24 December 2012
Mr. Thongsing Thammavong
Prime Minister, Lao People’s Democratic Republic Prime Minister’s Office|
Ban Nahai Dious, Muang Chanthaburi
Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Fax: +856 21213653

Phavanh Nuanthasing
Director General
Department of International Organizations Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR
+856 21414009

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned national, regional and international human rights organizations, write to convey our deep concern in reaction to the news stories of the expulsion of Helvetas Laos Country Director, Ms Anne-Sophie Gindroz, for a personal letter that she wrote to the development partners of the Lao PDR ahead of the Round Table Implementation Meeting (RTIM) which intends to be a mechanism that facilitates meaningful dialogue and constructive engagement between the Lao government and the development partners.

Regrettably, the expulsion of Ms. Gindroz only confirms the restrictions and contradictions described in her letter countering a more open and inclusive living and working environment in Laos. This decision is even more regrettable in light of Helvetas Laos’ key role in organizing the Asia Europe People’s Forum 9 (AEPF 9), which many of us as International Organizing Committee members of the AEPF (IOC) bore witness to. The AEPF9 was recognized as being the most successful civil society event of its kind organized in Laos and in AEPF history, helping to promote Laos’ profile at regional and international levels, in particular in regard to human rights and people centered development.

Considering that her letter was intended as a personal letter to DPs, meaning private, informal and off the record, the sudden expulsion of Ms. Gindroz without warning or at least a call for clarifications raises critical questions about the legitimacy of what publically appears as progressive steps and sincere commitment towards a more open country, and a Lao leadership which is confident enough to welcome debate and different opinions, which can serve to raise standards and credibility both nationally and internationally.

In light of Laos’ recent hosting of the 9th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM 9) and ascension to WTO, we urge the Lao leadership to re-evaluate its democratization mechanisms to assure it does not lose the credibility it has earned, and the support it has garnered, in respect of the ASEAN Charter and the multiple international human rights instruments Laos is party to. In the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process Laos was recognized for accepting 71 recommendations fully. These recommendations reinforce the Lao Constitution which promotes the freedom of speech, association, petition and peaceful assembly in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

We encourage the Lao government to re-consider the expulsion order of Ms. Gindroz and its modalities. We urge the Lao Government that taking into account Ms. Gindroz’s family situation and in acknowledgement of her and Helvetas’ significant contributions to the sustainable development goals of the country, Ms. Gindroz be permitted to visit her children who are still in Vientiane.

We strongly believe ensuring justice for Ms. Gindroz and other development workers, Lao civil society associations, and citizens alike will set an important precedent for the future and more importantly, the protection of human rights and a just and equitable development in Laos for the people of Laos to enjoy, the leadership of Laos to be proud of, and the world to recognize and model.

Endorsed by

  1. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) 
  2. Asia-Pacific Network for Food Sovereignty (APNFS) 
  3. Aksi, Indonesia 
  4. Burma Center Prague 
  5. Center for Health Consultation and Community Development (CHD), Vietnam 
  6. Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth, Sri Lanka 
  7. Civil Society Alliance for Political Laws Amendment (Aliansi Masyarakat Sipil untuk
    Revisi Undang-undang Politik), Indonesia 
  8. Ecologistas en Accion, Spain 
  9. Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF), France 
  10. Equitable Cambodia 
  11. FIAN Netherlands 
  12. FIAN Belgium 
  13. Fresh Eyes – People to People Travel cic, UK
  14. FTA Watch (Thailand) 
  15. Focus on the Global South 
  16. German Asia Foundation, philippinenbüro, Southeast-Asia Information Center 
  17. Indian Social Action Forum, New Delhi, India 
  18. Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) 
  19. International Rivers 
  20. Jubilee South – Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development 
  21. KIARA (The Peoples’ Coalition for Fisheries Justice), Indonesia 
  22. MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) 
  23. Martin Greijmans
  24. Mauerpark Institut e.V. 
  25. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) 
  26. Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM), Philippines. 
  27. National Union of Bank Employees, Malaysia 
  28. Network for Transformative Social Protection in Asia (NTSP) 
  29. One World Network NRW, Germany – International Cooperation 
  30. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum 
  31. Perempuan Mahardhika (Free Women) Indonesia 
  32. Philippinenbüro e.V. – Germany 
  33. Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) 
  34. Respect Network in Europe 
  35. Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) 
  36. SÜDWIND (Austrian Development Education NGO)
  37. Südwind, Austria 
  38. Siemenpuu Foundation 
  39. Tamil Nadu Land Rights Federation, India. 
  40. The Alliance of Government Workers in the Water Sector (AGWWAS-Philippines) 
  41. The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association –ADHOC 
  42. The Indonesian Institute, Center for Public Policy Research (TII), Indonesia 
  43. Thai Working Group for Climate Justice 
  44. Thai Working Group for Climate Justice (Thailand) 
  45. The Institute for Popular Democracy (Philippines) 
  46. The alliance of progressive labor- Philippines 
  47. Transnational Migrant Platform 
  48. Youth for Peace and Peace Institute of Cambodia 
  49. Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP) 
  50. Watch Indonesia! – For Human Rights, Democracy and Environment in Indonesia and 
  51. East Timor 
  52. Women’s Voice Empowerment Movement (Gerakan Pemberdayaan Swara 
  53. Perempuan/GPSP), Indonesia