A report on this meeting has now been published by the Bangkok Post, which can be read here: Activists slam Asean’s lack of commitment to human rights
Laos pressed on activist disappearance
Financial Times, 06 Jan 2012
The UN and some western governments are preparing to put fresh questions to the Lao government over the mysterious disappearance in mid-December of a prominent education and health campaigner, after Vientiane late last week rejected suggestions by the UN of state involvement in the case.
In a statement to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Laos denied knowledge of the whereabouts of Sombath Somphone, 60, and said he had not been taken into police custody, as widely reported, but rather may have been kidnapped because of a “personal conflict”.
UN human rights officials, as well as US and European governments, have expressed concern in recent weeks that the activist is being held by the Lao authorities.
Closed circuit video footage from police security cameras showed Mr Sombath, founder of a local non-government organisation Padetc, being stopped by traffic police at a roadside post while he was driving home from work in Vientiane, the Lao capital, in mid-December.
Mr Sombath was following his Singaporean wife in a separate car but never arrived home. The government has denied he was taken into custody at the stop, which they said was a “routine” check, but grainy CCTV footage shows a man resembling Mr Sombath being driven away by uniformed Lao officials.
Vientiane-based diplomats at the weekend expressed doubt about official denials of involvement in Mr Sombath’s disappearance and said their embassies were set to convey further concerns about the case. “We are considering the next move, and it could well be a démarche,” said one western diplomat. Continue reading “UK Financial Times on Sombath's disappearance”
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The wife of Sombath Somphone was interviewed on Australian radio today, emphasizing that her husband is a development worker who is interested in helping his country, and that he has always worked closely with the government.
Prominent Lao activist still missing
ABC Radio, 04 January 2013
This weekend marks three weeks since the disappearance of the respected Lao community leader, teacher and social activist Sombath Somphone.Well known in the region, he received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for his work.
Sombath Somphone has not been heard of since being taken away from a police checkpoint in the capital, Vientiane.
The government has denied any involvement, hinting at a possible business or personal conflict as the reason for his disappearance.
Presenter: Tom Fayle
Speaker: Ng Shui Meng, who’s high-profile activist husband Sombath Somphone has been missing in Laos for almost three weeks
NG: I have not heard any news apart from the government statement which was issued on the 19th and a visit to the police station I have not heard anything since.
FAYLE: Now have the authorities been maintaining contact with you?
NG: The police department has called me for a short interview on the 26th of December and since then they have not been in contact with me.
FAYLE: Now would you describe your husband as a dissident in any form?
NG: No my husband is not a dissident, he is a very low-profile social development worker interested in helping the country, teaching young people in community service, empowering them, teaching them leadership skills, working with the monks and working with students. He is not at all an activist or a dissident in any way. He has worked closely with the government and with approval of government for every project he has done. So he’s not at all an activist, he always believes that as a Lao citizen he wants to support the government to help develop the country. Continue reading “"My husband is not a dissident"”
Govt clarifies disappearance of Mr Sombath Somphone
ລັດຖະບານຊີ້ແຈງກ່ຽວກັບກໍລະນີການຫາຍຕົວໄປຂອງທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ
Vientiane Times, 04 January 2013
The Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Lao PDR to the UN in Geneva, Yong Chanthalangsy, on Thursday sent a letter clarifying the issue of the disappearance of Mr Sombath Somphone in response to the queries raised by the UN Special Procedures.
The content of the letter is as follows:
As a Member of the United Nations, Laos has always cooperated with the international community, particularly in the promotion and protection of human rights, which is reflected in the country’s implementation of its international obligations and commitments on human rights with achievements being progressively made. Laos is State party to 7 core UN Human Rights Conventions and 2 Optional Protocols. In addition, Laos is also a signatory to the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Being the fourth nation in Asia to sign this important Convention Laos is currently in the process of preparations for its ratification.
In the implementation of its human rights obligations and commitments the Lao PDR has the Constitution and laws which are in conformity with the treaties to which the Lao PDR is party. Furthermore, Laos has adopted the Legal Sector Master Plan on the Rule of Law by 2020 in order to create enabling conditions for the Lao people to fully enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Lao government is deeply concerned about the disappearance of Mr Sombath Somphone and attaches importance to the investigations underway in order to find out the truth of this incident. According to the information from the authorities concerned which was based on the CCTV footage, on the day of the incident, the traffic police were conducting their routine random checks on vehicles at the police post on Thadeua Road in the vicinity of Vatnak village in Sisattanak district, Vientiane. At 6pm the traffic police stopped Mr Sombath’s jeep in order to check his driving licence and car documents as normal procedures. Continue reading “Lao Government statement”
Sulak Sivaraksa, a leading figure in the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, talks about the disappearance of his friend Sombath Somphone, during a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondence Club of Thailand, 21 Dec 2012.
This longer video is also worth watching, with key points from the discussion at FCCT. Speakers include Sulak Sivaraksa, Kraisak Choonhavan, Somchai Homlaor, Supalak Ganjanakhundee and Premrudee Daoroung.
My uncle, Mr. Sombath Somphone, has been missing since December 15th 2012 in Vientiane, Laos. Till now, our family still haven’t got any news about where he is, who has him, why he was taken (kidnapped?), how can we get him back. So depressed and so stressful for our family and all the people who know my uncle so well. We don’t know what to do.
There’s rumor that many people have been told not to talk about him. Many people are even scared to contact with our family. Many people have told that this is very dangerous case. If you don’t know my uncle well, you will believe in that. Repectfully, to those who believe in that, for the entire life of me and my family and friends, we don’t see any thing that he has done wrong to any body. He’s just a normal person who cares so much about the future of his own country and the lives of the next generation. He have been working so hard in his entire life not to gain fame, but with a truly caring heart to help our country as much as he can do. What other people around the world said about him recently is the evident. We cannot control or force anyone to say that’s he’s good or bad. All his works since the past and the respect from people around the world have already shown us all.
If anyone know what he has done wrong. Please, please let us know. Continue reading “An appeal from Sombath’s niece”
Update 14th Jan… more than 2,500 have now signed! Let’s reach 5,000.
You can add your name here. Please share this link with your friends and colleagues.
Newspapers, media and websites across the globe have reported on the disappearance of Sombath Somphone. Links to a selection of articles can be found here, or click ‘News’ in the menu above.
The Bangkok Post provided a good summary of the situation in an article on 24th December. Here is an extract:
The news was a shock … The 60-year-old activist had never been regarded as an enemy of the state. He founded the Participatory Development Training Centre in Vientiane to promote development and education …. His work as a social developer was internationally recognised… Not surprisingly, he was called ”one of the most respected and influential voices for sustainable people-centred and just economic and social development in Laos”.
The full article is available here.