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.

Laos Refuses to Host Meeting of ASEAN Civil Society Groups

Radio Free Asia: 12 October 2015


Thida Khus, executive director of Cambodian NGO Silaka, addresses the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum in Malaysia, April 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of Silaka

Laos will not host a meeting of civil society organizations (CSO) in Southeast Asia on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit next year, a local official said, citing potential criticism by participants against governments in the region and inadequate resources as among reasons for the decision.

Maydom Chanthanasinh, Chairman of the Lao CSO Committee, told RFA’s Lao Service that a regional steering committee meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) People’s Forum next month will decide which country will host the next talks among the CSOs.

Laos will take over the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year from Malaysia.  The 10 ASEAN member countries take turns to host the grouping’s summit every year and typically organize a meeting for civil society organizations in the region on its sidelines. Continue reading

La desaparición forzada de un activista amedrenta a la sociedad civil de Laos

El Diaro: 10 Octubre 2015

FCCT-1000 days

La desaparición forzada de un activista amedrenta a la sociedad civil de Laos

La desaparición forzada de un reputado activista en un control policial en Vientiane y la presión para silenciar el suceso amedrenta a la sociedad civil de Laos, cuyos grupos denuncian el “clima de miedo” en el que desempeñan su labor.

“Laos es un ejemplo clásico de como las comunidades y la sociedad tiene miedo de su propio gobierno”, apunta a Efe Kingsley Abbott, consejero para Asia y el Pacífico de la Comisión de Juristas Internacional, con sede en Bangkok.

En los casos de desapariciones forzadas -la privación de la libertad de una persona por parte de agentes del Estado o grupos o individuos que actúan con su apoyo- es común que se carezca de evidencias y pruebas del crimen, lo que permite a las autoridades “desmentir las acusaciones y negar el conocimiento del delito”. Continue reading

“People don’t dare speak out”

“This is the biggest catchment for fresh water fish in the world and that demands a strategy for fish,” one source said, adding that Lao staff were aware of the issues but were silenced by fears of upsetting the government.

Sources said the disappearance of agriculturalist Sombath Somphone, an advocate of rural reform and farming practices, almost three years ago had a chilling effect on bureaucrats who must toe the government line on dam construction.

“They are nasty and people don’t dare speak out,” an MRC source said.

The Laos government has fended off a barrage of international criticism over Sombath – who was last seen on CCTV being bundled into a police car – and for having little if any regard for its legal obligations to human rights.

During a recent trip to Laos, one senior bureaucrat told this journalist that anyone publicly opposed to the government’s massive infrastructure plans – aimed at developing hydropower and turning Laos into a net exporter of electricity – “can simply disappear like Sombath Somphone.”

From “Why the Mekong River Commission May Be In Peril,” in The Diplomat, 10 October 2015

The EU, Enforced Disappearance and Lao Civil Society

European UnionNew opportunities await the new EU leaders to raise Sombath’s case and those of other enforced disappearance victims worldwide…

…we need to see strengthened EU and member state commitment to prevent and respond to enforced disappearances under the action plan on human rights. Until Sombath is safely returned, pervasive impunity will impact not only his family but all of Laos’ civil society.

From  “Making the disappeared visible: The EU and the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone,” in New Europe31 August 2014.

The first objective of the 1.8 million Euro project European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights currently being prepared is:

Support to Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders in situations where they are most at risk.

Will this important effort include significant action on enforced disappearance or Sombath Somphone?

Laos in the Spotlight Again Over Human Rights

The Diplomat: 02 October 2015

Sombath Somphone, seen here with Desmond Tutu in 2006. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Violations are again an issue in the Southeast Asian state.

By Luke Hunt

Human rights violations are again an issue in Laos – and a thorn in the side of a government more concerned with centrally-planned economic policies – following the death 61-year-old Tiang Kwentianthong.

Tiang was originally arrested for praying for a sick woman without government approval. Reports say he was denied medicine for diabetes. He was jailed nine months ago, released in March after his condition had deteriorated substantially, and died on September 17.

His death comes almost three years after the disappearance of well-known agriculturalist and rural reformer Sombath Somphone, who has not been seen since December 15, 2012. CCTV footage obtained by his relatives showed him being bundled into a police car.

His wife and relatives recently marked 1,000 days since he went missing, calling on authorities to make a genuine effort to find him. Vientiane has resisted international pressure and offers of forensic help in the search for Sombath. Continue reading

Dear Sombath…from Christina McMellon (2)

Dear Sombath,

Last month I finally graduated. To be honest I hadn’t been that bothered about going to the graduation. It reminded me of what you said before the Asia Europe People’s Forum, that certain people were more focused upon the teacup than the tea–what is important is the experiences and learning gained over the last 5 years of working on the PhD not being presented with a piece of paper saying that I am now a doctor. But in the end it was a wonderful day surrounded by family and friends celebrating the culmination of the process. You were present in my thoughts throughout the day, just as you are present in my thesis.

As I reflect upon what I want to say in this letter I realise the personal impact that your disappearance has had upon me.

This world is not always an easy place to live. Clichéd though it is to say, it feels like every time I see the news there is a new atrocity about which I feel both angry and helpless. Your disappearance has, perversely, given me a way in to really reflect upon and connect with the complex human aspect of these distant news stories.

When I think about what has happened to you I am filled with rage. Every time I see Shui Meng’s and Jit’s facebook posts talking about how much they miss you my heart breaks over again. But when I think of you I often think of you laughing at me, telling me not to take life so seriously and that happiness isn’t as complicated as I’m trying to make it and that all I can really do is focus on calming my own mind. I think of your love of Laos and Lao people and your commitment to the traditional wisdom of Lao communities. I think of the impact that you have had on so many Lao young people and the ongoing impact that your ideas are having in the country and beyond.

Happiness is both complex and simple. The world is both unjust and wonderful. I am capable of simultaneously feeling unbearable sadness and overwhelming joy.

Thank you for being so honestly you. You continue to inspire and provoke me.



Neues Deutschland: 18 September 2015

Personalie: Der laotische Bürgerrechtler Sombath Somphoneame ist seit 1000 Tagen verschwunden.


Der laotische Bürgerrechtler Sombath Somphoneame ist seit 1000 Tagen verschwunden. Foto: privat

Seit nunmehr 1000 Tagen ist der laotische Bürgerrechtler Sombath Somphone verschwunden. »Die Regierung tut nichts zur Aufklärung dieses Verbrechens, das mitten in Vientiane geschehen ist und von einer Videoüberwachungsanlage aufgezeichnet wurde«, sagt seine Ehefrau Shui Meng Ng. Wie die Aufzeichnungen zeigen, war der Bürgerrechtler am 15. Dezember 2012 in Vientiane von Polizisten angehalten und fortgebracht worden. Seitdem fehlt von dem Träger des Ramon-Magsaysay-Preises – Asiens Äquivalent zum Nobelpreis – jede Spur. Die kommunistische Regierung verweigert sowohl gegenüber Somphones Gattin als auch gegenüber der UNO, der EU und internationalen Menschenrechtsorganisationen jegliche Auskunft über das Schicksal des Vertreters eines aufgeklärten Buddhismus.

Somphone wurde als ältestes von acht Geschwistern einer armen Bauernfamilie geboren. Dank eines Stipendiums studierte der heute 63-Jährige in den USA Landwirtschaft. Nach der Gründung der Demokratischen Volksrepublik Laos 1975 kehrte Somphone in seine Heimat zurück. In seinem mit dem Segen von Partei und Regierung gegründeten Participatory Development Training Center machte er junge Menschen und Regierungsangestellte der unteren Verwaltungsebene mit der Entwicklung von Landwirtschaftsprojekten vertraut. Das Netzwerk zivilgesellschaftlicher Organisationen aus Europa und Asien (AEPF) pries ihn als eine der »einflussreichsten Stimmen für eine nachhaltige, am Menschen orientierte, gerechte wirtschaftliche und soziale Entwicklung in Laos«.

Das war im Oktober 2012 auf der Tagung des AEPF in Vientiane. Zwei Monate später wurde Somphone entführt. Auch Friedensnobelpreisträger Desmond Tutu bat Premier Thongsing Thammavong 2013 um Aufklärung. Sein Brief blieb unbeantwortet. In Laos ist es 1000 Tage nach dem Verschwinden von Somphone so, als habe er nie existiert. Laut Shui Meng Ng übten die Behörden »massiven Druck auf jeden aus, der den Namen meines Mannes auch nur erwähnt«. Es herrsche ein Klima der Angst.

Laos kidnap probe mired in suspicion

Bangkok Post: 15 September 2015

Activist Sombath now missing for 1,000 days

SB & Shuimeng

In this file photo, Lao civil rights activist Sombath Somphone and his wife Shui-Meng are pictured during a 2005 holiday in Bali. The 2012 kidnapping of Mr Sombath, the country’s leading civil rights activist, has revealed the one-party communist Laos, one of the five such regimes in the world, as one of Asia’s most repressive societies. AP

One thousand days after civil society leader Sombath Somphone was abducted at a police checkpoint in Vientiane, Lao authorities say they still have no clues about what may have happened to him.

“It’s been 1,000 days of waiting, 1,000 days of anxiety — and 1,000 days of nothing,” Shui Meng Ng, Mr Sombath’s wife, told a panel held to mark the milestone.

Mr Sombath, a renowned community activist, was last seen on Dec 15, 2012, when he was stopped at a police checkpoint in Laos’ capital city. While his apparent abduction was caught on CCTV camera footage, the probe into the case has stalled.

The video footage shows Mr Sombath being stopped at the police checkpoint and several men forcing him into another vehicle and driving away.

Four days after the activist went missing, a statement from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged Mr Sombath was stopped at the checkpoint and his jeep was later driven away by another individual. Continue reading

UN Special Rapporteurs: Draft CSO Decree would Violate International Law

UN LogoOn May 29th, The UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the situation of human rights defenders sent a letter to the Lao government raising concerns regarding the draft decree on associations and foundations. Excerpts include:

…we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning a draft decree on associations and foundations which would violate international law and standards related to the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of opinion and expression, if adopted without further changes.

Serious concern is expressed that numerous provisions contained in the draft Decree do not comply with international human rights law and standards pertaining to the freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association including the ability for associations to operate freely without State’s undue interference.

The full letter is available here.


ONG instan a Laos a investigar “seriamente” la desaparición de un activista

W Radio: 11 Septiembre 2015

Bangkok, 11 sep (EFE).- Un grupo de organizaciones defensoras de los derechos humanos instaron al gobierno de Laos a investigar “de manera seria” la desaparición del activista local Sombath Somphone, cuando hoy se cumplen los 1.000 de su desaparición.

“En Laos ha crecido un miedo entre la sociedad civil de tan solo pronunciar el nombre de Sombath, su desaparición o hasta su trabajo (…) Si esto le pasó ha él, un reconocido activista pro derechos humanos, le puede pasar a cualquiera”, señaló Shui Meng Ng, mujer del activista, en un acto en el Club de Corresponsales de Bangkok.

El 15 de diciembre de 2012, Sombath conducía por una de las avenidas más transitadas de la capital laosiana cuando la Policía le dio el alto.

En las últimas imágenes registradas del activista, captadas por cámaras de seguridad en la zona, se aprecia como Sombath baja del vehículo para hablar con las autoridades fuera de escena.

Acto seguido un desconocido se lleva el vehículo del activista y un grupo de personas monta de manera precipitada en otro coche, aunque los investigadores dicen no poder determinar si Sombath está entre ellas. Continue reading