Legacy of People's Forum in jeopardy

The International Oganising Committee of the Asia Europe People’s Forum has issued a statement saying that due to the disappearance of Sombath Somphone and other recent developments “the legacy of the AEPF9 in Laos is in great jeopardy”

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 7.22.06 AMThe 9th Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF9) took place from 16 to 19 October 2012 in Vientiane. Sombath Somphone was the co-chair of the Lao National Organising Committee and a key note speaker during the Opening Day. He also facilitated the production of the highly acclaimed ‘Happy Laos’ film which was shown at the closing of the Forum.

The AEPF in Vientiane was initially deemed a success, but subsequent events have led to a reassessment by the Internal Organising Committee (IOC).  The latest statement by the IOC identifies four developments in Laos:

  • The ‘disappearance’ of Sombath Somphone on December 15th 2012
  • The expulsion of Anne-Sophie Grindroz, the Country Director of Helvetas.
  • An increasing perception that the ‘spaces’ for dialogue, discussion and debate on how to achieve more sustainable economic and social development in Laos are becoming constricted.
  • An increasing number of reports of harassment at the local level of participants in the AEPF9 who have been taking forward initiatives to promote sustainable development.

Due to these developments, the IOC is now of the view that…

The lived reality for many people in Laos today is in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of the Vientiane Declaration on Strengthening Partnership for Peace and Development agreed at the end of ASEM9.

The IOC statement concludes by calling upon the Government of Laos to sincerely and accountably take forward their commitments to enable space for open, respectful, diverse and constructive debate.