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Laos 25 July 2003

Appeal for the release of the guides of Thierry Falise and Vincent Reynaud

Thierry Falise and Vincent Reynaud are appealing to the Laotian authorities to release Thao Moua and Pa Phue Khan, who are being held in Vientiane after receiving prison sentences of 12 and 15 years respectively for working as guides for the two journalists while they were preparing a documentary in Laos. A third guide, Tha Char Yang, who was sentenced to 20 years, managed to escape. Other Laotians are believed to have been arrested in this case, but their names are not known.

Falise and Reynaud maintain that it is unfair to keep these two Laotians of Hmong origin in prison when all they did was to work for foreign journalists in order to try to make the outside world aware of the humanitarian tragedy which part of the Hmong ethnic group is suffering.

The two journalists are concerned about the conditions in which their two Laotian guides are being held. Amnesty International has reported that they have been mistreated by police.

Falise, Reynaud and Reporters Without Borders call on the thousands for people who participated in the campaign for their release to send letters to the ambassadors of Laos in France and Belgium and to the Laotian foreign minister in Vientiane to request the release of the two guides.

Send letters to these officials:

Mr. Soutsakhone Pathammavong Ambassador of Laos in France 74 Avenue Raymond-Poincarré 75116 Paris Fax: (+33) 1 4727-5789

Mr. Thongphachanh Sonnasinh Ambassador of Laos in Belgium Avenue de la Brabançonne 19 B-1000 Bruxelles Fax: (+32) 2 734-1666

Mr. Somsavat Lengsavat Minister of Foreign Affairs That Luang Vientiane, Laos Fax: (+856) 2141-4009

Two Western journalists freed but Laotian guides stay in jail

Reporters Without Borders welcomed today’s release of Belgian reporter Thierry Falise and French cameraman Vincent Reynaud after more than a month in a Laotian jail. Their Laotian-born US interpreter, Rev. Naw Karl Mua, was also freed and deported with them by air to Bangkok. However, three Laotians who had acted as their guides remained in prison in Vientiane.

The journalists’ release followed a broad international diplomatic and media campaign. The press freedom organisation deplored their sentencing to 15 years imprisonment on 30 June, officially for "obstructing authority" in the murder of a militiaman killed in a 4 June shooting but in fact for investigating the sensitive subject of the country’s Hmong minority. It condemned the continued detention of the guides, who the authorities apparently do not plan to release.

The two journalists and their interpreter, who had been held for 35 days, were handed to their respective country’s ambassadors, who accompanied them to the airport for a flight to Bangkok. When they arrived in Thailand, the journalists thanked the European media for campaigning on their behalf.

The three people still in prison - guides Thao Moua and Tha Char Yang and driver Pa Phue Khang - were sentenced on 30 June to between 12 and 20 years in prison for helping the journalists.

In this country
23 June - Laos
Open letter to President Choummaly Sayasone
26 November - Laos
ASEAN Summit - Foreign press urged to expose lack of free expression in Laos and plight of jailed local guides
9 July - Laos
Thierry Falise + Vincent Reynaud Support Committee
8 July - Laos
Thierry Falise and Vincent Reynaud case: Laotian minister promises "good news" about jailed journalists by 14 July
7 July - Laos
French visit of Laotian information minister denounced

in the annual report
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