Australians call on Bob Carr to act

Senator, the Hon Bob Carr
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Level 10, Bligh House
4 – 6 Bligh Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Fax 02 9228 3655

Monday 4 February 2013

Dear Sir,

We are writing to express our profound concern about the disappearance of respected Lao development leader, Mr. Sombath Somphone.

Sombath is the founder and former director of the Participatory Development Training Centre, a winner of the Magsaysay award and a tireless worker for sustainable development and improving the livelihoods of people in rural Laos.

Sombath was last seen by his wife who was driving ahead of him, on the evening of December 15th in the Lao capital Vientiane, as the couple returned home in separate cars. CCTV footage released by the Lao police shows Sombath stopping at a police post and leaving his vehicle. The footage then shows his jeep being taken away by someone else. He was next seen getting into a pick up truck with two other men and being driven away.

His family has had no contact from him since.

The only official comment on the matter made by the Lao Government so far has been to deny Sombath is in police custody and any knowledge of his whereabouts, and to speculate he could have been the target of a kidnapping.

We note with alarm comments made by senior Lao officials to a delegation of ASEAN lawmakers who visited Vientiane in mid January to investigate the case, that Sombath may have been abducted by “rogue elements” within the Lao Government itself.

We strongly believe that Sombath’s disappearance and the lack of progress made by the Lao Government so far in finding him, is a major blow to the Lao PDR’s reputation and its desire to be seen as a modern, progressive and developed state.

Organisations all over the world have reacted with alarm at Sombath’s disappearance. The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, the European Union, Amnesty International, and civil society organisations across the region have all urged the Lao Government to bring all resources possible to bear on the investigation of his disappearance.

On January 17th US secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated Washington was “deeply concerned about [Sombath’s] well being.” She directly appealed to the Lao Government “to pursue a transparent investigation of this incident and do everything in its power to bring about his immediate and safe return home.”
Further information about Sombath, his work and the international effort to find him, can be found at this website set up by his wife: https://sombath.org/.

Many of the undersigned know Sombath, have had the chance to meet him, or have been inspired by his work.
All of us hold grave fears for his safety.

We would urge you to join governments and civil society organisations internationally, and publicly express your concern over Sombath’s disappearance and our government’s desire to see the Lao Government do everything in its power to see Sombath returned to his family.

Yours sincerely, the undersigned Australians

Andrew Nette, Melbourne
Margie Law, Hobart
Angela Savage, Melbourne
Nicola Bullard, Melbourne
Jonathan Cornford, Melbourne
Philip Hirsch, Sydney
Bill Visterini, Warrnambool
Anne Dyksta, Melbourne
Kate Colvin, Melbourne
James Arvanitakis, Sydney
Misha Coleman, Melbourne
Michael Simon, Melbourne
Janet Dyment, Hobart
Yabbo Thompson, Hobart
Rob Blakers, Hobart
Jenny Dean, Hobart
Anna Lena Pahlman
Joel Pedro, Hobart
Fran Murray, Hobart
Patricia Jones, Hobart
Julia Gibson, Nicholls Rivulet
Damian Gore, Sydney
Leonie Johnson, Newcastle
Alison Hetherington, Hobart
Chanthea Nou, Sydney
Melinda Lambourne, Hobart
Georgia Miller, Reservoir
Garth Luke, Mullumbimby
Ross Barwick, Kingston
Sarah Richards, Hobart
Kelly Madden, Hobart
Kristin Love, Hobart
Tom Baxter, Hobart
Grant Finlay. Hobart
Christine Pahlman, Sutton
Jessica Rosien, Melbourne
Emma Gunn, Hobart
Tracey Withers, Hobart
Maria Stannard, Caloundra
Cherie Stannard, Caloundra
Robert Johnson, Nairobi, Kenya
Jack Williamson, Hobart
Pauline Taylor Mckeown, London UK
Jessie Connell, Sydney
Simon Richard Creak, Kyoto, Japan
Yayoi Lagerqvist, Sydney
Janine Murphy, Yenda
Andrew Kiddle, Yenda
James Boyce, Hobart
Jo Flanagan, Hobart
Helen Hutchinson, Hobart
Ruby Rowat, Melbourne
Gary Lee, Sydney
Sharon Moore, Deep Bay
Gary Caganoff, Katoomba
Julie Smith, Melbourne
Pamela Boyer, Canberra
Margie Parsons, Narraweena
Mary Hodgson, Brunswick Heads
Sally Edith, Hobart
Barbara Smith, Hobart
Oonagh Murphy, Hobart
Peter Owen, Hobart
James Shnookal, Melbourne
Pippita Bennett, Katoomba
Alison Aggarwal, Sydney
Ruth Johnson, Sydney
Denbeigh Armstrong, Hobart
Andrew Pahlman, Sydney
Anna-marie Redpath, Sydney
Helen Stannard, Wurtulla
Jennifer Rowallan, Hobart
Toby Rowallan, Hobart
Natalia Scurrah, Sydney
Stephenie Cahalan, Hobart
Michael Fortescue, Hobart
Ann Hughes, Hobart
Rose Giudici, Hobart
Anna Kristina Pahlman, Sutton
Robert Anderson Cramb, Brisbane
Keith Barney, Canberra
Timothy Wong, Canberra
Mark Zirnsak, Melbourne
Victoria Bonwick, Hobart
Philip Hirsch, Sydney
Viliam Phraxayavong, Hinchinbrook
Stephen Richard Willing, Hobart Jane Wasley, Hobart
Bob Burton, Hobart
Benjamin Clark, Hobart

CC:

Ms Lynda Worthaisong
Australian Ambassador to Laos
Fax 856 21 353801

The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs
Email: [email protected]

Senator Christine Milne
Leader Australian Greens and Australian Greens Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs
Email: [email protected]

Senator Lee Rhiannon
Australian Greens Spokesperson for International Aid and Development
Email: [email protected]

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