ASEAN MPs Ask Australia to Pressurize Laos on Human Rights

Latin America Herald Tribune: 18 July 2017

BANGKOK – Lawmakers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) urged Australia to pressurize Laos to respect human rights on Monday.

Representatives of the two countries are set to meet for a human rights dialogue on Tuesday and Wednesday in Vientiane, the Laotian capital.

“The human rights situation in Laos continues to be abysmal. Since Sombath’s disappearance, the space for independent civil society in the country – already one of the most repressive in the region – has narrowed considerably. Meanwhile, the public as a whole remains deeply fearful of raising sensitive issues,” Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and president of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said in a statement.

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Australia must tackle ‘dire’ situation in human rights talks with Laos – NGOs

Australia must tackle ‘dire’ situation in human rights talks with Laos – NGOs

Asia Correspondent: 17 July 2017

SET to enter the fifth round of human rights talks with Laos on Tuesday, civil society groups have called upon the Australian government to criticise a lack of progress regarding basic rights and freedoms in the one-party Southeast Asian nation.

The Australia-Laos Human Rights Dialogue is set to be held in the Laotian capital of Vientiane on July 18 and 19, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) reports to have received numerous submissions from local civil society organisations.

Australia is one of only two countries which have regular bilateral dialogue on human rights issues with the tiny communist state of Laos. Coincidentally, this year the two countries mark 65 years of diplomatic relations. The most recent Dialogue was held in Canberra in 2015.

A statement from the Australian embassy in Vientiane earlier this year highlighted “Laos’ relationship with Australia is the country’s longest unbroken diplomatic relationship at ambassador level.” Australia is also home to a sizeable Laotian community, many of whom came as refugees. (more…)

Missing activists’ wives call for justice

Missing activists’ wives call for justice

Bangkok Post: 20 December 2016

Human rights activists whose husbands are still missing years after they mysteriously vanished have urged the government to pass a law on preventing enforced disappearances, to address human rights violations.

Prominent human rights campaigner Angkhana Neelapaijit urged Thai authorities to enact the Torture and Enforced Disappearance Prevention and Suppression bill as quickly as possible, regardless of the fact that no missing persons case has been resolved.

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Wife of Lao Activist Calls on Government to ‘Come Clean’ on Husband’s Fate

Wife of Lao Activist Calls on Government to ‘Come Clean’ on Husband’s Fate

Voice of America: 21 December 2016

The wife of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone is calling for judicial reforms in Laos and for the government clarify the fate of her husband, saying she will “never give up” in seeking the truth behind his disappearance.

Shui-Meng Ng, made the appeal as rights activists marked the fourth year since his enforced disappearance from a police checkpoint in the Laos capital of Vientiane in December 2012.

“The message to the [Laos] government is ‘come clean’ — tell us the truth and my message to the Laos government is — ‘I will never give up’,” Shui-Meng told reporters in Thailand. (more…)

NGOs urge search for Lao activist Sombath Somphone

NGOs urge search for Lao activist Sombath Somphone

Bangkok Post: 15 December 2015

Human rights groups have renewed calls for a full investigation into the disappearance of a well-known community organiser four years ago at a police checkpoint in Vientiane.

More than 130 rights organisations from around the world issued a statement on Thursday calling on the Lao government to provide information about the fate of Sombath Somphone and 10 other activists who were detained or simply disappeared over the past decade.

Laos is a secretive one-party state whose Communist leaders have quashed political dissent since taking power in 1975.

Sombath went missing in the evening of Dec 15, 2012 on the busy streets of Vientiane. He was last seen getting into a police vehicle on that night.

Lao authorities have not re-examined the case despite a newly discovered security camera video of Sombath’s car on the day he disappeared and US pressure during a visit by President Barack Obama to the country in September.