AFSC staff issue plea to Lao government

1 February 2013

H.E. Mr. Choummaly Sayasone
Secretary General of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and President of the Lao PDR
Presidential Palace, Thannon Sethathirat, Muang Chanthabuli Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

H.E. Mr. Thongsing Thammavong
Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s Office
Ban Nahai Dio, Muang Chanthabuli Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic Fax: +856 21 213653

Your Excellencies:

Since the founding of the Lao PDR in 1975, we, the undersigned former staff of the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), have had the privilege to live and work in your country. We know well the severe post-war difficulties your people faced after the US secret war. We celebrate the country’s steady progress in education, health and food production.

Speaking as long-standing friends of Lao people, we are seeking information about the welfare of our colleague and friend, Sombath Somphone. His disappearance on 15 December deeply concerns us. We are confident that if the party, government, military, and public security worked together on this matter, Sombath could be returned to his family.

Sombath has gained worldwide admiration for his people-centered, practical and non-violent approach to development. His philosophy inspires elementary students and their teachers to practice recycling, farmers to produce and eat healthy organic foods and rural families to use fuel-efficient cooking stoves.

For each activity he undertakes, Sombath urges his Lao colleagues to gain the support and guidance of local government and civic leaders. For example, to address growing social problems among troubled Lao teenagers, he has assisted Buddhist monks and elders to set up annual youth meditation camps throughout the country.

We have long admired Sombath’s commitment to share his learning with the multi-ethnic Lao peoples. At the end of the war in Laos, Sombath chose to return home, while most overseas Lao students did not. In fact, they criticized him for leaving Hawaii to fulfill his dream of helping Lao farmers boost their production and incomes.

Few people know that in the mid-1980s Sombath quietly accompanied several of us to explain to US members of Congress why Lao people wanted normalized relations with the US. He showed them samples of “bombies” and told them how unexploded ordnance was causing death and injuries among farm families.

We request the party, government, military, and security police to pull together their resources to locate Sombath Somphone and to gain his release to his family. We believe that such an earnest effort would bring positive world attention to Laos and its leaders.
In and for Peace,

Brett Ballard, Wendy Batson, Jacquelyn Chagnon, Patricia DeBoer, Carol Ireson Doolittle, Karin Downs, Bob Eaton, David Elder, Randall Ireson, Carlie Numi, Roger Rumpf, Bruce Shoemaker

Since 1975, the above signers have performed over 100 years of volunteer and professional service in the Lao PDR. They served under the programs of the American Friends Service Committee [Quakers] and worked on post-war reconstruction, reconciliation between the US-Lao governments, unexploded ordnance clearing, and sustainable development. *******************************************************************************************************
CC:
H.E. Dr. Thongloun Sisoulith
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs 23 Singha Road, Vientiane, Lao PDR
Fax: +856 21 414009
Email: [email protected]

H.E. Thongbanh Sengaphone, Minister of Public Security
P.O. Box 7040, Vientiane, Lao PDR Tel: 021 262 396
Fax: +856 21 262 396

H.E. Pany Yathothu
President National Assembly National Assembly Building That Luang, Vientiane, Lao DPR Fax: +856 21 413 528

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