Former Laotian Officials Latsami Khamphoui and Feng Sakchittaphong Released after 14 Years in Prison
December 17, 2004
Today long-term prisoners of conscience and former high-level Laotian officials Latsami Khamphoui—an economist—and his cellmate, Feng Sakchittaphong, arrived in France and were reunited with members of their families. (Above is a photo that Mr. Latsami sent to the CHR shortly after his arrival in Paris.) They were released from a remote prison in northern Laos in October 2004, after serving their entire 14-year prison sentence, but were held until early December 2004 under house arrest in a village near the prison. Upon their release, Mr. Latsami and Mr. Feng, both of whom are in poor health, requested permission to travel to France to obtain specialized medical treatment and to join members of their families who live there.
Mr. Latsami was vice minister of economics and planning, and Mr. Feng held a high-ranking position in the Ministry of Justice. They were arrested in 1990 for writing letters to government officials in which they expressed concern about current government policies and advocated peaceful economic and political reforms. Following an unfair trial, they and another former government official, Thongsouk Saysangkhi—who had been a vice minister of science and technology—were sentenced to 14 years in prison. The three men were sent to a remote prison, far from their homes in the capital city of Vientiane and held under conditions that were extremely harsh. They reportedly were held in darkness most of the time, subsisted on a meager diet, were rarely permitted family visits, and were denied adequate medical care. The health of all three sharply deteriorated during their imprisonment. Mr. Thongsouk, who suffered from angina, died in prison in mid-February 1998 from medical neglect.
The CHR undertook the cases of Mr. Latsami and Mr. Thongsouk in the early 1990s and appealed numerous times to the Laotian government over the years for their release. Significantly, in early 2000, UNESCO's Executive Board, for the first time ever, decided to discuss a human rights case in a public session—that of Latsami Khamphoui—and issued press releases calling for Mr. Latsami’s release in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
For more detailed information on Latsami Khamphoui's case, please see his case summary.