Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (9)

My dearest Sombath

I have been thinking of wShumeng-Gwangjuriting you many times over the last few months, but each time, I would start and after a few words I could not continue. It is getting so hard, so hard to even put my thoughts into words. What can I say to you that could be comforting for you anymore? I just pray and hope you are still keeping well and also have not lost hope of regaining your freedom.

However, tomorrow will be 30 August; it will once more mark the International Day of the Disappeared. I re-read the letter I wrote you on this day, last year. The sentiments expressed then remain today. I don’t need to be reminded of the pain and despair that disappearance wrecks upon me only one day each year. I carry the pain and despair every moment of everyday!

However, despite the despair and the seeming lack of words to reach out to you, I want to tell you that over the last few weeks, I have found a rekindling of hope and faith. Over the past few weeks, I participated in a number of lobby activities in Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta and Manila organized by AFAD and other Human Rights Organizations. These activities are to remind people and organizations from across the region of your disappearance, and that of the other disappeared. In each of these places I met with very sincere friends and supporters. More importantly, I also met with family members of the disappeared.

In the eyes and faces of the family members of the victims, I see myself. Their eyes reflect the same sadness, the same desperation; their faces etched with the same anxiety and worries – all of which probably unnoticed except by those who share the same experience. Yet, in each person’s eyes I see the same glint of determination to continue to seek answers of what happened to their loved ones, and information of their whereabouts and their status. And in their faces are etched the fearlessness of those who already have nothing left to fear, but only the courage and will to continue the struggle for truth and justice for their loved ones. When we are together, we don’t need to talk; we just need to look at each other and hold hands and experience our common fate and common hope.

My dearest Sombath, I must tell you, you have not been forgotten, and with each passing day, even more people and more organizations and networks continue to ask “Where is Sombath?” They all keep asking for your whereabouts not only to express their concern and solidarity with you; but they keep asking to remind the Lao authorities, that despite the deliberate wall of silence erected around your disappearance, you will not be forgotten until you are safely returned.

Sombath, on 11 September, only 12 days from now, you would have been disappeared for 1,000 days. For 1000 days you have been vilely robbed of your fundamental right to freedom, and the fundamental right to enjoy a normal family life. I have been deprived of having you by my side. Other members of our family, your friends and others in the community too have missed your presence and your company.

My dearest Sombath, I cannot imagine what these 1,000 days could have been for you. I just pray and hope that wherever you are your gentleness and kindness will touch those who keep you and move them to treat you with compassion. I also pray that you will also find strength within you to bear with your ordeal and not give in to despair and anger.

Sombath, I also want to tell you that your friends and partners, under the Sombath Initiative, a project to continue the campaign for your return and to promote and disseminate your development vision, will renew our call for justice for you on that day. We will once more remind people, that 1,000 days have gone by and you are still awaiting justice and freedom.

So Sombath, my love, stay strong and be well. I will not give up my search for you. Please be reassured that I am not alone in my search. We are joined in solidarity and unity with all freedom and justice loving people from across the globe, today and everyday. We will not stop our search until we find you and have your returned safely.

Love you always, Shui Meng

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