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Popular Lao activist who criticized government on Facebook shot and killed

A 24-year-old Lao activist who championed human rights and posted articles critical of the government was shot and killed in the capital by an unidentified gunman, according to video footage posted on a Facebook page he helped maintain.

Jack Anousa, an administrator of a Facebook group that uncovered and denounced human rights abuses in Laos and called for the end of one-party rule, was shot at 10:26 pm on Saturday in the After School Chocolate & Bar shop in Vientiane’s Chanthabury district.

He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 4 am early Sunday, the Facebook page said.

Black-and-white security camera footage shows a man wearing a cap coming to the door of the shop and appearing to ask a question of a woman standing in the kitchen area. He briefly closes the door before entering again, stepping inside and firing two shots at Jack, and leaves, prompting two women with him to scream, “Jack, Jack!”

Separate color footage from a security camera outside the back door shows the assailant, wearing a gray cap and brown shirt, come to the back door and use a handkerchief to grab the doorknob, presumably to avoid leaving his fingerprints, before asking the question and then stepping inside to fire the gun.

No arrests have been made.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, strongly urged the government to investigate and reveal the facts for the public to know.

“If they don’t do anything, people will think that state officials have a connection with the case,” he said. “Right now, we can’t say who did the killing.”

Robertson said that those who have been critical of the government have paid a heavy price in the past, including getting kidnapped and disappearing. The most prominent example is the case of Sombath Somphone, an activist who was stopped at a police checkpoint in 2012, forced into a white truck and driven away. He hasn’t been seen since then.

On his Facebook page, which has over 10,000 followers, Anousa recently posted comments saying that while the government has blamed thick haze on farmers burning forests and farmland, city dwellers have also burned lots of trash and Chinese and Vietnamese companies have burned toxic waste that has polluted the air.

Last May, he published a post about how the Lao and Chinese governments helped each other get rich while Lao people have only grown poorer.

Translated by Sidney Khotpanya. Edited by Malcolm Foster.