11 June 2003
Belgian reporter Thierry Falise, French cameraman Vincent Reynaud and a US citizen, Naw Karl Mua (whose death was announced earlier by the pro-Hmong US-based Fact Finding Commission) have been accused by police of "cooperating with bandits" to kill a security man in the village of Khai (northeast of Vietiane), the Laotian foreign ministry said on 11 June, according to the official Lao News Agency.
A ministry official told Agence France-Presse that the foreigners would be "deported very soon," noting they had entered Laos on tourist visas but had then illegally worked as journalists." Diplomats in Vientiane said the two were still being held in Phonsavanh (about 100 km north of the capital) but this could not be independently confirmed. French diplomats have not been allowed to contact them.
10 June 2003
Belgian reporter and French cameraman held after reporting on Hmong minority
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today called on the Laotian authorities to release two freelance journalists, Belgian reporter Thierry Falise and French cameraman Vincent Reynaud, who were arrested a week ago after preparing a report on the desperate situation of the Hmong ethnic minority and the frequent clashes between Hmong rebels and the armed forces.
The two journalists, who are normally based in Bangkok, "were just exercising their right to inform international public opinion about the situation of the Hmong minority," Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to foreign affairs minister Lengsavat Somsavat, who is also deputy prime minister. Urging him to intervene to obtain their immediate and unconditional release, the organisation said their detention violated Laos’ international commitments.
Reynaud (picture) and Falise (picture), who is a regular contributor to the French news weekly L’Express and Belgian media, were arrested along with three or four Laotians on 3 or 5 June near the locality of Muang Soi, northeast of the capital. The Fact Finding Commission, a US-based pro-Hmong organisation, said an American citizen of Hmong origin, Naw Karl Mua, was killed at the time of their arrest.
The two journalists were reportedly taken first to Phonsavanh. Then they were transferred on 7 or 8 June to Vientiane, the capital, where it is believed they are being held in a police station. Falise’s wife went to Vientiane, but has not been allowed to see her husband. The Laotian authorities have confirmed their arrest, diplomat sources in Vientiane said.
A recent report by Time Asia magazine highlighted the situation of the Hmong rebels, who were trained by the United States during the Vietnam war.