Gulag in Lao People Democratic Republic and its human rights abuse.
When the Communist Pathet Lao took over Laos in 1975, thousands of Royal Lao Government officials, military, police officers, civil servants, students and ordinary Lao citizens were arrested and sent to gulags throughout Laos from North to South. The Communist Pathet Lao under the leadership of the Lao Revolutionary Party claimed that these people needed to be reeducated and sent them to seminar camp. In reality, these prisoners were arrested for the crime of serving the Royal Lao Government and were sent to die in jail. In the late 80’s through early 90’s, I had the opportunity to meet and talk several times with several people who were the victims of these inhumane treatments in the hands of the Communist Pathet Lao. I therefore am able to put together the information about the lives of these victims in the gulags. I also would like to express my sincere appreciation to a former Royal Lao Air Force Chief of Staff, the late Col Kongsana Kumpolpakdy, who was one of the victims that was arrested and sent to one of these ຄ in Northern Laos. He shared with me how the prisoners had been treated and he also talked to several of his friends who had similar experiences like him and survived the torture in these gulags and shared the information with me.
I want to share with you the lives of the victims who were in one of these Gulags that was once called Camp No. 7. Camp No.7, formerly known as Camp No. 5A, was reserved for the prisoners that were categorized by the Communist Pathet Lao or the Lao People Democratic Republic (LPDR) as the top enemies of the regime. These prisoners were arrested and separated from other prisoners in other re-education camps on October 12, 1977. They were:
1. Lt. Gen. Bounleuth Sanichanh, Armed Forces Inspector
2. Lt. Gen. Bounpone Makthepharak, Supreme Commander of the Royal Lao Government Armed Forces
3. Lt. Gen. Phasouk S. Rasaphak, Armed Forces Chief of Staff
4. Brig. Gen. Bounchanh Savathphayphane, 1st Intervention Division Commander.
5. Brig. Gen. Kane Insixiengmay, Logistic Division Director
6. Brig. Gen. Atsaphangthong Pathammavong, Capital City Security Commander
7. Brig. Gen. Bounleung Rattanabanlang, Military Security Commander
8. Brig. Gen. Bounthieng Venevongsoth, Cease – Fire Committee
9. Brig. Gen. Chao Sinh Saysana, Operations Division Commander
10. Brig. Gen. Ly Lithilusa, Intelligence Division Commander
11. Brig. Gen. Nouphet Daoheuang, 3rd Region Commander
12. Brig. Gen. Thongphanh Kanocksy, Defense Ministry Spokesman
13. Ret. Lt. Gen. Ouane Rathikoun, Council Committee for the King
14. H.E. Issara Don Sasourith, Irrigation Dept. Director
15. H.E. Khamchanh Pradith, Ambassador to Australia
16. H.E. Liene Phravongviengkham, Ambassador to Peking
17. H.E. Pheng Phongsavanh, Minister of Interior
18. H.E. Soukanh Vilaysane, Minister of Veterans Affairs
19. *H.E. Touby Lyfoung, Council Committee for the King
20. Col. Amkha Khathakhanthamixay, Signals Division Director
21. **Col. Khamphanh Thammakhanty, Chief of G-2, 1st Military Region
22. Police Col. Heng Saythavy, Pakse Province Senator
23. Police Col. Kavinh Keonakhone, Rallied from Pathet Lao Forces
24. Police Lt. Col. Khammouk Phaengsyaroun, Pakse Police Commander
25. Maj. Sivilay Phetsomphou, Rallied from Pathet Lao Forces
26. Capt. Sery Sayakham, Engineering Division
27. **Col. Phom Phanthavong, Bankeun Subdivision Cmdr, was arrested on September 19, 1978, one month prior to the arrested of the above twenty-six prisoners.
This Camp No. 7, was divided into two prison areas, prison A and Prison B. In prison A’s area, there were two jail cells, and the area of this prison camp was about 20m x 25m or 60 ft x 75 ft. One cell was used to house prisoners while another was used as a kitchen. In prison B’s area, there were three jail cells. The area of this prison B was about 70m x 25m or 210 ft x 75 ft. Prison A and B are in the same vicinity, but are separate entities.
On October 28, 1977, 26 prisoners were locked up in Prison B’s area. The smaller jail cell with 5m x 8m x 2.10m or 15ft x 24ft x 6.3ft housed 7 prisoners:
1. H.E Pheng Phongsavanh***
2. H.E. Touby Lyfoung***
3. Lt. Gen. Bounpone Markthepharack***
4. Lt. Gen. Phasouk Sor Ratsaphak***
5. Brig. Gen. Chaosinh Saysana
6. Brig. Gen. Atsaphangthong Pathammavong
5. Maj. Sivilay Phetsomphou***
The bigger jail cell 5m x 11m x 2.10m or 15ft x 33 ft x 6.3 ft housed 19 prisoners. These two jail cells were built similarly with the same style but no windows, and they were dark 24 hours/day. Prisoners were allowed to come outside only once a week for 15 minutes just to take a bath.
On the middle of November 1977, eleven more prisoners were brought into Prison B’s area. These prisoners mostly belonged to the Royal Lao Family. They were:
1. Chao Sysouphanh Thalangsy, younger brother of King Sisavang Vatthana
2. Chao Bouavone Vatthana, Houakhong Governor and brother of King Sisavang Vatthana
3. Chao Thongsouk Vatthana, brother of King Sisavang Vatthana
4. Chao Sisanvangvatthana (Chao Keu), Son number 4th of King Sisavang Vatthana
5. Chao Manivong Khammao, Secretary for the Royal Lao Palace
6. Chao Souk Bouavong, former Samneua’s Mayor during 1939-40, and Minister of Public Works and Transportation
7. H.E Bong Souvannavong, Former Royal Lao National Assembly in 1947 and President of the Lao Houam Samphanh Political Party
8. Ret. Pol. Maj Gen. Lith Luenamachack, former Royal Lao National Police Director at the time of his arrested he was working for the Lao Red Cross in Vientiane.
9. Police Sgt. Bao Phommy Phanhvongsa, from Samneua, Houaphanh Province
10. Police Sgt. Bao Thong from Samneau, Houaphanh Province
11. Sgt. Phimpha, from Savannakhet Province and was personal driver of Mr. Boun Phommahasay former Lao People Army Commander.
Finally on November 24, 1977 at 5:00PM, the guards moved 11 prisoners from Prison A’s area to Prison B’s area, and it increased prisoners in the cell B from 19 to 30 in this dark cell. The next morning, prisoners saw King Sisavang Vatthana, the Queen, and the Crown Prince stood next to Prison Cell A. The guards brought His Majesty, Her Majesty and the Crown Prince to prison A area since the night of November 24, 1977.
Life in this Gulag was harsh and prisoners were not allowed to talk to each other. The guards allowed only 5 prisoners to work. Col. Amkha Khathakhanthamisay and Col. Khamphanh Thammakhanty were allowed to work as cooks. Bao Phommy Phanhvongsa, Bao Thong, and Mr. Phimpha were allowed to look for firewood for the kitchen. The rest of the prisoners in this camp were allowed outside only once a week, two people at a time on Saturday, just to
take a bath.
Due to the physical and mental torture along with malnutrition, within two years 24 prisoners were dead and only 16 still survived, but more than half of the surviving prisoners could not even walk without help.
Two weeks after the death of King Sisavang Vatthana on April, 1980, the Queen, who was no longer able to walk, was sent to Female Prison Camp between Sop Hao and Mouang Poua on the way to Samneua.
Here is the list of the 24 deaths in Camp No. 7:
Deaths from August to December 1978:
1. Chao Bouavone Vatthana
2. Chao Sisavangvatthana (Chao Keu)
3. Lt. Gen. Ouane Rathikoune
4. Chao Thongsouk Vatthana
5. Brig. Gen. Kane Insixiengmay
6. Brig. Gen. Ly Liththiluesa
7. H.E. Bong Souvannavong
8. Chao Souk Bouavong
Deaths from February to October 1979:
1. Police Maj. Gen. Lith Luenamachack
2. Brig. Gen. Phasouk S. Ratsaphak
3. H.E. Pheng Phongsavanh
4. H.E. Soukanh Vilaysane
5. H.E Touby Lyfoung (murdered by the guard after taking a bath)
6. H.E. Itsara Donsasorith
7. Cpt. Sery Sayakham
8. Chao Manivong Khammao
9. Maj. Sivilay Phetsomphou.
Deaths from January to May, 1980:
1. Brig. Gen. Thongphanh Kanoksy
2. The Crown Prince Chao Vongsavang
3. Chao Souphanthalangsy
4. King Sisavang Vatthana
5. H.E. Khamchanh Pradith
6. Lt. Gen. Bounpone Makthepharak
7. H.E. Liene Pravongviengkham
As you may know, this is only one example of the torture that was put on human beings without neither charges nor trials of any crimes. However, they were found guilty before they even got arrested for being born to the Royal Lao Families or serving as public servants to the Royal Lao Government. Nevertheless, these evil acts by the current government of Laos did not stop here, their evil acts still continue. As in the early 90’s when there were high-ranking LPDR officials called for a freedom of speech and political association, they and their associates were arrested and put in jail in Houaphanh Province. One, Mr. Thongsouk Saysangkhy, died on March 1998 due to malnutrition and other illnesses without any medical care. LPDR officials also lied to Mr. Vue Mai, a Hmong leader in a Thai Refugee Camp, to return to Laos. He believed in their words and empty promises. Within a month upon returning to Laos from the Refugee Camp in Thailand, he was abducted from his home, and until today the LPDR government cannot explain the disappearance of Mr. Vue Mai or his whereabouts. In fact, on October 26, 1999, the Lao Students Movement for Democracy under the leadership of Mr. Thongpaseuth Keuakoun along with his colleagues who organized the peaceful protest to call for the fundamental of a basic human right in freedom of speech and expression also was arrested along with his colleagues without proper charges nor trial and their current status are unknown to the outside world. Additionally, a well known internationally acclaimed community development and a prominent member of a Lao civil society, Sombath Somphone, who advocated on behalf of the Lao peasants for the balance of developments and land concessions were stopped by the police and disappeared without trace since December 15, 2012. Even though, CCTV footage shows that he was stopped by police and then taken away in a pickup truck, but the thugs (Lao Government) immediately denied responsibility for his disappearance or knowing his whereabouts.
For these reasons, the current Lao Government is not much different from the Nazis during WWII. I therefore urge all peace loving people to demand this Lao Government to stop human rights abuse and honor the declaration of human rights by the United Nations that Laos is also a signatory party to this declaration.
* H.E. Touby Lyfoung was executed by the guard after he came back from taking a shower while waiting for the guard to open the door for him to get back to his cell.
**Col. Khamphanh Thammakhanty and Col. Phom
Phanthavong came out alive from Camp #7.
*** These prisoners were chained beginning mid May 1978 until their deaths.