Sombath Somphone was born into a farming family in Khammouane Province, Laos, and is the eldest of eight brothers and sisters. In the early 1970’s he received a scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii where he received a BA in Education (1974) and an MA in Agriculture (1978).
Returning to his home country after the establishment of the Lao PDR, Sombath’s initial work was demonstrating low-cost methods of improving farm production and food security. Later, he pioneered the use of participatory rural appraisal techniques in Laos. In 1996, he was given permission by the Ministry of Education to establish the Participatory Development Training Center, PADETC, to provide training for youth, and local government officials in community-based development.
You can find out more about Sombath’s professional life by selecting ‘Sombath’s Work‘ from the menu.
Sombath met his wife, Ng Shui Meng, when they were both students in Hawaii. Shui Meng, who is a Singaporean, and has worked with UNICEF in Laos, China and Timor-Leste.
In June, 2012, Sombath retired from his position as Director of PADETC, intending to spend more time with his familiy, meditating and writing. He made regular visits to his mother in Khammouane Province, who passed away in June, 2014. He and Shuimeng have hosted a number of family members in their home in Vientiane.
Sombath also enjoys a daily game of table tennis and taking care of his garden. His thinking is deeply influenced by Buddhism, especially the teachings on mindfulness, compassion, non-violence, and our connection with nature.
When Sombath disappeared on 15th December 2012, it was his family who immediately started looking for him, visiting hospitals and reporting his absence to the police. By the 17th, Shui Meng had started to write letters to the authorities. When this did not produce any results, the family also contacted a number of embassies and international organisations that were familiar with Sombath and his work.
Sombath’s family and friends continue to do everything possible to secure his safe return. This website is part of those efforts.
Sombath Somphone at Wikipedia
Article on Sombath written when he received the Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, or the citation for the award, and his response.
Interview with Ng Shui Meng at Amnesty International Australia‘s Office in Sydney on 27 February 2014
Interview with Ng Shui Meng by Kearrin Sims in April, 2014