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LAO COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT HUNTS FOR POLITICAL DISSIDENTS IN THE INTERNET
Staff Writer
September 2000

After 1975, thousands of Lao people fled communist regime in Laos. Many resettled in the US, France, Australian and other western democracies. Despite living in relative safety of the West, some of these refugees remain fearful of the communist government in Vientiane. Even in the year 2000, many Laotians living in the West, particularly in the US, are fearful that the communist government has hundreds of agents livng amongst our fold. These agents, it is further believed, regularly report to Vientiane of the political movement and affiliation of Lao expatriates. Whether this fear is real or imagined, the FREE LAO ALLIANCE feels obligated to warn that so long as the Lao people allow the communist government to intimidate us, we can never rid our homeland of communism. Many Lao expatriates fear that the communist government could discover their identities by knowing their E-mail addresses. We are of the opinion that the communist government fearing the exchange of information through the Internet will lead to political unrest. As the result of this fear, the government engages in a psychological warfare by propagating a scare tactics against those who express their opposition through the use of the world wide web.
     Communism in all corners of the world persists so long as the central government can control all sources of information. When there exists a source of information uncontrollable by the government, the legitimacy of the state would soon come into question. Any opposition to authority creates potentially explosive political dissent. In a system where dissent is not tolerated, the threat presented by an alternative source of information becomes real. The explosion of information, particularly information exposing human rights violation and political opposition to the communist government, presents an unstoppable challenge to the state. The threat from freedom fighters in the jungle is physical and can be suppressed by brute force. The source of such a threat can be physically removed. However, the threat posed by an alternative source of information in the Internet presents a challenge never before encountered by the illiterate and backward communist cadres in Vientiane. This information age forces these cadres to deal with dotcom politics and dotcom dissidents. They cannot really tell whether the source of the opposition comes from outside or generated inside under their noses. This uncertainty wrestles the communist government in Vientiane into a state of paranoia. To maintain control, it must suppress the opposition. To succeed in suppressing that opposition, it must paralyze the source of that information. To do so, it must instill fear into those who would even think of joining the opposition. What can be more effective an instrument of fear than to say “your identity can easily be discovered if we know your E-mail addresses.” The roar of this paper tiger sends two messages: (i) the Lao communist is technically competent, and (ii) if you are a Laotian, no matter where you live, you are still under the control of the communist government in Vientiane. Truly, these messages ring hollow. They can be true only if we permit it to be so.
     Psychological warfare is one of the most potent weapons of all. We witness the American’s superior fire power during the late 1960s and 1970s in Indochina, yet it lost to the Vietminh's psychological warfare. The US later learned that its military technology was no match for the North Vietnamese psychological weapon. In psychological warfare, the instrument of war comes in many forms. Instilling fear into the enemy is the common element of psychological weapon. Propaganda is another; it helps mobilize the masses against the opponent. If used effectively, propaganda can be an effective tool to demonize and dehumanize the enemy. In short, psychological weapon changes the mindset of the combatants, as well as the populace. It makes it easier to kill the enemy without hesitation. While these facets of psychological weapons are well documented in all major wars in the world, we know little about its use by the Lao communist government against the Lao expatriates living in the West.
     We learn from many Lao expatriates living in the US that there are many Lao communist agents living in the States. We also have been told that these agents report  to Vientiane the movement and political affiliations of our brethren. This belief is so strong that it paralyzes the political movement and expression of our Laotian expatriates in the US, save those brave souls who dare to remain vocal in their opposition to the communist government in Lao.
     While the fear appears to be real to some people, we believe that political paranoia is not a healthy thing to nurture. If we have been asked whether anyone can guarantee the safety of those who express their antigovernment sentiment, we could not help but dismiss the question as disgenuine. For those timid souls who now live in the US and remain fearful of the communist government in Lao, we can say with our heads held high and without trepidation that they are not truly free. Politics by nature is an unsafe business. If a ‘politician’ concerns so much for his personal safety, perhaps it is more profitable for him to enter a less strenuous profession. In a fight for liberty, a slave must be brave enough to lay down his life in return for freedom when necessary. When the world of injustice sets into motion the antagonism among the strong and the weak, master and slave, in short, communist and free world, those who want to live in a free society must do every thing, including to kill and be killed, to preserve themselves as freemen. To be free, we must not live in fear and insecurity. We cannot truly be free if we cannot turn our back without thinking that “my E-mail address can be discovered by the Vientiane government.”
This is not to say that a Lao political dissident should not have fear. It is only natural that every one should experience fear, especially political dissidents opposing a formidable foe. However, the type of fear experienced by political dissidents differs from personal greed and selfishness of the man on the street. Political dissidents live under constant fear that their country---Lao---one day will disappear from the world map unless they fight to preserve the territorial integrity and the lives of those who live in it. We fear that the ever increasing foreign debt accumulating by the Vientiane government will scuttle our country’s growth and keep us in poverty. We fear that the destruction of our environment and over exploitation of natural resources will one day leave Lao unprotected against natural disaster and become dependent on foreign imports. We fear that the continue political suppression by the Vientiane government will inure unto the minds of the our younger generation that there is no alternative to tyranny. We fear that the continuing growth of political apathy by the Lao expatriates will result in the abandonment of democratic movement for Lao. We harbor these fears in our hearts and minds daily. We are also quick to point out that, instead of making us cowards, these fear have tempered our nationalist sentiment and yearning to breath free. At times these fears are too great to bear, we are willing to sacrifice all that we hold dear to prevent these fears from becoming a reality.
     It is an irony that some of us should live in the freest county on earth yet remain psychologically shackled by the communist government in Vientiane. The fear comes not so much from the concern for their own safety here in the US, but by their selfish concern of losing the privilege of walking freely in the morning market in Vientiane when they visit Lao. We do not question the intensity of love nor the degree of patriotism of Lao our descents; it is understandable, if not expected, for every Lao person yearning to return home. However, to savor that vacation visit at the expense of expressing their political opinion in a whisper or at worse remain reticent in face of brutal suppression of all political dissent by the Vientiane government, we trust that is too high a price to pay.
     Lao is an underdeveloped country. In the information age, the country struggles to acquire the most basic technology. It was a great achievement for the Lao government to launch a communication satellite in 1997 and claimed a 20% equity on the payload. However, we know that information technology comes too slowly to Lao. The Vientiane administration is very perceptive to the threat of the Internet. High speed information and communication technology created by the Internet presents an uncontrollable threat to the government. However, despite its lack of expertise, the communist returns to its basic element of jungle warfare: psychological weapon. By implanting the fear into the hearts and minds of the Lao people, both inside and outside of Lao, that it is easy for the Vientiane government to figure out the identity of the Lao people who oppose the government in the Internet, the government sets into motion a condition conducive to paranoia situation. Ill-informed Lao expatriates who visited Vientiane returned home with new brand of propaganda to tell friends and families that the Vientiane government can discover their identity by just knowing their E-mail addresses. Mind control is the most effective form of psychological warfare.
This newfound fear will paralyze our political dissent against the Vientiane government unless we stem its tide at its source. The source of this fear is not the mouth piece of the communist government. The fear is created in the hearts and minds of the Lao expatriates who give too much credence to the communist's claim on its technical competence. It is not easy for the Lao communist government to make a transition from a jungle warfare of the 1970s to an information warfare of 2000s. We saw in 1975 that riding a bicycle was a great challenge to every Lao communist fresh out of the jungle and caves of Samneua. It was a big step for these aborigials to graduate from bicycle to automobiles in the early 1980s. Then came the computers in the 1990s, these metal boxes presented an unprecedented challenge to our beloved cadres. As if these series of challenges are not enough to the already intellectually stunt communist leaders in Vientiane, the late 1990s injected the Internet into Lao. As the country was propelled into the information superhighway, the cadres really found themselves at a crossroad to the la-la-land.
     They thought that when high ranking cadres sport cellular phones on the streets, that would be the height of techno overspill into Lao, but the digital penetration really takes its toll when Lao is no longer immune from the bombardment of information via the Internet. Anti-government sites pop up here and there; soon they are every where. Dotcom politics and E-dissidents present a new challenge to Vientiane. This new threat requires a new type of response. The suppression of political opposition such as that staged by the students in October of 1999 was a task too easy for a government trained in jungle warfare. However, with all the guns and chemical weapons stockpiled in its arsenal, the communist government finds itself helpless in face of the new technology. Although untrained in and unprepared for this new technology, the government goes back to the basics: jungle warfare.
     When the cadres walked out of the jungle in 1975, they thought  that they would leave their jungle mentality behind and join the ranks of the civilized world. However, dotcom politics has forced the communists in Lao to revert to its basic instinct of jungle mentality. It must retrieve from the dust bin of its revolutionary refuse the fundamental element of guerilla tactics: psychological warfare. The principle is most basic: “if you cannot fight them, scare them into submission.” Thus, the campaign against Lao expatriates, who use the Internet as a tool to oppose and expose the communist government in Vientiane, begun in earnest. The propaganda is quite simple. The government claims that it can discover the identities of political dissidents through their E-mail addresses. The government hopes to coward potential dissidents into fear and paralyze their political activism by claiming that “big brother” is watching. The success of this propaganda depends on the gullibility of its audience. A propaganda succeeds so long as its audience believes in it. Unfortunately, many Lao expatriates had fallen prey to this scare tactic. Some lessen the harshness of their criticism of the government. Others coil into reticence exchanging the perceived threat for relative safety and convenience of their next visit to Vientiane.
     Democracy will come to Lao through the hard work and dedication of those who dare to question authority. That opposition to the communist government must be vocal. A silent opposition is no opposition at all. An unexpressed opinion is not much of an opinion. We must gallantly fight against the foe of our nation and the enemy of mankind. The history of our beloved country taught the world that the Lan Xang Kingdom seldom produces cowards. It is more of a fact than opinion that every nook and cranny of Lao is filled with men and women who braved battle against our enemies, foreign and domestic. Had our ancestors harbored the same degree of cowardice as those who fear the communist government today to discover their E-mail addresses, we would still live under the Burmese, Siam and French rule. There was no Internet during those eras, but the analogies is equally illustrative.
We can assure all Laotians living outside of Lao today that the communist government is toothless. It cannot even maintain control of its political power among its fold. Did we not hear the explosions ripping through the morning market, the post office and the bus station in recent months? Did they arrest anyone “really” responsible for those bombings? The prospect of the Vientiane government to search for political dissidents through the Internet----by merely knowing their E-mail addresses--- is a far fetch hunt for the enemy of the state. The famous lines for communist officials in Vientiane to maintain are that:

“We know every movement you make in the US;”
“We have a transcript of every meeting you hold in Australia,” or better yet,
“Do not think you can hide in the web if you oppose us?”

     Really? Catch us! At the Free Lao Alliance, we claim to speak for those who have been muted by brutal suppression. We shall represent those who cannot represent themselves. We shall never succumb to communist scare tactics. No matter how long and no matter how arduous the fight, we shall continue our struggle until democracy is restored unto the hands and hearts of every Lao person inside and outside of Lao. We shall serve as the foundation for those who will brave with us to oppose communism in Lao.
     Gallantry, bravery, heroic, unyielding, intelligent, and visionary. These words describe the character of Lao politicians and intellectuals. We carry them on our sleeves every where we go. We remind ourselves at all time and in all places that liberty and freedom are our God given rights. No one shall take them away from us. Before we throw communism out of Lao, we must first chase cowardice from our hearts and erase fear from our minds. The fight to restore democracy to Lao is not a child’s play. For those who think that the Vientiane government can hunt them down by just knowing their E-mail addresses, we say ‘come brethren, let us walk the true path to freedom.’ Come unto our fold and we shall set you free from communist scare tactics. We have been to the future and can tell you that there is nothing to fear. We have seen what could be; do not shy from this opportunity to show to the world that Laotians are not easily scared into submission. The fear you have is created by the communist government. To succeed in the fight for freedom of our people and country, we must maintain clear heads. We must keep our minds open to ideas that are conducive to the reconstruction of our beloved country. We must close our minds to all propaganda scare tactics disseminated by the communist government.