Correction: Reports received from multiple sources that Anousa “Jack” Luangsuphom died on the way to the hospital on April 29, 2023, proved to be false. On the evening of May 3, Anousa’s family and other sources provided Human Rights Watch verbal confirmation and photographic evidence that Anousa survived the shooting and is now receiving medical treatment in a hospital in Vientiane, Laos. Human Rights Watch emphasizes the responsibility of the Lao government to ensure protection for Anousa while he recovers, and to undertake a thorough and impartial investigation into the shooting.
(New York) – The Lao government should immediately and impartially investigate the killing of the prominent political activist Anousa “Jack” Luangsuphom in the capital, Vientiane, Human Rights Watch said today.
On April 29, 2023, at 10:39 p.m., an unidentified gunman shot Anousa, 25, twice, in the face and chest, while he was sitting in a coffee shop in Vientiane’s Chanthabouly district. He died on the way to the hospital. The shooting was recorded on the coffee shop’s security cameras. Lao authorities have yet to announce an investigation into Anousa’s killing despite reports by government-affiliated media about the case.
“The cold-blooded killing of a prominent young political activist in downtown Vientiane sends a spine-chilling message that no one in Laos who criticizes the government is safe,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Lao government should urgently conduct a credible and impartial investigation into Anousa’s death and bring to justice all those responsible.”
Anousa was among the few people in Laos who regularly and openly expressed views that were critical of the Lao government, Human Rights Watch said. He was the administrator of the Kub Kluen Duay Keyboard (Driven By Keyboard) Facebook page, a popular platform for people in Laos and abroad to express dissenting views about the Lao government, including corruption and repression of fundamental freedoms.
Lao authorities have long failed to prevent or adequately respond to attacks against critics of the government, human rights defenders, and political activists. Among them was the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a civil society leader who was taken into police custody in Vientiane in 2012 and whose whereabouts remain unknown.
Even activists who have fled persecution in Laos to neighboring countries have not been safe. Od Sayavong, a Lao activist living in Bangkok, Thailand, has been missing since August 2019. On October 1, 2019, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and three UN special rapporteurs issued a joint statement expressing concerns regarding Od’s case.
“The Lao government’s apparent apathy toward the brazen, daylight killing of a political activist demonstrates the country’s further slide into lawlessness,” Pearson said. “Donor governments, UN agencies, and multilateral organizations should publicly press Lao leaders to investigate Anousa’s killing and provide answers to why this determined activist ended up paying for his courage with his life.”