Lao police arrest man for criticizing bribe-taking at checkpoint

They post a video of him apologizing, but voice doesn't match mouth movement.
By RFA Lao
2024.03.20
Lao police arrest man for criticizing bribe-taking at checkpoint A Lao man named Bee from Khonkeo village in Bokeo province apologizes on March 13, 2024, for posting a video last month in which he criticized police.
Phongsaly province police via Facebook

Police arrested a 24-year-old Lao man for posting a video clip on Facebook, criticizing officers in a northern province for demanding bribes from travelers passing through a checkpoint near the Chinese border.

After his arrest, police released a video of the man, identified only as Bee, apologizing for making a false accusation, saying his earlier clip contained “twisted content about the way the police are doing their job.”

However, the audio portion didn’t sync up with the video — the voice didn’t match the mouth movements — making it appear that the audio portion may have been laid over the video.

The video, where Bee sits facing the camera at a wooden desk in a darkened room, appeared on the Phongsaly provincial police’s website.

“The content I posted was actually propaganda slandering the authorities, and it was against the government and the (ruling) party,” the voice says.

“I said that the police were taking bribes,” it says. “In fact, the police didn’t ask for any kickback from me, and I didn’t pay anything to them. For that, I’d like to apologize to the party, government and public.”

The male voice goes on to say that he would be mindful when posting social media content and that authorities could punish him to the fullest extent of the law if he did something wrong again. 

When RFA contacted the Phongsaly provincial police, an official said it was not convenient for him to give details about the arrest. 

But an employee at the provincial prosecutor’s office told RFA on Tuesday that her office had not yet received a police report about the incident.

Re-educated and released?

Bee, who hails from Khonkeo village in Houeixay district of Bokeo province in northwestern Laos, made his initial critical remarks about the Houeixam checkpoint in Phongsaly province’s Boun Tai district, bordering China, on Feb. 21.

A villager in Boun Tai district where the arrest was made said Bee was not punished, and he had heard that police freed him after he apologized on social media.

“He was not charged with anything more serious — only re-educated then released,” said the villager who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal for speaking to the media. 

Another district resident said police at the checkpoint were strict about checking all passports and IDs.

But a criminal lawyer said Bee was on the “wrong side of the law” by trying to defame authorities online, though the incident was not serious. 

When citizens see authorities do something wrong, they should collect evidence and file a formal complaint with other relevant authorities who can investigate, rather than take to social media to criticize them, he said.

RFA has reported other incidents in which Laotians who publicly criticized authorities were arrested, re-educated and jailed or released.

In March 2023, police in Houaphanh province told a woman to apologize and amend a social media post on Facebook in which she said she had paid 95 million kip (US$4,500) for a job on the police force. When apologizing, she said she made a false statement that made police in the province look bad.

In a 2019 incident, Houayheuang Xayabouly, nicknamed Mouay, was sentenced to five years in prison for criticizing the government’s slow response to severe flooding in southern Laos.

Translated by RFA Lao. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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