external relations spokesman Diego De Ojeda told Reuters. The EU is
Laos's second most important export destination after Vietnam. RSF
said it was astounded by the severity of the jail terms. "This farce
of a trial, where the fate of the two journalists was decided in
advance, is proof of the totalitarian nature of the Laotian regime,"
RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard said in a statement.

The three were arrested on June 4 when they emerged from a jungle area
off-limits to foreign journalists. Unconfirmed reports said a gunfight
took place, during which a security guard died. Hiem said that weather
permitting, a flight for the three would be arranged to bring them to
the capital Vientiane on Tuesday for ease of access by diplomats and
relatives. Laos, one of the few remaining Communist states left in the
world since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has been
sensitive about media coverage of the Hmong and denies the existence
of small rag-tag rebel armies holed up in the country's northern
mountains.





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