Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (27)

At Wat Pa Nakhounnoi with friends to remember
the 10th anniversary of the Disappearance of Sombath

My dearest Sombath,

December 15 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of your abduction by the police in front of a police post on Thadeau Road. Every day for 10 long years, when I drive by that fateful police post each time I go home, I cannot but re-live how you have been stopped by the police and how you have been taken away never to be seen again. I also relive how I have begged and appealed to the Lao authorities to give me information as to what happened, why you have been taken, where have you been taken, and to investigate the case and return you safely to me and the family.

But Sombath, after 10 long years, I still have no answers as to what happened to you. All I have are the grainy footages caught on the police CCTV camera of how you were abducted – each frame showing clear evidence as to what happened to you on that fateful evening. That incriminating evidence remains in the public consciousness.

My dearest Sombath, let me tell you that, despite time and despite the stubborn silence by the Lao authorities to reveal the truth of your abduction, the world has not forgotten you. In fact, the concern for your fate and the call to the Lao government to provide answers to your abduction has remained.

To mark your despicable abduction, a series of activities were held in Bangkok in December to remember you. These activities were well attended by all sectors of the public ranging from academics, diplomats, journalists, human rights activists, development specialists, and students. In all these events, it’s clear that regardless of whether they knew you or had only read about your life and work, you continue to be admired for your immense contribution to the Lao people and Lao society. Everyone regarded your disappearance as a gross injustice and a major crime.

Over the past weeks, to mark the 10th anniversary of your disappearance, there were numerous statements and news articles from the United Nations Human Rights Council, International Human Rights Organizations, Embassies, NGOs, and major news networks and all demanded the Lao government to provide answers on their investigation and to reveal the truth of what happened to you.

Sombath, all this show of solidarity has given me some solace that your life and work and your memory has not been forgotten.

And like in previous years, we also held a blessing ceremony for you at Wat Pa Nakhounoi. Joining the temple blessing ceremony were both Lao and foreign well-wishers, such as representatives from the EU, the Singapore Embassy, the British Embassy, the Canada Embassy, the Australia Embassy, UNICEF, UNDP, and other long-time friends. The ceremony was simple but very poignant. I know you are there with us.

My dearest Sombath, no passing of time can ever stop me from continuing my search for you. I don’t know how much longer I will walk this earth. But as long as I still have a breath, I will not stop searching for truth and justice for you. After that, I know that we will still see each other.

Below are a few lines abstracted from a poem by Liz Newman titled “until Eternity” which I find reflects how I feel for you every day. I know you too will share these same sentiments with me:

I remember
how joyful it used to be
to come home
and to find you there
waiting for me
your face would light up
and you’d say to me
“I’m so glad to see you”…

but then i reflect on
how joyful it will be
to come home
to eternity someday
and find you there
waiting for me
your face will light up
and you will say to me
“I’m so glad to see you”…

…until Eternity,
until Eternity…

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