NEW YORK (December 17, 2020) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF), Manushya Foundation, and Humanity Beyond Borders have jointly submitted an individual complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) to request a formal investigation on the arrest and wrongful conviction of Houayheung Xayabouly, also known as Muay, from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).
Muay is a human rights defender and environmental activist who fought to raise awareness about the corruption within the Lao government and their inaction in supporting local communities. The Lao government viewed her grassroots activism and criticism of the government as a threat to the regime.
“Muay was arrested by the Lao government solely for exercising her freedoms of association and expression, both of which are guaranteed under Articles 19 and 20 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said HRF senior legal counsel Joy Park. “We urge the UNWGAD to initiate an investigation into her case and declare that her arbitrary imprisonment is in clear violation of international law.”
Muay was arrested without an arrest warrant on September 12, 2019. Upon her detention, she was denied any visitors and was subject to excessive interrogations where she was forced to confess that she was guilty of violating Article 117 of the Criminal Code on propaganda against the Lao PDR. Muay was not allowed to choose the lawyer who would represent her in the trial, where she was forced to confess to the trumped-up charges. Subsequently, the Court sentenced her to five years in Champassak provincial prison and a fine of 20 million Kip.
Read HRF’s full submission to the UNWGAD here.
Learn more about the Lao government’s crackdowns on human rights activists by watching Shui-Meng Ng’s talk, “Laos: Where Dissidents Disappear” at the Oslo Freedom Forum. Ng is the wife of Sombath Somphone, a prominent Lao human rights advocate who was abducted in 2012. The government continues to deny their responsibility for his disappearance.