Red dissidents in Laos silenced after warning

politics November 22, 2016 01:00


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Prawit thanks Vientiane; extradition treaty does not apply to politics.

DEPUTY PRIME Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday praised Laos’ decision to block the activities of Thai dissidents and lese-majeste offenders as requested by the Thai government, but admitted that |getting them extradited to the Kingdom for punishment remained unclear. 

“It is a pleasure to know that our neighbour has provided good cooperation for the matter by not allowing those people to create trouble for us,” Prawit told reporters. 

The government recently made a request for a number of lese-majeste offenders to be extradited from several states including Laos, where many Thai dissidents are believed to be hiding.

The Lao Embassy in Bangkok did not reply to a request from The Nation for comment on the matter yesterday. 

Prawit, who is also the defence minister, said he had made another request to his Lao counterpart Lt-General Chansamone Chan-yalath when he was in Vientiane for the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting last week. 

However, Prawit said he did not make a formal extradition request to Laos since he did not know where the fugitives were. “But that depends on our neighbour. If they can arrest them, they could be deported to us,” he said. 

“But I made it clear [to my counterpart] that these people have insulted our King, so the neighbour should not allow them to do such a thing anymore,” he said.

Thailand and Laos signed an extradition treaty in 1999 but the pact cannot be enforced for the junta’s purposes due to the political nature of the lese-majeste offence. Laos is a socialist republic where insulting the monarchy is not a crime. The extradition treaty does not allow offenders to be sent home for political crime or crimes that are not listed by the contracting parties.

A source close to the matter said the Thai government did not make an extradition request in accordance with the treaty but the junta used political influence to block the movement of dissidents in a neighbouring country. 

Post-2014 opponents

The authorities believe there are several groups of Thai dissidents in Laos who fled the Kingdom since the coup in 2014. They are mostly members of the red-shirt group and some are ex-communist insurgents. 

Their political activities in Laos mostly centre on producing and publicising criticism of the junta and the monarchy via the Internet, notably YouTube. Programmes such as “Faiyen Channel”, “Yammy Revolution” and “Media Force” are famous among red-shirt groups. 

It is said the dissidents live and work in Laos under the protection of senior local officials who have strong connections with Thai politicians. 

Upon the request to Laos after the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October, Lao authorities warned the Thai dissidents about risky activities and asked them to keep a low profile, at least during the grieving period. Some YouTube channels such as “Media Force” disappeared early this month, according to a viewer who closely monitors the dissident programmes. 

Last week, authorities gave an ultimatum to Thai dissidents – stop the programmes and channels on social media or face extradition back to Thailand. 

On Saturday, the “Yammy gozzip yam” webpage posted a statement saying the situation in and outside the Kingdom was not stable and many relevant parties urged the dissidents to refrain from publicising any material or criticism via the Internet and social media, which caused the channel to “switch off”.