Laos has failed to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council in a secret vote by the UN General Assembly in New York.
The vote took place on Wednesday, when Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates were elected to the council’s five vacant seats for the Asia-Pacific region.
The news was greeted by the Paris-based Lao Movement for Human Rights, which told Radio Free Asia’s Lao Service that it would have been “most unfortunate” to see the country’s authoritarian, one-party government join the council.
“The Lao Movement for Human Rights believes the endless and shameless violation of Lao citizens’ rights by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic government, as has been going on for years, is not appealing to attract enough votes from other member states,” said its president, Vanida Thephsouvanh.
“The Lao government should respect and implement the international human rights treaties it has signed and ratified before aiming for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council,” she said.
The vote came a day (October 27) after after three human rights groups – UN Watch, the Human Rights Foundation and the Lantos Foundation – published a report calling on UN member states to oppose the election of Laos and other countries with poor human rights records to the council.
It accused the government in Vientiane of restricting press freedom, academic freedom and personal freedom, as well as corruption in the police and judiciary, arbritary arrest and detention, and a host of other rights abuses.
It also discussed the case of missing human rights activist Sombath Somphone, who disappeared in December 2012 after being stopped at a police checkpoint.
“As a civil society activist, Somphone has not been heard from since and calls from human rights groups demanding his whereabouts and release have been ignored. Additionally, nine other individuals are missing and government involvement in their disappearance is likely,” the report said.
“The media in Laos remains under strict censorship by the government, which employs laws with vague language that severely impede on freedom of speech and freedom of the press. As a result, the law allows government officials to repress anyone who publicly criticizes the government.”