PRESS RELEASE: April 16, 2021. Lawsuit Against Lao Community Members Voluntarily Dropped

On Wednesday, April 14, 2021 – Lao New Year, the plaintiff, Wat Lao Buddhavong, Inc. (WLB), officially withdrew its lawsuit accusing seven  Laotian community members of conspiracy to steal from, injure, and harm Wat Lao [Wat Lao Buddhavong Inc. v. Souksomboun Sayasithsena, et. al., case number CL-20-122, filed August 2019].  WLB had been seeking $5.45 million in damages.

In a statement released today, The Lao Global Heritage Alliance (LGHA) President Vilayphon Panaysithavong said, “We are excited to hear that Wat Lao finally decided to drop this lawsuit after more than a year. We have always believed that the individual defendants did no wrong and that the lawsuit only served to further divide our community. We are confident that had this frivolous lawsuit proceeded further, these individuals would have prevailed. We hope that now the board of directors and the community can work together to heal the wounds created by this lawsuit and to increase financial transparency and institute fair elections for the board of directors.”

LGHA and the defendants owe a debt of gratitude to our members, especially to elders of our community. They have been pillars of our community for 40 years and have made significant contributions to WLB, both as founding board members and in many other WLB leadership positions over the years. They should be commended for having to endure watching the temple they sacrificed so much for suing its own members. They have always carried themselves with dignity, pride, and a continued commitment to the Lao community.  Most of all, we are extremely grateful to the indispensable and generous support of, Mr. Brett C. Vinson of Weed Graafstra & Associates, who represented six of the seven defendants and who worked on this case pro bono. His unfailing support carried us and six of the seven defendants through difficult and threatening times with his tireless efforts, countless hours, and reassuring messages about the laws and statutes. In addition, we sincerely appreciate and are grateful for the support and sponsorship from Mr. Douglas Bywater from Tate Bywater Attorneys at Law. We would not have been able to receive Mr. Vinson’s support without Mr. Bywater. Lastly, we also would like to thank Mr. Thomas F. Urban II from Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth for his zealous representation of Mr.  Souksomboun Sayasithsena.

Despite Mr. Vinson’s generous assistance, LGHA still faced considerable expenses to assist paying the required legal costs associated with defending the six-named defendants relative to our budget. The lawsuit also drained innumerable valuable hours from our leadership,  using resources and time that could have otherwise been devoted to other parts of our mission.

With the lawsuit behind us, we reaffirm our commitment to the LGHA community and will strive to heal and unite the community.  LGHA will continue its efforts to advance our goals for justice, transparency, accountability, religious rights, and fair board elections, as well as help eliminate both seen and unseen barriers and create systems that are equitable and transparent for the Lao communities locally and around the world.

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