Rights groups urge release of Laos activist

A video of this action is now available here.

UCAN News: 18 June 2013

Police are suspected of abducting him six months ago

Dozens of Philippine human rights defenders held a “ritual of remembrance” outside the Lao embassy in Manila today to call for the safe return of highly acclaimed activist Sombath Somphone who was abducted six months ago.

Clarissa Militante, of the group Focus on the Global South, said the Lao government should ensure Sombath is found and returned safely to his family.

Some 100 activists from all over Asia, Europe, the United States and Australia sent “messages of hope and support” for today’s event, Militante said.

People sending messages included Larry Lohman, author of the book Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatization and Power and co-founder of the Durban Group for Climate Justice.

Anne Sophie Gindroz of the Swiss group Helvetas urged those detaining Sombath to release him soon

Sombath received the UN’s Human Resource Development Award in 2001 for empowering the rural poor in Laos.

In 2005, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. The award citation recognized his efforts to promote sustainable development in Laos by training and motivating its young people to become a generation of leaders.

Sombath so far remains the only person from Laos to receive Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

His abduction at a busy intersection in Laos’ capital Vientiane on December 15, 2012, was caught on camera and showed him being escorted by what looked like police officers.

The Lao government has denied responsibility for his disappearance, which sparked an international outcry.

The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as parliamentarians from around the world have urged the Lao government to ensure the safe release of Sombath.