Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (13)

Dear Sombath,

For many countries in Asia and Latin American, this week marks the International Week of the Disappeared (IWD).  For this reason, I have been thinking about you even more these days.

Last night I found it difficult to fall asleep thinking about you, and this morning I woke up feeling terribly depressed. I tried to calm myself with meditation, but it was difficult to get into a state of calm when I was so agitated.  My mood went from sadness, to anger, and despair!  I asked myself what did you do to deserve such injustice when all you ever did was to be a good person and use your knowledge and skills to improve the lives of ordinary Lao people and Lao communities.

After my meditation session, my mind calmed down and I felt a little better. I started to reflect on what you have always told me when you were around.  You told me that you have never tried to change the world or change the government system because that is obviously beyond your ability. You said your life goal is only to do your little bit to give back in some little way to the family and the community that have raised you, nourished you, and taught you to become the person you are.  And indeed that’s all you have always done – give back wholeheartedly with humility, with humour, and with generosity.

I saw the way you worked – whether you are with ordinary farmers, teachers, students, development partners and colleagues, government officials, or even high-ranking people – you always treated each and everyone with respect and courtesy; you also always chose to listen first and seldom spoke a lot. That has always been your way of dealing with people – open-minded, open-hearted, and never opinionated.  I guess that is why you have such a large following among people in the development community, and among so many young people from inside and outside the country.

During this week, the International Week of the Disappeared, as we remember you and all those people who have been forcedly disappeared, I choose to put aside my despair and sadness. I choose to remember all the good that you have done. I believe that you were disappeared because you tried to live up to your principles and your integrity. And it is your “goodness”, and your ideas of “people-centered development” that were deemed so threatening that some people chose to silence you by disappearing you.

Sombath, while I will continue to feel the pain of your absence, I know that your work and what you stand for will continue to inspire people, Lao and non-Lao.  I will continue to demand for truth and justice for you, even if all I get is a wall of silence.

Sombath, my love, stay strong, and I too will stay strong for you and for all those who have been forcedly disappeared.

Love you so much, Shui Meng

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (11)

My dearest Sombath,

Today is the last day of 2017.  For four years now I have been waiting desperately for news of your whereabouts and your safe return.  This time of the year should be a time for family gatherings to send off the old year and welcome the new.  But for you and I, there is only longing and waiting.

For you, wherever you are, I hope and pray that you are well and in good health physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I can only hope that your innate kindness, sincerity, and good humour can win you friends wherever you are and whoever you are with.  I hope they will treat you well and will be won over by your humility, your wisdom, and your deep spirituality.  I hope they will find your wide-ranging knowledge and skills useful to them and that they can benefit from your advice and service.  I hope and hope that they will somehow find it in their hearts to see the kind of person you are, and they will one day set you free to come back to us. (more…)

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.

(more…)

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…)

Wives of missing Thai, Lao activists seek action over disappearances

Thomson Reuters Foundation: 20 December 2016

(L-R) Rights activists Shui Meng Ng, Angkhana Neelapaijit, Pinnipa Preuksapan and Angkhana’s daughter Pratubjit Neelapaijit at a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, December 19, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Alisa Tang

By Alisa Tang

BANGKOK, Dec 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The wives of three prominent Southeast Asian human rights campaigners who went missing after being detained by the authorities have united to urge Laos and Thailand to end impunity over forced disappearances.

All three women have become vocal critics of forced disappearances in a region where activists highlighting abuses over human, labour and land rights routinely face threats and violence. Some are gunned down, harassed through lawsuits, or simply “disappeared”.

“The biggest struggle is to get answers,” said Shui Meng Ng, whose husband Sombath Somphone, a Lao activist campaigning for rural development, went missing in December 2012.

The internationally acclaimed activist was last seen at a police checkpoint in the Lao capital Vientiane. (more…)