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Houayheuang Xayabouly (Muay)


Ms. Houayheuang Xayabouly, also known as Muay, is a Lao tour guide and shop owner. She is also an environmental and woman human rights defender that contributes to the protection of the rights of the Lao people by highlighting the harms caused by business activities and corruption, as well as calling for solutions to redress this. As a result of Muay's human rights work, she was made an example of by the Lao PDR government. She addressed corruption, called out unfair practises by businesses and companies, and denounced the impacts which they had on the Lao people.


Laos has been a single-party republic since the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) seized power in 1975. Human rights defenders work under great difficulties and cannot operate freely. They face surveillance, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture in custody, and enforced disappearance. HRDs have been accused of threatening national security in relation to online criticism of the Lao government. Freedom of expression, association, and assembly are heavily restricted, despite the fact that these rights are guaranteed in the Constitution. Registration and regulatory mechanisms for NGOs are onerous and allow for arbitrary state interference. Despite international pressure, the 2012 disappearance of prominent HRD Sombath Somphone remains unsolved in 2017 and continues to exert a chilling effect on civil society.