[Laos] Screws on Online Discourse Get Even Tighter

The absence of independent media and shrinking civic space have effectively deprived the citizens of Laos of timely and qualitative information, including those that are critical in keeping them safe from harm. Not surprisingly, more and more Laotians have turned to social media to seek and share news and information that are censored in the mainstream media, and to voice their criticisms against government policies and inactions, as well as their concerns over political and social problems in the country.

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Ban Mai is one of the most affected villages by Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy dam collapsed in July. The Lao government estimates losses at more than US$15 million alone in this village / Credit: Visarut Sankham

[Laos] Compensation talks begin for dam disaster victims

More than 7,000 survivors of the disastrous collapse of the hydropower dam in southern Laos’ Sanamxay district have been struggling to survive for nearly seven months.

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Photo by Pratch Rujivanarom

[Laos] Survivors of dam collapse battle dengue, malnutrition

Six months after the collapse of the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in southern Laos triggered floods that swept them from their homes, survivors are now suffering from dengue fever and malnutrition.

Those health challenges come despite firm agreements between local and international health agencies to work together to prevent disease and otherwise attend to the needs of the displaced.

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Hin Lath school, where Chang attended, was destroyed by the dam collapse. He now has to travel at least three hours return to attend school in the city / Credit: Visarut Sankham

[Laos] The deadly wave that changed everything

Flash floods following the collapse of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam in southern Laos washed away the homes, families, hope and dreams of dozens of villagers living downstream. This is one of their stories.

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A makeshift hut in Bin Dong camp, one of five temporary shelters for people affected by a dam collapse in southern Laos in July. People here have built the huts as extensions, saying the tents are too hot during the day time / Credit: Visarut Sankham

[Laos] Left to fend for themselves

Even six months after the collapse of the Saddle Dam D section of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower project, which severely destroyed six villages in southern Laos and buried more than 55,200 hectares of land under deep floodwater, the victims still have no certainty about their future.

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The Ton River is seen in Kua village, Laos, on Dec. 24, 2018 / Credit: Somphavanh

[Laos] Poisoned fish worries village as Sangthong district promotes good agricultural practices

The people of Kua village in Sangthong district depend on the Ton River for their livelihoods. It is a prime source of food for the community and provides fishermen an income. It is a source of drinking water for the many diverse animals that live in the area. Locals use the water from the river on a daily basis for drinking, bathing and washing.

Villagers say the number of fish and aquatic life in the Ton River has been on the decline ever since the Chinese-owned Yongzhen Import-Export Production Promotion Company started planting bananas there in 2014.

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[Laos] Six years on, this question still hounds the state: Where is Sombath?

Six years on, the search for truth about Sombath’s enforced disappearance continues while his family and friends, and kindred spirits within and beyond the borders of Laos, firmly hold out hope he is still alive and will surface sooner rather than later. This, notwithstanding the unremitting curtailment of rights and silenced voices that continue to cast a pall of gloom over the prospects of democracy in Laos.

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Soukan Chaithad and Somphone Phimmasone apologizing on Lao National TV. Image via Al Jazeera

[Laos] Critical cyberspace shrinks, mainstream press further muted

Discussions on highly sensitive issues and taboo subjects were limited or missing in the mainstream media. Lao netizens, helped by the country’s Internet boom, have managed to access taboo information banned in the state. But there were some incidents prompted the authorities to call some Facebookers who disseminated news, warning them to share only local official news, which is a big concern over the intrusive and expansive nature of the state internet surveillance network has so far covered.

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