EU silent on human rights

EU silent on human rights

Focus on the Global South: 25 April 2018 The European Union (EU) is one of the largest international donors to the Lao PDR, with a budget of over 200 million Euros for the 2014-2020 period. On 15 March 2018, the EU and the Lao PDR held the eighth session of their...

Is hermetic Laos poised for more openness?

  Civil society, a ray of hope for genuine public engagement, was once burgeoning but now seldom wades into dangerous political waters. Many commentators say the turning point came with the forced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil society...

This award is also for our young Lao volunteers and youth leaders, who have demonstrated to us, the adults, that they have the capacity, and indeed the right, to claim the space to determine their own and their community’s development pathway. I believe that it is their passion and their hopes and dreams for a better future which are recognized and celebrated through this prestigious award today.

— Sombath Somphone


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Who is Sombath?

Sombath Somphone was born into a farming family in Khammouane Province, Laos, 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 independence, Sombath’s initial work was on promoting 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 established the Participatory Development Training Center, PADETC, to provide training for youth, and local government officials in community-based development.

In June, 2012, Sombath retired from his position as Director of PADETC, intending to spend more time with his familiy, meditating and writing.

More about Sombath can be found in a biography written when he received the Magsaysay Award,  or at his page on Wikipedia. 

There are also pages about Sombath on the PADETC and Saoban websites.

Finally, more ore about Sombath can be found on this website on the Sombath’s Work, Letters to Sombath, and Inspiration Tree pages.

His Abduction

Sombath Somphone was abducted from a police checkpoint in Vientiane at approximately 6:00 pm on December 15, 2012.

Video and pictures of that abduction obtained from a CCTV camera can be viewed here.

A chronology of the investigation into the incident is available here.

Global Concern

The reaction to Sombath’s abduction…

The Lao PDR

In the years following the 1975 revolution, while tens of thousands of people were fleeing Laos, Sombath chose to return from his studies to help rebuild…