Sombath 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.
Radio Free Asia: 31 August 2015
A 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines. AFP/Sombath Family
Human rights groups and the wife of a prominent civil rights leader who disappeared nearly three years ago have called on the Lao government to adequately investigate the incident and provide information about the case’s progress.
Sombath Somphone went missing on Dec. 15, 2012, when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint in the capital Vientiane. He was transferred to another vehicle, according to police surveillance video, and has not been heard from since.
Although authorities have denied any responsibility, Sombath’s abduction is widely acknowledged to be an enforced disappearance.
On Sunday — the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances — Sombath’s wife, Ng Shui-Meng, urged Lao authorities to inform her of their progress in the investigation.
“The authorities always say they are investigating, but always without clear answers,” she told RFA’s Lao Service. “I appeal to the government to have pity on my suffering and honestly give me the investigation results.”
She added that governments and state agencies should not commit enforced disappearances.
“It is a crime and a violation of a person’s rights,” she said. Continue reading
(International Federation for Human Rights)
ASEAN: More progress needed on the ratification of the treaty on enforced disappearances
Paris, 30 August 2015: ASEAN member states must accelerate the process of ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), FIDH said today on the occasion of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
“By becoming a state party to the ICPPED, states will have a legal obligation to investigate all cases of enforced disappearances and deliver justice to the victims and their families,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Governments will no longer be able to remain idle and rely on the belief that the passage of time will ultimately render cases of disappearances into obscurity.”
Between 1980 and 2014, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), transmitted 1,065 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearance to eight of the 10 current ASEAN member states (excluding Brunei and Singapore). Eight hundred and seventy-five (82%) of those cases have remained unresolved. The Philippines topped the list with 625 cases, followed by Indonesia, 163, and Thailand, 81. Continue reading
InterAksyon: 30 August 2015
Edita Burgos and Shui Meng, wife of missing Ramon Magsaysay laureate and Laotian activist Sombath Somphone, find kinship in tragedy. They draw solace from UN SecGen Ban Ki-Moon’s strong condemnation of enforced disappearance, calling it like rain after a long drought.
MANILA – A Filipino mother and a Laotian wife, who have found solace in each other’s company since an encounter in an international forum on desaparecidos, are these days drawing comfort from the United Nations chief’s statement on the International Day of the Disappeared.
For Edita T. Burgos, widow of the world press freedom icon Jose G. Burgos Jr. and mother of missing farmer-activist Jonas, the past eight years since her son was seized while eating lunch at a mall – by men believed to be military agents – have been very difficult.
Shui Meng, wife of Ramon Magsaysay laureate Sombath Somphone, is in town to show her solidarity with other victims of enforced disappearances. She is a guest of the Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD), where she and Mrs. Burgos met a few months ago.
Sombath is said to have been abducted by Lao government agents, as seen in a video posted on youtube. He remains missing and Shui Meng is pleading with his captors to release him. She expressed hope that the same tragic fate will not befall their family and loved ones. Continue reading
My dearest Sombath
I have been thinking of writing you many times over the last few months, but each time, I would start and after a few words I could not continue. It is getting so hard, so hard to even put my thoughts into words. What can I say to you that could be comforting for you anymore? I just pray and hope you are still keeping well and also have not lost hope of regaining your freedom.
However, tomorrow will be 30 August; it will once more mark the International Day of the Disappeared. I re-read the letter I wrote you on this day, last year. The sentiments expressed then remain today. I don’t need to be reminded of the pain and despair that disappearance wrecks upon me only one day each year. I carry the pain and despair every moment of everyday!
However, despite the despair and the seeming lack of words to reach out to you, I want to tell you that over the last few weeks, I have found a rekindling of hope and faith. Over the past few weeks, I participated in a number of lobby activities in Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta and Manila organized by AFAD and other Human Rights Organizations. These activities are to remind people and organizations from across the region of your disappearance, and that of the other disappeared. In each of these places I met with very sincere friends and supporters. More importantly, I also met with family members of the disappeared. Continue reading
Surface Sombath: A Forum in Commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared was organised by the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances and the Free Jonas Burgos Foundation on 27 August 2015 in Quezon City, the Philippines.
Remarks were given by Ng Shui Meng, Sombath’s spouse, Edita Burgos (pictured), Walden Bello, and two of Sombath’s fellow Magsaysay Laureates, Jon Ungphakorn and Seng Raw Lahpai.
A conference statement in commemoration of the 2015 International Day of the Disappeared was also read.
Yesterday marked the first month of Sombath’s disappearance… His wife was asked to go talk to the police as part of the investigation process. She turned up at the police station at 9:00 AM, and the questions they had for her, after one month of the investigation was, ‘When did you get married to Sombath? How did you guys meet each other? Where do you guys stay and whether you have children?’ …and the questioning was done, the investigation was done by the lowest ranking officer at that particular police station.
Now this raises fundamental questions. The first is it raises the notion that, after one month you call a wife and tell her ‘When did you guys get married, or when did you meet for the first time?’ Which actually shows that the police and the civil administration have absolutely no interest, no political will, to get the the root of this problem. Absolutely no interest, and no political will to resolve this issue, except saying in all our meetings that ‘We want to get to the root of this problem because the credibility of Laos has been hit, and therefore we want to solve this problem as soon as possible.’
But when asked about the investigation itself, there is absolute stonewalling, and the same script being repeated all the time…
Charles Santiago, Member of Malaysian Parliament, at FCCT press conference after travelling to Laos in January, 2013.
Since Sombath Somphone’s abduction on December 15, 2012, many inferences have been made, both in public and in private, about why he was taken.
Just days after he disappeared, government officials speculated it may have been due to a personal or business conflict.
Variations on this theory have been repeated many times, both by diplomats and those purported to be responsible for the official investigation.
Even at the Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council in January, 2015, it was suggested it may have been a conflict with a criminal group.
Yet after more than two years of what is claimed to be a serious and thorough investigation, there has been no information or evidence given to support such allegations. None.
Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.
Leonardo Da Vinci
While authorities have silenced Sombath, please help to sustain his voice and vision for his country and his people.
You can write a Letter to Sombath. Details can be seen here, and examples here. Shorter messages can also be submitted, such as these sent for The Inspiration Tree.
Letters and messages should be about Sombath, his work, his ideals, or what these mean to you. They can be in either Lao or English. Letters can be up to 500 words, and messages up to 50 words.
Letters and messages should reflect Sombath’s way of working: positive and caring messages will be given preference over those that are negative or accusatory.
Letters and messages should be sent to TheSombathInitiative@gmail.com, or to The Sombath Initiative page on Facebook or Google+. If possible, please include your full name. However, you may write anonymously or with a pseudonym if necessary.
Selected letters and messages will be posted on the Sombath.org website, and/or to the Sombath Initiative pages on Facebook and Google+. However, your contact information will not be included.
A petition calling on the Lao government to take action on Sombath Somphone’s disappearance, organised by the May 18 Memorial Foundation, has been signed by 8,697 organisations and individuals. These include the Gwangju Christian Council, The Roman Catholic Archdiocese and Archbishop of Gwangu, the Mayor of Gwangju, members of the Korean National Assembly, and many others. The petition states in part:
Mr. Sombath Somphone had neither engaged in politics any kind nor confrontational or antagonistic to government policy. Rather he was widely respected by the community due to his works for the rural poor.
We cannot overlook this tragic incident on Mr. Sombath Somphone in Laos as a member of global community.
The full-petition in Korean with an English translation is available here.
On July 29-31, the Citizen’s Alliance on North Korean Human Rights organised a seminar “Enforced Disappearances – Lessons for Korea” in Seoul. Shuimeng Ng gave a presentation on the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, and the challenges faced by families in finding answers in the Lao context. Other presentations included perspectives from Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Guatemala, and many others.
The seminar also focussed on pressuring governments to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED).
Finally, participants joined the growing number of people from around the world who are asking “Where is Sombath?”