Where is Sombath?


Sombath SomphoneSombath Somphone is a friend, colleague and visionary who has spent his life working for his people and country.

He was last seen on the evening 15 December 2012, while driving home in his jeep.

CCTV footage shows Sombath being stopped by police and then taken away.

While authorities continue to deny responsibility, Sombath’s abduction is widely acknowledged to be an enforced disappearance.

This website hopes to facilitate justice for Sombath and his family, and bring voice to his ideas and ideals.

CSOs operate in fear

Logo-Speak Out“The working climate of Lao CSOs, which has been restricted by the government since Sombath’s disappearance, is an outstanding issue, so I wonder if development partners … will be willing to raise it. So far, I see that CSOs operate in fear—being threatened by governmental officials,” the official said.

From Development Partners Must Hold Lao Government Accountable” Radio Free Asia, 24 November 2015

Vientiane Declaration ignores rights, people, etc.

Logo-Speak Out-Points to PonderThe Vientiane Declaration on Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which will be signed at the High Level Round Table Meeting, departs sharply from the spirit and assurances made during the recent Universal Periodic Review.

A few observations include:

  • The document makes no mention of human rights, civil rights or any kind of rights.
  • Civil society, NPAs and INGOs are only included in regard to their role in carrying out the development agenda.
  • While there are over 50 references to government, and nearly 40 to partners, there is little reference to the Lao people.
  • The document does not include the word population. Citizens are mentioned only in terms of receiving services. Indeed, people are only mentioned twice, and those are within the Lao PDR’s name.
  • The only reference to community is that of international donors. Ethnic groups or indigenous populations are not mentioned.

An open letter to Participants of the 2015 Lao Donor Round Table Meeting

November 5, 2015

As you prepare for this year’s High Level Round Table meeting, we ask that you take a few moments to read and reflect on the address below that Sombath Somphone gave to the 9th Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Vientiane, Lao PDR three years ago.

It was Sombath’s last public address before he was taken from a busy street in the city where most of you work every day.

We ask that you quote his words in your remarks at the RTM itself.

More importantly, we ask that you incorporate the wisdom of those words in your policies and programs in the Lao PDR.

Thank you.

  1. ActionAid International
  2. Alliance Sud
  3. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
  4. Asia Indigenous People’s Pact
  5. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  6. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  7. Corner House
  8. Dharmajala
  9. Human Rights Watch
  10. Earth Rights
  11. Equality Myanmar
  12. Equitable Cambodia
  13. FIAN International
  14. FIAN Germany
  15. FIAN Netherlands
  16. Focus on the Global South
  17. Food First
  18. Forum Asia
  19. Friends of the Earth International
  20. Friends of the Earth USA
  21. Global Witness
  22. Indian Social Action Forum
  23. Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
  24. International Network of Engaged Buddhists
  25. Justice for Peace Foundation
  26. Lao Movement for Human Rights
  27. Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation
  28. Re:Common
  29. Mekong Watch
  30. The School for Wellbeing
  31. The Sombath Initiative
  32. Social Action for Change
  33. Spirit in Education Movement
  34. Transnational Institute
  35. War on Want

Continue reading

Experts See Worsening Situation as Laos and EU Hold Human Rights Talks

Radio Free Asia: 06 November 2015


A 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines.

Lao and European Union officials met on Friday in the Laotian capital Vientiane to discuss human rights issues at a time when the number of such abuses and restrictions on various freedoms are increasing rapidly.

The objective of the sixth annual EU-Laos human rights dialogue was to support the implementation of Laos’ international human rights obligations and commitments. Attendees exchanged views on governance and the rule of law, democratic freedoms and people’s participation, as well as human rights, socioeconomic development, and international cooperation.

The meeting comes as the communist, one-party state continues to score poorly on its human rights record, with rights groups continuing to pressure the government for details of activists, students and others who have been detained or disappeared.

“The situation in Laos during this time is getting worse because social organizations are restricted to working only with communities that suffer from a lack of development projects,” said a source who declined to be named.

Last month, Lao authorities decided not to host a meeting of civil society organizations (CSO) in Southeast Asia on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit next year, fearing potential criticism by participants against governments in the region and inadequate resources for the decision.

But another reason that the ASEAN forum will not be held in Laos is because the Lao government cannot guarantee the safety of Lao participants, the source said. He also pointed out that the country recently failed in a bid to win seat on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council. Continue reading

Human Rights Watch Concerns on Laos

Human Rights Watch: 05 October 2015

Human Rights Watch HRWHuman Rights Watch makes this submission on the occasion of the European Union – Laos Human Rights Dialogue, scheduled to take place on November 6, 2015, in Vientiane. Laos recently appeared for its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council on January 20, 2015, in which its human rights record and future commitments to improve respect for rights were discussed. Numerous EU member states spoke at this session, and raised concerns about increasing restrictions on civil and political rights in Laos.  Several mentioned the case of prominent civil society leader and Magsaysay Prize award winner Sombath Somphone and the need for a credible investigation into his enforced disappearance on December 15, 2012. This is especially important for the EU given concerns that the Lao government may have targeted Sombath in connection with his leadership of the 9th ASEM People’s Forum in Vientiane on November 5-6, 2012.

Related Content: HRW Submission to the EU-Laos Human Rights Dialogue

The EU-Laos dialogue represents a crucial opportunity to further raise pressing human rights concerns and to improve the efficacy of the dialogue by setting clear benchmarks for improvements and ensuring the outcome of discussions are public. As Laos prepares to take chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the second time in 2016, it will have the opportunity to play a greater role in promoting compliance with international human rights standards across the ASEAN region.  However, the recent decision by the Lao civil society groups, working closely with the Lao government, to refuse to organize the annual ASEAN People’s Forum/ASEAN Civil Society Conference in Vientiane in 2016 raises fundamental questions about how open or participatory Laos’ ASEAN chairmanship will actually be. Continue reading

EU human rights talks must be backed by action

FIDH: 03 November 2015

FIDH-Logo(Paris) The EU must ensure that the Lao government makes firm commitments during upcoming bilateral human rights talks, FIDH and its member organization Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) said today. The two organizations made the call ahead of the 6th EU-Laos human rights dialogue, which will be held on 6 November in Vientiane.

In conjunction with the human rights dialogue, FIDH and LMHR published a joint briefing paper that details ongoing human rights violations that have occurred in the country since the previous round of talks in May 2014.

“It is imperative that the EU negotiates clear, measurable, and time-bound commitments with the Lao government and ensures their implementation. Otherwise, the human rights dialogue risks being a meaningless process that does not deliver any concrete results” FIDH President Karim Lahidji

lmhr-logoSince May 2014, the Lao government has enacted additional draconian legislation, such as Decree 327, to augment its existing arsenal of repressive laws. Authorities have arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned individuals who have criticized the government or exposed instances of corruption. Authorities have continued to crack down on religious minorities, arresting numerous members of various Christian groups.

The government has failed to provide any updates on the investigation of the enforced disappearance of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone, whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown. In addition, it has outrageously labeled allegations of other unresolved enforced disappearances as “not true.” Continue reading

Few Surprised as Laos Fails to Win U.N. Rights Council Seat

Radio Free Asia: 29 October 2015


A 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines.

Laos failed attempt to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council in a secret vote in New York was greeted with relief on Thursday by a leading Lao human rights group, which urged the communist government to adhere to U.N. rights treaties before trying to join the council.

The secret ballot by the U.N. General Assembly in Wednesday saw Laos come up short for one of five vacant Asia-Pacific slots on the council, with those regional slots going to Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

The Paris-based Lao Movement for Human Rights told RFA’s Lao Service it would have been “most unfortunate” to see the authoritarian one-party government in Vientiane join the 47-member council.

“The Lao Movement for Human Rights believes the endless and shameless violation of Lao citizens’ rights by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic government as has been going on for years, is not appealing to attract enough votes from other member states,” said Vanida Thephsouvanh, president of the group. Continue reading

We need time…

Thongphane SavanphetOn the missing Case of Mr. Sombath Somphone… Today, I would like to reassure that the concerned authorities of the Lao PDR have conducted and are still seriously conducting the investigation and will continue to do so to find out the truth and to bring perpetrators to justice in accordance with the law of the Lao PDR. A missing case is complex and difficult to solve quickly. We need time and our concerned authorities are trying their utmost efforts under the law of the Lao PDR.

Mr. Thongphane Savanhphet, Permanent Representative of the Lao PDR to the United Nations in Geneva, to the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council on 25 June 2015.