The World Today for June 09, 2023

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Mission Wealth

LAOS

Anousa “Jack” Luangsuphom is a prominent activist and critic of the authoritarian, communist government of Laos. He ran a Facebook page where members could share their grievances about corruption and air their dissent about the government’s failure to respect freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch wrote.

An unknown assailant shot 25-year-old Luangsuphom as he sat in a café in the capital of Vientiane one night in late April, reported the Guardian. Many considered the incident to be another example of the ruthlessness of Laotian President Thongloun Sisoulith. The regime was sending a message to activists – you are not safe, noted Deutsche Welle.

“Laos has long been an authoritarian state with no tolerance for public criticism,” argued James Cook University lecturer in development studies, Kearrin Sims, in the Diplomat. “Increasingly, however, it appears to be also becoming a criminal state, where corrupt elites have enmeshed themselves within the state apparatus for the purpose of accumulating wealth.”

The people who took Luangsuphom to the hospital after the shooting said the activist was dead so that they could protect him from those who might want to finish the job, explained Voice of America. In fact, he was alive and was in hiding outside the country, the BBC wrote.

He was only the latest of many who have experienced violence, forced disappearances, and other forms of harassment and persecution.

Last month, for example, Laotian police arrested Thailand-based Laotian human rights activist Savang Phaleuth on charges of “political campaign work” while he was in his hometown visiting his family, wrote the Union of Catholic Asian News. His exact location and details of the case against him are now unknown. Meanwhile, Laotian police are also suspected of assassinating Laotian activists in Thailand.

And while President Sisoulith is busy hunting down dissenters, he is also strengthening his country’s ties with China.

He recently touted, for example, the 620-mile-long railway between Vientiane and the Chinese province of Yunnan. Completed in 2021 as part of China’s Road and Belt Initiative, the railway is helping to grow the economies of Laos and southern China, said Sisoulith, as Nikkei Asia wrote. The modern rail line currently cuts through impoverished rural areas, Insider showed.

The two countries are also pledging to cooperate more closely on security and law enforcement, according to Xinhua, to “push forward the construction of a China-Laos community.” They held rare joint military exercises recently to simulate repelling transnational armed criminal groups, Reuters added.

Sisoulith isn’t experiencing self-doubt about how to run his country.

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