Laos accused of prisoner abuse

Thousands of political prisoners have been held by Laos for nearly five years without trial in grim communist "re-education" centers, Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, charged Wednesday.

The number of prisoners, who have no contact with the outside world, are estimated at between 10,000 and 40,000.

Arrests on political grounds in the nation -- taken over by the Pathet Lao Communists in 1975 -- are continuing and there no legal safeguards for those held. Amnesty cited former Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma, now an adviser to the present Laos government, as saying that since 1975 between 10,000 and 15,000 civil servants, professional people, Army and police officers, and other people associated with the old government have been sent to re-education camps.

The report said the health of some prisoners has deteriorated seriously because of bad diet, lack of medical attention, and hard labor.

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