A young Lao political activist who was shot in Vientiane is still alive, it has been revealed, after his family apparently falsely reported him dead out of fear of further reprisals.
Anousa “Jack” Luangsuphom, 25, is the administrator of the Kub Kluen Duay Keyboard (Driven By Keyboard) Facebook group that has uncovered and denounced human rights abuses in Laos and called for the end of one-party rule.
He was shot last Saturday night by a lone assailant in the After School Chocolate & Bar shop in Chanthabury district of the Lao capital city. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 4am Sunday, according to the Facebook page.
Video of the shooting was posted on the Facebook page and reports of the killing appeared on numerous online news sites and in mainstream media including the Bangkok Post and the BBC. The Laotian Times, an online publication operating under tight government supervision, also ran a story saying he was dead.
However, the Southeast Asia Globe now says the activist is recovering in hospital.
Human Rights Watch also said it had received confirmation from family and other sources that Mr Anousa was still alive and being treated in hospital.
The motivation of the shooter is not known, but Mr Anousa’s status as one of the most prominent democracy activists in the country led to speculation about a political motivation, the online news site said.
“His activism frightened the government, so they wanted to kill him,” it quoted a fellow Lao democracy activist as saying.
“Friends and family basically told people he was dead because they were worried that if the gunman knew they had not succeeded in killing him, they would return to finish the job,” Phil Robertson, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch, told the BBC.
“Now Jack is still alive and his condition has improved accordingly, but he is worried about his safety, afraid that someone will attack him again if he is still treated in Laos,” Joseph Akaravong, a France-based activist and friend of Mr Anousa, told AFP.
“I spoke directly to his family, who took care of him at the hospital. His family would like to bring Jack to Thailand for treatment, but the process is very difficult. We are trying now.”
According to the Globe, Mr Anousa is also known for creating a private Facebook group in 2020 for members to talk openly about mental health, social issues and politics while advocating for human rights. The group now has more than 7,500 members.
While Mr Anousa’s family reported him dead shortly after the attack, pictures of him alive and fully awake began appearing on social media three days later.
On Wednesday evening, police reportedly visited the hospital where he was being treated, to get the victim’s family to share the truth about his condition. The Globe said it had seen pictures showing that he can move his left arm, possibly write, and open his eyes.
According to Manushya Foundation, a Thai social justice advocacy group that has been in contact with people close to Mr Anousa, the activist and his Facebook co-admins were being spied on and stalked by the attacker, who had allegedly befriended them earlier this year.
That could be part of the reason behind the family’s decision to report his death out of fear of reprisals against him, the organisation told the Globe.
“We are very happy he is alive, and we call for an impartial investigation and protection for Jack,” said Emilie Palamy Pradichit, the Manushya founder and executive director.
Anousa “Jack” Luangsuphom, 25, is the administrator of the Kub Kluen Duay Keyboard (Driven By Keyboard) Facebook group that has attracted many Lao activists.