Dear Sombath…from Joseph Purugganan

Dear Sombath,

I hope you are well wherever you might be now. I hope that somehow the overwhelming outpouring of support, like those I am sure will be expressed in the letters that are being written by friends and supporters somehow reach you, and that the support strengthens your will to continue fighting.

Let me tell you that a lot of people not just from your beloved Laos, but all across Asia and the world are praying for your safe return. A lot of people have also expressed support for your loved ones who suffer the most from your absence, but who have come out of this ordeal, stronger.

We met briefly during the Asia Europe Peoples’ Forum held in Vientiene almost two years ago.  I was part of the delegation of Focus on the Global South, and together with a colleague  we interviewed you for a series of short videos we did on the economic crisis and the lessons that can be learned from it.

We did manage to get very good interviews—Mariana Mortagua from Portugal, Pavlos  Kasakopolous from Greece for  Europe. And for Asia, Achin Vinaik from India and you from Laos and Southeast Asia. I must apologize Sombath because I’m an amateur videographer and so the video was not shot well, it was poorly lit and was a bit out of focus. But despite those limitations, your views still came out strongly and your message was crystal clear.  You spoke against over consumption, and the greed that is destroying our planet. You criticized the narrow-mindedness that dominate conventional thinking, and called for a broader view of the world, linking the challenges that confront us.

Little did we know that that a few weeks later, you would disappear; forcibly taken so it seems by the same forces of narrow-mindedness that you so passionately opposed.

The cause of the desaparecidos is something that has become a personal as well as political issue for me especially since the disappearance here in the Philippines of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos, whose younger brother is a good friend and godfather to my 4-year old daughter.  The courage and fortitude of the family of Jonas in the face of this grave injustice strengthens my resolve to contribute to the struggle to end the menace of enforced disappearances here at home and elsewhere.

I wrote a song that was included in a music CD as part of the Free Jonas Burgos campaign called Nasan Ka? (Where are you?).  Let me end this letter to you by sharing a few lines from the song.

Nasan Ka? (Where are you?)

Kumakagat na ang dilim (the night is falling)

Iiwan kong sindi ang ilaw (I’ll leave the porchlight on)

Tanglaw sa yong paguwi (to guide your safe return)

Joseph Purugganan