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H.Res. 169 (106th): Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to democracy, free elections, and human rights in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The text of the bill below is as of Nov 16, 1999 (Passed the House).


H. Res. 169

In the House of Representatives, U.S.,

November 16, 1999.

Whereas since the 1975 overthrow of the existing Royal Lao Government, Laos has been under the sole control of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party;

Whereas the present Lao constitution provides for a wide range of freedoms for the Lao people, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion, and Laos is a signatory to international conventions on genocide, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, war crimes, and rights of the child;

Whereas since July 1997, Laos has been a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization which has set forth a vision for the year 2020 of a membership consisting of ‘open societies * * * governed with the consent and greater participation of the people’ and ‘focus(ed) on the welfare and dignity of the human person and the good of the community’;

Whereas, despite the Lao constitution and the membership by Laos in ASEAN, the Department of State’s Laos Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998 states that the Lao Government’s human rights record deteriorated and that the Lao Government restricts freedom of speech, assembly, association, and religion;

Whereas Amnesty International reports that serious problems persist in the Lao Government’s performance in the area of human rights, including the continued detention of prisoners of conscience in extremely harsh conditions, and that in one case a prisoner of conscience held without trial since 1996 was chained and locked in wooden stocks for a period of 20 days;

Whereas Thongsouk Saysangkhi, a political prisoner sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in November 1992 after a grossly unfair trial, died in February 1998 due to complications of diabetes after having been detained in harsh conditions with no medical facilities;

Whereas there are at least 5 identified, long-term political prisoners inside the Lao Government’s prison system and the possibility of others whose names are not known;

Whereas there continue to be credible reports that some members of the Lao Government’s security forces commit human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and intimidation;

Whereas two United States citizens, Mr. Houa Ly, a resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, and Mr. Michael Vang, a resident of Fresno, California, were traveling along the border between Laos and Thailand on April 19, 1999;

Whereas the families of Messrs. Ly and Vang have been able to learn very little from the United States Government regarding the whereabouts or current circumstances of their loved ones; and

Whereas the Congress will not tolerate any unjustified arrest, abduction, imprisonment, disappearance, or other act of aggression against United States citizens by a foreign government: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That--

      (1) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the present Government of Laos should--

        (A) respect internationally recognized norms of human rights and the democratic freedoms of the people of Laos and honor in full its commitments to those norms and freedoms as embodied in its constitution and its participation in international organizations and agreements;

        (B) issue a public statement specifically reaffirming its commitment to protecting religious freedom and other basic human rights;

        (C) institute fully a democratic electoral system, with openly contested, free, and fair elections by secret ballot, beginning no later than the next National Assembly elections, currently scheduled to be held in 2002; and

        (D) allow unrestricted access by international human rights monitors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International, to all prisons and to all regions of the country to investigate alleged abuses of human rights, including those against the Hmong minority; and

      (2) the House of Representatives--

        (A) decries the disappearance of Houa Ly and Michael Vang, recognizing it as an incident worthy of congressional attention;

        (B) urges the Lao Government to return Messrs. Ly and Vang, or their remains, to United States authorities and their families in America at once, if it is determined that the Lao Government is responsible for the disappearance of Messrs. Ly and Vang;

        (C) warns the Lao Government of the serious consequences, including sanctions, of any unjustified arrest, abduction, imprisonment, disappearance, or other act of aggression against United States citizens; and

        (D) urges the Department of State and other appropriate United States agencies to share the maximum amount of information regarding the disappearance of Messrs. Ly and Vang.