Amnesty International Report 2016/17: Laos

Amnesty International: February 2017

The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remained severely restricted. State control of media and civil society was tightened as Laos hosted international meetings. Repression of human rights defenders continued. Two prisoners of conscience were released in March after being held for almost 17 years.

There was no progress in the investigation into the enforced disappearance in 2012 of a
society member. The death penalty remained mandatory for serious drug offences. (more…)

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (12)

My dearest Sombath,

Today, February 17, is your birthday.  If you have not been disappeared, we should be celebrating your 65th birthday today, and you should be enjoying this day surrounded by your family and friends.  Even though I don’t know where you are, I still want to send you all my love and prayers for a very happy birthday.

At this time of our life, you and I should be enjoying a quieter and more restful life together.  I remembered so well what you told me shortly before you were snatched away that fateful night of 15 December 2012, more than 4 years ago.  You told me that you really looked forward to your retirement and to spending more time working in the garden growing our own vegetables and fruit.  You also told me that what you really want to do is to spend time reading and writing.  You said that you needed time to organize your notes, your photos, and the bits and pieces of writing here and there you have started, but never quite had time to finish.  I remembered how I had laughed and said “Yes, you should do that before the termites make a feast of your lifework!”

Indeed, after your abduction, we tried to retrieve all the notebooks, and pieces of paper you have left in the PADETC office and at home, and we found that the termites did destroy quite a few of your files and papers.  But there are still many files and folders that are quite intact.

Dearest Sombath, we have kept what we could save from the termites and they all still awaiting your return. You have spent so many years working so closely with so many Lao communities, and you have gained so much knowledge and perspectives on so many aspects of development that I am sure you will have a lot to share on issues ranging from sustainable development, appropriate education, indigenous wisdom, and engaged buddhism.  Your insights and vision would most certainly benefit many people in Laos, in and outside the development community.  You will especially have a lot to share with the young people of Laos, who you truly love and care so much about.  You have always involved the young people of Laos in all aspects of your work, as you feel that their engagement and their creativity and ideas are so necessary for the shaping of the country’s development.  Sombath, so many young Lao people continue to remember you and wish that you will come back soon.

Sombath, I hope that wherever you are, you will continue to use your wisdom and knowledge to benefit those around you.  Knowing you, I truly believe that you will know how to survive and how to make the best of your situation. You have a great natural ability to work with people around you, and you are always able to bring out the best in people no matter who they are.

So, my love, on this day, I wish you “Happy Birthday” and I pray that you are healthy and happy. I also pray that you will come back soon so that we can celebrate your next birthday together.

Love you always, Shui Meng

EU must demand release ofdissidents, resolution of enforced disappearances

FIDH: 13 February 2017

The European Union (EU) must demand the Lao government release all political prisoners and make real progress towards solving all cases of enforced disappearances, FIDH and its member organization Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) said today.

FIDH and LMHR made the call ahead of the 7th EU-Laos human rights dialogue, which is scheduled to be held in Vientiane on 16-17 February 2017. In conjunction with their call, the two organizations released a briefing paper that provides an update on the human rights situation in Laos since the previous dialogue, held in November 2015.

“After many fruitless rounds of human rights dialogues, the EU can no longer tolerate the Lao government’s deceptive tactics and its failure to uphold its human rights obligations. The EU must make it clear that the release of all dissidents and the transparent and thorough investigation of all cases of enforced disappearances, including Sombath Somphone’s, are conditions for the continuation of constructive bilateral relations, said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.

In a break with previous years, in November 2016, the EU failed to raise the issue of the enforced disappearance of prominent Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone in its statement released on the occasion of the annual round table meeting between the Lao government and development partners. In addition, Sombath’s name was not mentioned in the joint statement issued at the conclusion of the 6th dialogue on 6 November 2015. His case was vaguely referred to as “the disappearance.”

“The EU’s failure to even mention Sombath Somphone’s name in its interaction with the Lao government plays into Vientiane’s strategy of seeking to relegate Sombath’s case to oblivion. If the human rights dialogue is not accompanied by any strong message it will remain a hopeless exercise,” said LMHR President Vanida Thephsouvanh.

In their joint briefing paper, FIDH and LMHR make specific recommendations to the EU to demand Laos show tangible progress with regard to: the right to freedom of opinion and expression; arbitrary detentions; enforced disappearances; the death penalty; and electoral reform.

Since its first human rights dialogue with the EU in 2005, Laos has consistently ranked near the bottom of many international indexes and rankings compiled by independent organizations that measure respect for democratic principles and key civil and political rights.

Press contacts:

  • FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
  • FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English) – Tel: +33143551412 (Paris)
  • LMHR: Ms. Vanida Thephsouvanh (French, English, Lao) – Tel: +33160065706 (Paris)