ASEAN rights commission told to probe disappearance of Laotian activist

The Jakarta Post: 11 April 2013

By Margareth S. Aritonang

An activist group wants the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to stand up for missing Laotian development worker and activist Sombath Somphone.

Sombath was last seen in December when CCTV footage showed him entering an unidentified SUV at a police checkpoint in Vientiane, The Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TFAHR) said in a letter made available to The Jakarta Post.

“Maintaining a veil of silence is neither constructive nor exemplary of a regional human rights body,” the letter said. “Staying silent on Sombath’s disappearance is a convenient but short-sighted approach, because human rights violations related to land, natural resources and the environment are likely to increase as the region embarks on a zealous pursuit of economic development.”

Separately, rights activist Haris Azhar from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) called on the Indonesian representatives on the AICHR to endorse an investigation into Sombath’s disappearance.

“AICHR will turn into useless regional community unless it takes immediate action to search for Sombath,” Haris told the Post on Friday.