05/17/2017, 09.27

Three Laotian workers sentenced to 12, 18 and 20 years jail for criticizing government

They had accused the authorities of human rights violations. Releasing public confessions on television. In 2014 a decree issued prohibiting online criticism of government and the party. Internet users forced to use their real name for accounts.

Vientiane (AsiaNews / Rfa) - Three Laotian workers arrested last year for criticizing their government on Facebook while working in Thailand have been handed down long prison sentences. The relative of one of the three has reported the news, provoking the condemnation of human rights movements, demanding their immediate release.

Families and friends reported that Somphone Phimmasone, 29, his girlfriend Lod Thammavong, 30, and Soukane Chaithad, 32, disappeared in March 2016 after they returned to Laos to renew their passports.

While working in Thailand, the three had harshly criticized the Laos government on the Internet, accusing it of human rights violations. Later, the three appeared on Laotian television, releasing public confessions for what they called the mistake of protesting against the policies of the country.

Another relative of one of the workers reported that he had recently contacted a detention center official asking for permission to visit his family member. During the interview, he was told that the three "were sentenced last month".

The official told the relative that Lod Thammavong, Soukane Chaithad and Somphone Phimmasone were sentenced to 12, 18 and 20 years in prison respectively. He added that the three were transferred to Xam Khe prison in the capital Vientiane, the largest detention facility in the country.

In 2014, the Laos government issued a decree prohibiting online criticism from the government and the Laos People’s Revolutionary Party of (LPRP). The law provides strict sanctions for Internet service providers and users who violate government controls and also requires netizens to use their real names when setting up social media and other online accounts.

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