UN member states must highlight Laos’s severely restrictive civic space environment at its upcoming UN human rights review

Forum Asia: 17 January 2020

  • “Establish a new commission tasked with carrying out a prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial investigation aimed at determining the fate or whereabouts of human rights defender Sombath Somphone.”

Your Excellency,

As you will be aware, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) will face its third review under the UN’s UPR mechanism on 21 January 2020.

Following its last review in 2015, the government of Lao PDR committed to reassess the policy framework and restrictions on domestic and international civil society organisations and facilitate an enabling environment for them; to fully respect and ensure freedom of expression by revising legislation; to ensure freedom of assembly in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and to investigate individual cases such as the enforced disappearance of human rights defender Sombath Somphone. Continue reading “UN member states must highlight Laos’s severely restrictive civic space environment at its upcoming UN human rights review”

Don’t forget ‘disappeared’

Bangkok Post: 21 December 2019

One year ago this month, Thai activist Surachai Danwattananusorn disappeared mysteriously from his residence in the Lao capital of Vientiane, while the bodies of his two aides were found in the Mekong River. Also, seven years ago this month, Lao activist Sombath Somphone suffered a “forced disappearance” in Vientiane.

These men were all prominent critics of the state, and this is perhaps a good enough explanation as to why neither the Thai and Lao governments have managed to unearth the truth behind the disappearances and killings.

Mr Surachai fled Thailand a few days before the 2014 coup and lived in exile in Vientiane to avoid being thrown behind bars for alleged lese majeste offences. He was followed by his aides, Chatchan Bupphawan and Kraidej Luelert, who used their time in Laos to criticise the military junta and the institution. Continue reading “Don’t forget ‘disappeared’”

Stopping Enforced Disappearances: Where is Sombath Somphone?


On 17 December 2019 a panel discussion was held at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok, Thailand. Panelists included:

  • Angkhana Neelapaijit: Director, Justice for Peace Foundation; Magsaysay Prize Award winner 2019, and wife of Somchai Neelapaijit who was enforcibly disappeared in 2004
  • Ng Shui Meng: Wife of Sombath Somphone, who was enforcibly disappeared in 2012
  • Katia Chirizzi: Deputy Director, Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Southeast Asia
  • Phil Robertson: Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

Click the link above for video of the event.

Denuncian impunidad en desapariciones forzadas en Tailandia

El Siglo de Torreón: 18 December 2019

Numerosas víctimas de diferentes países asiáticos han sido contabilizadas por lo menos 20 años

Activistas y familiares de desaparecidos forzados denunciaron este martes en Bangkok la impunidad con que este crimen se comete en el sudeste asiático, donde hay decenas de casos sin resolver en medio de un ambiente de “miedo”.

Así lo expresaron en una conferencia sobre desapariciones forzadas celebrada con motivo del séptimo aniversario de la desaparición del activista laosiano Sombath Somphone, que continúa en paradero desconocido desde que fue detenido en un control policial en diciembre de 2012 en Vientián. Continue reading “Denuncian impunidad en desapariciones forzadas en Tailandia”

Still No Progress on Seventh Anniversary of Sombath Somphone’s Disappearance

Radio Free Asia: 17 December 2019

Ng Shui Meng, wife of Sombath Somphone, who has been missing for seven years in what is widely believed to be an enforced disappearance, attends a press conference on Dec. 17, 2019. RFA

The wife of a missing Lao activist told a gathering to mark seven years since his disappearance that she has not heard any information from Lao authorities about his case in more than two years and believes they “stopped searching long ago.”

Sombath Somphone, who disappeared on Dec. 15, 2012—exactly seven years ago Sunday—when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital Vientiane.

Before his abduction, Sombath had challenged massive land deals negotiated by the government that had left thousands of rural Lao villagers homeless with little paid in compensation. The deals sparked rare popular protests in Laos, where political speech is tightly controlled. Continue reading “Still No Progress on Seventh Anniversary of Sombath Somphone’s Disappearance”

Seit sieben Jahren ist der Bürgerrechtler Sombath Somphone verschwunden – die Regierung von Laos hat darauf keine Antwort

Neue Zürcher Zeitung: 15 Dezember 2019

Obwohl die laotischen Behörden versprochen haben, den Fall aufzuklären, gibt es keine Ergebnisse. Bald werden sie vor der Uno dazu Stellung nehmen müssen.

Wenige Wochen nachdem Sombath Somphone verschwunden ist, hängt ein Unterstützer im Januar 2013 in der laotischen Hauptstadt Vientiane ein Poster mit dem Porträt des Vermissten auf. Gilles Sabrie / LightRocket / Getty

Es ist dunkel. Die Aufnahmen der Überwachungskamera sind körnig und unscharf. Dennoch ist zu erkennen, wie ein Jeep vor einem Polizeiposten in der laotischen Hauptstadt Vientiane anhält. Der Fahrer steigt aus und geht in den Posten. Wenig später kommt der Mann wieder aus dem Polizeiposten, nun in Begleitung zweier Personen. Sie steigen in einen weissen Geländewagen, der davonbraust, noch bevor die Türen geschlossen sind. Continue reading “Seit sieben Jahren ist der Bürgerrechtler Sombath Somphone verschwunden – die Regierung von Laos hat darauf keine Antwort”

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (18)

My dearest Sombath

Today is 15 December 2019.  It’s already 7 years today that you were so ruthlessly taken away from me, your family, and friends.  Who could have imaged that 7 years have gone by and there is still a wall of silence surrounding what happened to you.  However, with each passing day, the silence from those who took you speaks louder than words, and shows clearly their guilt and lack of ability to admit the truth of the injustice done to you.

Never the less, my dearest Sombath, the passing of time does not mean that you are forgotten.  In the days leading up to your 7th anniversary, I have received so many messages from friends, colleagues, and even people who have never met you, to express their solidarity, love and blessing for you, wishing you strength, good health and your safe return to us.

To mark your 7th anniversary, we held a prayer and blessing ceremony for you at Wat Na Khoun Noi Forest temple – the temple that you have had such a long and close affiliation with, and have helped initiate the Buddhist Development Program to train monks, nuns and novices to use the Buddhist teachings as the basis for development of the self, and their families and communities. Continue reading “Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (18)”

As 7th Anniversary of Lao Activist’s Disappearance Approaches, More Remain Missing

Radio Free Asia: 13 December 2019

As families and rights groups prepare to mark the seventh anniversary Sunday of prominent Lao activist Sombath Somphone’s disappearance, the families of two other missing activists are lamenting the lack of answers from the communist government on their loved ones.

Sombath Somphone, who disappeared on Dec. 15, 2012 when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital Vientiane, will be remembered at an event in Bangkok, Thailand next week. Continue reading “As 7th Anniversary of Lao Activist’s Disappearance Approaches, More Remain Missing”

Zeven jaar spoorloos in Laos

NPO Radio: 13 december 2019

(Klik op de link hierboven voor audio}

Komende zondag is het precies zeven jaar geleden dat daar in het Aziatische staatje Laos de activist Sombáth Somphòne spoorloos verdween. Sombáth verliet zijn land in de jaren zeventig, toen de communistische partij er de macht overnam, maar keerde er weer terug om aan de slag te gaan als maatschappelijk werker en zich in te zetten voor duurzaamheid. Blijkbaar heeft hij daarbij vijanden gemaakt. Sombáth werd voor het laatst gezien vlakbij een politiepost in de hoofdstad. Zuidoost-Azië correspondent Kris Janssens zocht zijn vrouw op, die al zeven jaar leeft tussen hoop en wanhoop.

Civil society groups urge Laos, Thailand to investigate enforced disappearances, reveal fate of Sombath Somphone and Od Sayavong

15 December 2019: On the seventh anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, urge the Lao and Thai governments to investigate enforced disappearances, and demand Vientiane finally reveal Sombath’s whereabouts and ensure justice for him and his family.

Considering the Lao police’s protracted failure to effectively investigate Sombath’s enforced disappearance, a new independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts should be established without delay. The new body should have the authority to seek and receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional, independent, impartial, and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance. Continue reading “Civil society groups urge Laos, Thailand to investigate enforced disappearances, reveal fate of Sombath Somphone and Od Sayavong”