Kerry and Kay Danes

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Kay Danes in 2007.

Kerry Arthur Danes and Kay Frances Danes are an Australian husband and wife who were controversially arrested and subjected to physical violence on 23 December 2000 by authorities in Laos.[1] The Danes were detained without charge in a detention centre in Vientiane, Laos for six months until formal charges were laid on 13 June 2001.[2] According to the Australian Foreign Ministry, the Danes were wrongly accused by the Marxist, Pathet Lao officials in communist Laos of embezzlement, destruction of evidence and violation of Laotian tax regulations. On 28 June 2001, the Danes were taken to the Laotian Municipal Court in Vientiane where they faced trial by a judge and prosecutor appointed by communist officials. The already typed judgment was delivered within 25 minutes.[3] Found guilty, they were sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation, which led to the intervention of the Australian Government.[4] On 6 November 2001 the Danes were pardoned by the President of Laos.[3][5]

After their ordeal, Kay Danes became a human rights advocate and in 2012 was named as an Australian of the Year state finalist.[6]

Following the release of Kerry and Kay Danes in Laos, Kay Danes was invited to speak at the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos in Washington, D.C., in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Library of Congress, where she testified in 2002 and on numerous occasions on Capitol Hill regarding human rights violations in Laos and the plight of political prisoners and foreign prisoners held by the communist government of Laos.[7]

Kay and Kerry Danes brought attention to the Lao People's Army's, and Lao police and security forces, human rights violations in Laos against foreign prisoners, Laotian citizens and the Hmong people, including torture, extrajudicial killing, rape, religious persecution, and imprisonment in the Lao prion and gulag system. They also provided important research and information about the role of the Vietnam People's Army in Laos and their support of the Pathet Lao police and security forces, including the Lao People's Army.[8]

In 2003, following Kerry and Kay Danes release, the Lao government arrested an American citizen, Hmong-American St. Paul, Minnesota, Christian Pastor, Naw-Karl Mua, and a number of independent European journalists and their translators who were captured by the Lao Peoples Army (LPA)document the Lao military's attacks on Lao and Hmong civilians and political and religious dissidents hiding from government persecution in the jungles of Laos.[9]

In 2009 and 2011, Kay Danes testified at special sessions of the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos, along with T. Kumar of Amnesty International, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf, U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy, foreign policy experts, including Philip Smith of The Centre for Public Policy Analysis, and others, where she shared crucial information about the arrest and disappearance of three Hmong-Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota, who were arrested in Laos by the Lao People's Army (LPA) and detained and tortured in Laos' notorious Phonthong Prison in Vientiane[10] This is the same prison where Kay Danes and her husband had previously been detained under harsh and deplorable conditions, and tortured, several years prior in Laos under extremely harsh conditions along with other foreign prisoners. Mrs. Sheng Xiong a Hmong-American human rights advocate, also testified with Kay Danes about the arrest, imprisonment and torture of the three Hmong-Americans. These three Hmong-Americans, Mr. Hakit Yang, Mr. Congshineng Yang and Mr. Trillion Yunhaison, are still missing in Laos, following their arrest and imprisonment by the Lao People's Army and Lao military and security forces.[11][12]

Kay Danes, Hmong-American advocate Mrs. Sheng Xiong and other human rights advocates and policy experts, were invited to speak at a policy forum hosted by the Centre for Public Policy Analysis at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. about human rights violations in Laos.[13][14][15]

Medal of the Order of Australia[edit]

In 2014, Kay Danes (born at Wynnum Queensland) was honored by the Australian government with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her work on human rights violations in Laos and Southeast Asia and her humanitarian efforts, including helping foreign political prisoners, Laotian and Hmong refugees, and women and orphans suffering in Afghanistan.[16]


Kay Danes has written books about the ordeal in Laos, including:

  • Danes, Kay (2009). Standing Ground: An Imprisoned Couple's Struggle for Justice Against a Communist Regime. Australia: New Holland. ISBN 978-1-74110-757-9. 
  • Danes, Kay (2008). Families Behind Bars: Stories of injustice, endurance and hope. Australia: New Holland Publishers. ISBN 978-1-74110-676-3. .
  • Danes, Kay (2006). Nightmare in Laos : the true story of a woman imprisoned in a Communist gulag. Ireland: Maverick House Publishers. ISBN 978-1-905379-08-8. 
  • Danes, Kay (2002). Deliver us from evil : bad things do happen to good people. North Melbourne, Victoria: Crown Content. ISBN 1-74095-025-9. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "LAO PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. The laws are promulgated but have no impact on the people: Torture, ill-treatment and hidden suffering in detention". Amnesty International. 26 July 2002. Archived from the original on 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "Questions Without Notice: Danes, Mr Kerry and Mrs Kay" (PDF). Australian House of Representatives. 4 April 2001. p. 26402. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Taylor & Francis Group (July 2004). The Europa World Year Book Kazakhstan-Zimbabwe. Europa Publications Ltd. p. 2563. ISBN 978-1857432558. Retrieved 2012-12-15. 
  4. ^ Downer, Alexander (6 November 2001). "Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs" (Press release). Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Fears for Couple Seized in Laos". BBC News Online. 3 January 2001. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "State Finalist Australian of the Year 2012: Kay Danes". Australian of the Year Awards. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Morrison, James, (1 October 2002), Washington Times, Washington, D.C. "Embassy Row Column: Kay Danes on Laos Detention speaks at U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos"
  8. ^ Smith, Philip, Center for Public Policy Analysis (1 July 2002) "Lao Hmong Refugee Crisis"
  9. ^ Webb, Tom, and Nelson, Todd, St. Paul Pioneer Press, (23 June 2003), "Sources: St. Paul pastor to be convicted, then soon freed."
  10. ^ Politics and Government Week, Washington, D.C. (12 May 2011) "Laos, Obama Urged By Rights Groups, Hmong, to Free 3 Americans"
  11. ^ Xiong, Chao, Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Waiting, `not knowing if they are even alive'; Wives, children and a mother lingered at the airport see 3 St. Paul men thought to be imprisoned in Laos"
  12. ^ Scoop Independent News, Auckland, New Zealand, (22 April 2011), "Laos: Appeal for Release of 3 Hmong-Americans "
  13. ^ Media Newswire "Kay Danes, Sheng Xiong to Speak About Laos, Hmong Human Rights Issues (16 April 2009)
  14. ^ Online PR NEW/MEDIA, (13 January 2010) "Laos' Secret Jails, Camps: Minnesota Hmong Appeal for Families, US Citizens Jailed in Gulag"
  15. ^ Media Newswire, (16 April 2009) "Laos, Thailand Hmong Refugee Crisis: Australian Author to Speak at World Affairs, Washington, D.C. Events" Laos, Thailand Hmong Refugee Crisis: Australian Author to Speak at World Affairs, Washington, D.C. Events
  16. ^ Businesswire,, Washington, D.C. and Canberra, Australia, January 30, 2014, "Australia Announces Award to Laos, Hmong Human Rights Activist"

External links[edit]