Bangkok Post: 17 December 2014
Laos would be more culturally dignified and have more active young citizens if Sombath Somphone had not gone missing two years ago, according to a seminar held on Monday to mark the anniversary of the activist’s disappearance.
Surichai Wun’gaeo, director of Chulalongkorn’s Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies, said Mr Sombath was not only a citizen of Laos but a regional asset, since he was recognised with a Magsaysay award in 2005.
“He cares for his nation and the whole region and brings a subtle approach and compassion,” Mr Surichai, one of Mr Sombath’s long-time friends, told the “If the World Didn’t Have Enforced Disappearances” seminar.
Premrudee Daoruang, coordinator of the Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance, said Mr Sombath’s main focus was energising young people about sustainable agriculture to boost their cultural independence and reject materialistic goals.
“During my 20 years of working with Brother Sombath, I noticed he tried many approaches and worked with all types of people at provincial and national levels,” said Ms Premrudee.
She said if Mr Sombath was still around, there would certainly be a lot of young people becoming leaders in various fields to help Laos move forward with dignity and grace.
Ms Premrudee said Lao authorities do not care that the activist is missing, but many people around the globe and Asean have campaigned to ensure he’s not forgotten.
Eighty-two global and regional civil society organisations have condemned Laos’ refusal to provide any information regarding Mr Sombath’s fate despite two years since his disappearance.
The rights groups also urged Asean to speak up on the disappearance of the prominent Lao civil society leader.
Mr Sombath was last seen on the evening of Dec 15, 2012 in Vientiane. CCTV footage revealed that police stopped his car at a checkpoint. Unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away, according to Human Rights Watch and other international rights groups.