The Abduction of Civil Society Leader Sombath Somphone: Six Months Later
Statement from the U.S. Embassy – Vientiane, Laos
June 15, 2013
Sombath Somphone, one of the Lao PDR’s most respected civil society figures, was abducted on December 15, 2012, in front of a Lao police box on a main street in Vientiane. June 15 marks 6 months since his unexplained disappearance. The U.S. Embassy in Vientiane joins with countless others in the international community in reiterating our serious concerns about Mr. Sombath’s safety and well-being.
Through years of work with non-governmental organizations, the international community, and the Lao government, Mr. Sombath is widely admired for his peaceful and constructive focus on improving his country and the lives of his fellow Lao citizens. Regrettably, despite repeated inquiries from international organizations and governments around the world, the Lao government has not released concrete information, including during its most recent statement on June 7, regarding official investigations that may have taken place. Lao authorities have not offered members of Mr. Sombath’s family or representatives from international organizations an opportunity to review the government’s surveillance camera footage that reportedly shows his abduction.
Mr. Sombath’s disappearance resurrects memories of an earlier era when unexplained disappearances were common. Continued inaction on this case by the Lao authorities could erode progress made over the past years and damage the country’s international reputation, potentially raising additional questions about the Lao Government’s commitment to uphold the rule of law and engage responsibly with the world. We urge our partners in the Lao Government to pursue all leads in this case, and do everything in their power to ensure Mr. Sombath’s immediate and safe return to his family.