Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (4)

My dearest Sombath,

Angkhana, Shuimeng & EditaI am writing you to let you know that I recently participated in the “Third International Conference on Psychosocial Support in the Search for Truth and Justice for Victims of Enforced Disappearance, Torture and Extrajudicial Execution” organized by AFAD in Manila.

I had at first hesitated about participating at this conference. Some of your friends and relatives advised me that I should not attend and not speak about your disappearance because they are worried that it might harm you more, or it would make it more difficult for you to be returned safely.

However, I decided to attend the conference anyway because I believe that I am not doing anything wrong. Also I want to meet other victims and family members from Asia and Latin American who have also suffered the disappearances of their loved ones.

Sombath, at the conference, when I spoke about my feelings of pain, helplessness and despair over the last 19 months since you disappeared, I learned that these are the same feelings other victims faced. Some have to bear the pain for many more years than I have. At the conference, I also met some very brave women, for example, Edith (Edita) Burgos of the Philippines and Angkana Neelapaijit of Thailand. Edith’s son, Jonas, was disappeared 7 years ago, and Angkana’s husband, Somchai, was forcedly taken 10 years ago.

Sombath, you have been disappeared 19 months, and I already could not bear it anymore. So I asked Edith and Angkana how do they cope; how do they go on? Both women advised me that I should never give in to despair. Edith told me to take pride and be comforted that the people who are disappeared are always those who are doing good for their community and for their country, just like you, Jonas, and Somchai. It’s the people who ordered and conducted the enforced disappearances who are the bad people and the criminals. The bad people are always afraid of the good people, and they use enforced disappearance as a tool to intimidate and keep people silent. Angkana also told me her husband’s disappearance made her even stronger to work for other women who suffered the same fate. She founded the “Justice for Peace Foundation” to continue her struggle to get to the truth of what happened to Somchai and to the husbands and sons of other poor women in Thailand. Lastly Edith also reminded me we must find peace from inside us, and believe that there is a higher justice that we should place our trust in, whether we call it the justice of “God”, “Allah” or “Karma”.

So Sombath, I am writing you to let you know that thanks to Edith, Angkana and all the participants I met at the AFAD Conference in Manila, I no longer feel so isolated or desperate anymore. I share a strong sense of solidarity with all of them, and I promise you that I will continue the struggle to seek your safe return.

Sombath, please be strong and stay safe.

Love, Shui Meng

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