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Laos Government Critic Survives Shooting


A critic of the Laos government has been hospitalized after being targeted by a gunman in the capital, Vientiane. Early reports of his death appear to have been erroneous.

Anousa “Jack” Luangsuphom was reported dead after he was shot in the face and chest at point-blank range while sitting in a café Saturday.

Luangsuphom, who runs the Kub Kluen Duay Keyboard (Driven By Keyboard) Facebook page, is widely known for posting criticism of the nation’s communist authorities and the government.

Local and foreign media Wednesday reported the critic died on his way to hospital after being shot by an unidentified gunman. Reports said the shooting took place at 10:26 p.m. on Saturday in the After School Chocolate & Bar shop in the Chanthabury district in Vientiane.

But a photo seen by VOA shows Luangsuphom bandaged and recovering in a hospital bed. Luangsuphom’s Facebook page later reposted the same photo of the 25-year-old Wednesday evening. The social media post states the family said he had died to prevent the gunman from returning and killing Luangsuphom.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, received the news about Luangsuphom’s survival at a press freedom event in Bangkok on Wednesday evening.

“We’re thrilled that the news has come out that Anousa is purportedly still alive,” Robertson told VOA. “We understand that the person who went with him to the hospital said that he had died in order to ensure the gunman didn’t return to finish the job.

“We also understand that the Lao police has visited him in the hospital, but he is unable to speak because of his injuries. Our major concern is that he is protected, and no harm comes to him while he recovers from his very grievous injuries.”

Security camera footage of the attack, which surfaced online on Wednesday, shows an unidentified gunman in a black cap and long-sleeved shirt approaching the entrance of the café. He briefly leaves the café before quickly returning and firing two shots at Luangsuphom at close range. He then flees as two women can be heard shouting “Jack, Jack.” The women then rush to secure the door and help the activist.

Elaine Pearson, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, urged the Laos government to investigate the attack, stating that Lao authorities “have long failed to prevent or adequately respond to attacks against critics of the government, human rights defenders, and political activists.”

A landlocked Southeast Asian country situated between Thailand and China, Laos is a one-party state ruled by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. Critics of the government are often intimidated by authorities.

VOA did not receive a response to requests for government comment from both the secretary and consular office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.