Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) generally exercised self-censorship, which civil society considered was a direct result of Sombath Somphone’s disappearance. The chilling effect of the disappearance of an internationally respected civil society advocate caused lesser-known local activists to believe they had little hope of avoiding a similar fate if they were too outspoken.
USA Today: 11 September 2016
The last time Ng Shui Meng saw her husband, he was driving his beloved vintage American jeep.
That was a December evening almost four years ago, after Sombath Somphone was stopped by traffic police. He never arrived home for dinner.
The disappearance of Sombath, 64, a prominent Lao activist who focused on rural development and reducing poverty, is a persistent reminder of human rights abuses by the communist government here. (more…)
CNN: 08 September 2016
In 1975, 14-year-old Barack Obama and 23-year-old Sombath Somphone were both living in Oahu, the future US president starting high school and the Lao exchange student on his way toward a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii.
Forty-one years later, their paths converged again, in a way. Obama this week became the first sitting US president to visit Laos. Sombath, meanwhile, has vanished — stopped on a street in this sleepy Mekong outpost in 2012, stuffed into a pick-up truck, and never heard from again. (more…)
Honolulu Star Advisor: 06 September 2016
A top aide of President Barack Obama said he will meet with the wife of a missing Laotian activist and East-West Center graduate, whose case has been repeatedly highlighted by human rights groups as an example of authoritarian excesses of Laos’ one-party Communist government.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters today he will meet with Shui Meng Ng on Thursday while Obama is visiting Laos. The president arrived on Monday to attend a regional summit.
Human rights activists were hoping that Obama would speak about Ng’s husband, Sombath Somphone, who was picked up apparently by security forces on Dec. 15, 2012. He has not been seen since.
Obama has not mentioned him so far in his public remarks, but Rhodes said that “we care very deeply about her case and her husband, and we believe she deserves to know what happened to her husband.” (more…)
They have disappeared him. His name is Sombath Somphone, and he was — I’m not sure what the right tense is — a civil-society leader. They snatched him out of his car…
I’m thinking, “Can’t some government turn the screws on Laos — the financial screws — until they cough this man up? Should it be that hard? It doesn’t require an invasion or the breaking of diplomatic relations or anything, does it? How about a little financial pressure, à la the Magnitsky Act? Anything!”