UNESCO Director-General welcomes release of two Laotian political prisonersUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today expressed satisfaction and pleasure over the release of Laotian political prisoners Latsami Khamphoui and Feng Sakchittaphong. The two men, for whose release UNESCO campaigned for many years, arrived with their families in France today and will be given medical care.
“I was deeply moved by news of the release of Latsami Khamphoui and Feng Sakchittaphong, who had been behind bars since 1990. A humanitarian campaign of several years is today crowned with success, which will give heart to all those who fight for freedom of expression and human dignity. The fate of these two men, both in an alarming state of health, was a source of deep concern to us,” Mr Matsuura declared.
The Director-General added that “ we owe this happy outcome to the joint efforts of UNESCO’s Secretariat and its Member States. The Organization’s Committee on Conventions and Recommendations* dedicated several sessions to the case of Latsami Khamphoui, requesting his release on humanitarian grounds. I, for my part, have followed this painful case since my appointment as Director-General in 1999 and called on the Laotian government several times to show clemency, notably during my visit to Laos in December 2002, and more recently when, at the request of the Committee, I sent a special envoy to Vientiane. I would especially like to thank France for joining its efforts with ours to secure this successful result.”
Latsami Khamphoui, a former Deputy Minister for the Economy and Planning, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced two years later for having criticized the government. Feng Sakchittaphong, a former senior officer of the Justice Ministry, shared his cell. Another fellow prisoner, Thongsouk Saysangkhi, a former Deputy-Minister of Communication and Transport, died in prison in 1998, aged 60.
The Executive Board’s Committee on Conventions and Recommendations (CR) comprises 29 members who examine, in private sessions, complaints of human rights violations received by UNESCO.