My dearest Sombath,
Today is the last day of 2017. For four years now I have been waiting desperately for news of your whereabouts and your safe return. This time of the year should be a time for family gatherings to send off the old year and welcome the new. But for you and I, there is only longing and waiting.
For you, wherever you are, I hope and pray that you are well and in good health physically, emotionally and spiritually. I can only hope that your innate kindness, sincerity, and good humour can win you friends wherever you are and whoever you are with. I hope they will treat you well and will be won over by your humility, your wisdom, and your deep spirituality. I hope they will find your wide-ranging knowledge and skills useful to them and that they can benefit from your advice and service. I hope and hope that they will somehow find it in their hearts to see the kind of person you are, and they will one day set you free to come back to us. (more…)
Forbes: 27 December 2016
We know about North Korea as Asia’s most hardcore police state. The government enslaves and kills people who dispute the policies of leader Kim Jong-un.
Laos looks free and happy by contrast. Travelers can walk across the quiet, uncluttered capital Vientiane’s commercial-tourist district in an hour if that. A string of cafes near the riverside make French coffee. Slow-moving, smiling vendors are more likely to miscount change in your favor than cheat. The warm orange hues of Buddhist monks and temples radiate from streetsides. Westerners can get visas on arrival at the Vientiane airport. The idea of a police state would seldom occur to the interloper in Laos, though it’s a one-party Communist country.
Now try being a Laotian citizen with gripes about how things are run. Authorities in the country with a population of 7 million make some of Asia’s most chilling grabs of dissenters. Laos is better known for “disappearances” compared to putting people on trial after detention periods as practiced in communist China and Vietnam. And you never know when you might say something that disappears you, a deterrent to speaking out. (more…)
Bangkok Post: 20 December 2016
Human rights activists whose husbands are still missing years after they mysteriously vanished have urged the government to pass a law on preventing enforced disappearances, to address human rights violations.
Prominent human rights campaigner Angkhana Neelapaijit urged Thai authorities to enact the Torture and Enforced Disappearance Prevention and Suppression bill as quickly as possible, regardless of the fact that no missing persons case has been resolved.
Voice of America: 21 December 2016
The wife of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone is calling for judicial reforms in Laos and for the government clarify the fate of her husband, saying she will “never give up” in seeking the truth behind his disappearance.
Shui-Meng Ng, made the appeal as rights activists marked the fourth year since his enforced disappearance from a police checkpoint in the Laos capital of Vientiane in December 2012.
“The message to the [Laos] government is ‘come clean’ — tell us the truth and my message to the Laos government is — ‘I will never give up’,” Shui-Meng told reporters in Thailand. (more…)
Bangkok Post: 15 December 2015
Human rights groups have renewed calls for a full investigation into the disappearance of a well-known community organiser four years ago at a police checkpoint in Vientiane.
More than 130 rights organisations from around the world issued a statement on Thursday calling on the Lao government to provide information about the fate of Sombath Somphone and 10 other activists who were detained or simply disappeared over the past decade.
Laos is a secretive one-party state whose Communist leaders have quashed political dissent since taking power in 1975.
Sombath went missing in the evening of Dec 15, 2012 on the busy streets of Vientiane. He was last seen getting into a police vehicle on that night.
Lao authorities have not re-examined the case despite a newly discovered security camera video of Sombath’s car on the day he disappeared and US pressure during a visit by President Barack Obama to the country in September.