- General

Laos activist who survived shooting leaves country

The BBC has learned that a political activist from Laos who survived an attempted assassination has left the country to receive urgent medical care.

Videos online show “Jack” Anousa Luangsuphom being shot point blank in the face and chest in the capital, Vientiane, last week.

At first, relatives of the 25-year-old blogger said he had been killed, out of fear that the gunman would return.

But activists later said he was alive and recovering in hospital.

An online call for donations to help fund Jack’s hospital care paid for his medical evacuation out of Laos, said human rights lawyer Emilie Palamy Pradichit.

Ms Palamy Pradichit, who is with the civil rights organisation, the Manushya Foundation, is Jack’s representative.

She added that he is currently at an undisclosed location, recuperating after having a bullet removed from his chest and surgery to repair his face. He is now conscious and can communicate by writing down his thoughts.

Ms Palamy Pradichit, however, said that she could not confirm if he’ll return because he no longer feels safe inside the country.

The authorities in Laos have blamed the 30 April attack on a personal or business dispute. The blogger’s associates, however, believe an undercover police officer was sent to kill him because of his work as one of the country’s few outspoken campaigners.

He ran two community Facebook pages that sparked rare discussions on topics like corruption and pollution, and called for more civil rights in Laos’ repressive one-party state.

Security camera footage shared widely after the attack shows a man in a brown hat stepping inside the door to the café in Vientiane. He appears to confirm that Jack is inside before pulling a handgun from the waistband of his trousers. He then fires several shots.

The night that Jack was shot, Ms Palamy Pradichit says, he was inside a café with his friends, three people who owned the venue.

They witnessed the shooting and visited Jack in a nearby hospital shortly after the attack. All three are then believed to have been interviewed by the police. They’ve all since gone into hiding, apparently fearful of reprisals from the authorities. The café’s Facebook page has been shut down.

Some are comparing the assassination attempt on Jack to the disappearance of another high-profile political activist, Sombath Somphone, a decade ago, noting that little seems to have changed.

“I believe that Jack’s life is definitely in danger after leaving Laos,” Ms Palamy Pradichit says. “Transnational repression of Lao dissidents is real and a growing phenomenon. In recent years, Lao democracy activists have disappeared or have been found killed in neighbouring countries, such as Thailand.”

She points to the example of Od Sayavong, a campaigner from Laos who was living as a refugee in Thailand when he disappeared in 2019.

Several large campaign groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have joined the call demanding an independent inquiry into the blogger’s attempted killing.

Source: BBC