Fresh detail emerges about abduction of Lao activist

ABC Radio Australia: 14 June 2013

You can listen to the ABC interview with Amnesty International here, or read the transcript below.

It’s six months since the disappearance of prominent Lao civil society leader, Sombath Somphone. His apparent abduction from outside a police post in the capital, Vientiane, was caught on closed circuit television.

Expressions of concern about his fate have come from across the region, as well as the United States and the European Union.Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 21.33.33 PM

The Lao authorities say they are continuing to investigate the case, but there’s been no progress to date.

Now it seems further analysis of the CCTV footage has revealed fresh details about just what happened on the evening of the 15th December 2012.

They’re contained in a report from Amnesty International called ‘Caught on camera – the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone’.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Rupert Abbott, Laos researcher, Amnesty International

ABBOTT: Well in our report Caught on Camera, we considered three areas really, we considered the background for Sombath’s disappearance, what happened before that day on the 15th of December. And we found that really there are signals that the authorities were trying to restrict him in society in the run-up to Sombath’s disappearance. Then we’d looked at what happened on the actual day, and you mentioned the CCTV footage of Sombath being stopped at a police post then taken away by a pick-up truck with flashing lights. And in our analysis of that CCTV footage which his family had managed to get a copy of, we have found that there’s also a gunman at the scene, there appears to be a gunshot fired at the scene. And the reason that’s so important is that the police have tried to say that the situation was normal, that there was nothing untoward going on. Now for them to be saying that when there was a gunman at the scene among all the other things that happened, is now appearing absurd. And we’ve also considered the aftermath, the investigations by the police that have been entirely inadequate, these bizarre conclusions that the situation was normal for someone to be stopped a police post and then taken away with a gunman at the scene. And also this rejection of assistance that other countries have been offering, for example to look at the original CCTV footage, do an analysis, find the number plates, try to identify those individuals at the scene. Amnesty International we tried to visit Laos to discuss this case among other things, and we tried to meet with senior Laos officials outside of the country, and our offers to meet have been rejected. But more importantly technical assistance from other countries has been rejected. Continue reading “Fresh detail emerges about abduction of Lao activist”

Mystery Over Lao Civil Society Leader's Disappearance Deepens

Radio Free Asia: 14 June 2013

The mystery behind the disappearance of respected civil society leader Sombath Somphone in Laos has deepened amid claims by rights group Amnesty International that a gunshot was fired as he was taken away from a police post in a pickup truck by unidentified men six months ago.

Amnesty described it as a “concerning” development which has so far not been mentioned in media reports and statements around Sombath’s disappearance on the night of Dec. 15, when police-recorded surveillance video showed him being stopped at a police post in the Lao capital Vientiane.

Lao authorities have reported little progress on the 60-year-old community worker’s case amid concerns for his safety by fellow activists—some of whom fear that his disappearance could be tied to his human rights work and that he may have been abducted by security groups linked to the government.

The Lao government has turned down international requests to provide any assistance in the investigations, including a U.S. offer to provide technical help to enhance the quality of some blurry images of the vital video footage on Sombath’s last known moments.

Based on Amnesty’s new analysis of the closed circuit television (CCTV) footage, a person riding in the back of a motorcycle ahead of a pickup truck carrying Sombath appeared to fire a shot in the air before speeding away from the police post, Amnesty said in its “Caught on Camera” report.

“The apparent gunshot may have been fired as a warning to witnesses, as a signal for the pickup truck carrying Sombath to leave immediately, or for another reason,” it said.

“The fact that this man is armed may also explain why Sombath did not struggle to avoid being taken away, although those who know Sombath say that he would have tried to discuss the situation peacefully to find a resolution, rather than resist,” the report said. Continue reading “Mystery Over Lao Civil Society Leader's Disappearance Deepens”

Lack of Progress on Missing Lao Activist’s Case ‘Troubling’

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 9.48.27 AM
A 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines. AFP/Somphone family

Radio Free Asia: 11 June 2013

Nearly six months after the disappearance of prominent Lao activist Sombath Somphone, police have reported little progress on his case amid concerns for his safety by fellow activists.

Laos’s Ministry of Public Security said at a briefing on Friday that police were still carrying out investigations to locate Sombath since he was declared missing in December last year, including coordinating with international agencies.

But activists, who have raised concerns that Sombath may have been forcibly disappeared and called for a thorough investigation into his case, said they were disappointed no new developments were revealed.

“We expected some progress, some leads,” a representative from a nongovernmental organization in Thailand said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We haven’t seen any new developments. It seems that was all they could say.”

Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted by RFA’s Lao Service after the briefing refused to comment on Sombath’s case.

Anti-poverty campaigner Sombath, 61, was last seen in video footage stopping at a police checkpoint in the Laotian capital Vientiane, prompting international concern that his disappearance could be tied to his human rights work.

Lao authorities have denied detaining Sombath and suggested he could have been kidnapped over a personal or business conflict. Continue reading “Lack of Progress on Missing Lao Activist’s Case ‘Troubling’”

Việt Nam bị tác động lây từ một vụ mất tích tại Lào

Radio France Internationale: 06 Tháng Sáu 2013

Arnaud Dubus / Trọng Nghĩa

Sombath-magsaysay-small
Nhà hoạt động dân quyền Sombath Somphone (DR)

Sự kiện ông Sombat Somphone, một nhà hoạt động dân quyền nổi tiếng tại Lào bị mất tích cách nay nửa năm sau khi bị công an bắt giữ đã khiến chính quyền Lào bị nghi ngờ là có liên can. Vụ này còn gây phiền phức cho quan hệ giữa Viêng Chăng với nhiều nước phương Tây. Sau khi điều tra thêm về vụ này, thông tín viên Arnaud Dubus nhận thấy rằng Việt Nam không ngờ cũng bị tác động lây.

Cách nay gần sáu tháng, ngày 15/12/2012, Sombat Somphone, giám đốc tổ chức phi chính phủ nổi tiếng nhất tại Lào, đã bị công an bắt giữ tại thủ đô Vientiane. Từ đó đến nay, ông hoàn toàn bặt tin. Chính phủ Lào khẳng định rằng họ không hề hay biết hay dính dáng vào vụ bắt cóc này.

Nhiều nước vẫn rất hoài nghi về các tuyên bố đó : Liên Hiệp Châu Âu và Hoa Kỳ đã ra thông báo kêu gọi chính quyền Lào tiến hành một cuộc điều tra đàng hoàng và cho công bố kết quả. Tuy nhiên, chính phủ Lào vẫn bám chặt lập luận ban đầu, theo đó vụ ông Sombat mất tích là hệ quả của một cuộc « tranh chấp kinh doanh », nhưng không cho biết thêm chi tiết.

Arnaud Dubus, Thông tín viên RFI trong khu vực, vừa ghé Vientiane trong một tuần lễ, để điều tra về vụ mất tích bí ẩn này. Trước hết anh gắn liền vụ việc này với hoạt động của nhân vật Sombat Somphone.

Arnaud Dubus : Sombat Somphone là một giám đốc tổ chức phi chính phủ nổi tiếng nhất của Lào. Qua học ở Mỹ vào thập niên 60, ông sau đó đã trở về Lào, thành lập một tổ chức mang tên là PADTEC, chuyên đào tạo thanh niên ở các vùng nông thôn.

Một trong những nhiệm vụ của tổ chức này là làm cho mọi người nhận thức rõ về quyền lợi của họ được ghi trong luật pháp của Lào. Nhờ những cống hiến tận tụy của mình, Sombat đã được trao giải thưởng Magsaysay rất có uy tín của Philippines, thường được gọi là “giải Nobel hòa bình châu Á.” Continue reading “Việt Nam bị tác động lây từ một vụ mất tích tại Lào”

ASEAN rights commission told to probe disappearance of Laotian activist

The Jakarta Post: 11 April 2013

By Margareth S. Aritonang

An activist group wants the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to stand up for missing Laotian development worker and activist Sombath Somphone.

Sombath was last seen in December when CCTV footage showed him entering an unidentified SUV at a police checkpoint in Vientiane, The Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TFAHR) said in a letter made available to The Jakarta Post.

“Maintaining a veil of silence is neither constructive nor exemplary of a regional human rights body,” the letter said. “Staying silent on Sombath’s disappearance is a convenient but short-sighted approach, because human rights violations related to land, natural resources and the environment are likely to increase as the region embarks on a zealous pursuit of economic development.”

Separately, rights activist Haris Azhar from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) called on the Indonesian representatives on the AICHR to endorse an investigation into Sombath’s disappearance.

“AICHR will turn into useless regional community unless it takes immediate action to search for Sombath,” Haris told the Post on Friday.

Aktivis Laos Hilang, ASEAN Didesak Bantu Usut

Republica Online: 09 May 2013

logo-asean-_120202090443-433REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, JAKARTA — Forum Hak Asasi Manusia dan Pembangunan untuk Asia mendesak para perwakilan ASEAN di Komisi Antarpemerintah untuk HAM (AICHR) agar memberikan bantuan dan advokasi dalam pencarian aktivis Laos Sombath Somphone yang hilang sejak Desember 2012.

“Masyarakat sipil Asia Tenggara pekan ini melakukan berbagai kampanye untuk kasus ini dan mendesak Komisi HAM ASEAN yang saat ini sedang mengadakan pertemuan reguler di ASEAN Sekretariat, Jakarta, untuk dapat membantu,” kata Manajer Program Forum Hak Asasi Manusia dan Pembangunan Asia (FORUM-ASIA) untuk ASEAN, Atnike Sigiro di Jakarta, Rabu (8/5).

Sombath Somphone merupakan aktivis terkemuka Laos yang banyak menyumbang pemikirannya dalam bidang pembangunan, kepemimpinan, dan kesejahteraan masyarakat. Atas karyanya, Somphone beberapa kali mendapat penghargaan, seperti Magsaysay Award pada tahun 2005 karena kepemimpinnya.

Dia juga pernah menyumbangkan pemikirannya dalam diskusi bertema interkonekvitas pada Forum Intelektual Asia di Chiang Mai, Thailand pada tahun 2011. Makanya, menurut Atnike, karya Somphone sangat berpengaruh di kawasan Asia Tenggara. Hal tersebut, menurut dia, dapat menjadi pertimbangan untuk AICHR agar dapat berperan aktif dalam mengusut kasus Somphone.

AICHR memiliki prinsip untuk tidak mengintervensi kebijakan negara tertentu. “Saya kira dia tidak hanya aktivis Laos, tetapi juga pemikirannya berkembang ke Asia Tenggara. Maka dari itu ini menjadi bahan yang harus dipertimbangkan oleh Komisi HAM ASEAN,” ujarnya.

Somphone hilang pada tanggal 15 Desember 2012 ketika sedang dalam perjalanan ke Vientiane. Banyak pihak menduga keterlibatan aparat kepolisian dan pemerintah Laos dalam insiden tersebut. Hal itu berdasarkan pada video yang merekam aktivitas Somphone sesaat sebelum dia diduga diculik.

Redaktur : Dewi Mardiani

Sumber : Antara

Laos government silent on abduction of rural development campaigner

Vancouver Sun, April 30, 2013

Officials of one-party state almost certainly behind abduction even though Sombath Somphone took care to never challenge the government

BY JONATHAN MANTHORPE

It’s hard to guess when Sombath Somphone crossed the line from being an accepted and cherished champion of rural development in Laos, to becoming a perceived threat to the one-party Communist state.

But that’s what happened.

Jonathan Manthorpe: Laos government silent on abduction of rural development campaignerEarly in the evening of Dec. 15 as Sombath was driving home in his Jeep from his office in the Lao capital Vientiane he was stopped at a police checkpoint on Thadeua Road, which runs by the Mekong River.

A few minutes later a man rode up on a motorcycle, parked it and drove off in Sombath’s jeep.

Then a pickup truck arrived at the checkpoint, Sombath got in, the truck drove off and he has not been seen or heard from since.

Others have disappeared in questionable circumstances in Laos, which, after the moves to civilian rule in Burma and economic reforms in Vietnam, remains the most recalcitrant one-party state in Southeast Asia. Continue reading “Laos government silent on abduction of rural development campaigner”

Quan ngại về giới hoạt động ở Lào

BBC News: 1 tháng 2013

By Jonah Fisher

Đây là trường hợp mà một thám tử loại trung bình có thể giải phá trong vòng một tuần. Vụ bắt cóc ông Sombath Somphone được ghi lại trên camera và diễn ra trên một con đường đông đúc tại một trạm kiểm soát của cảnh sát.

Ông Sombath là người thành lập tổ chức PADETC tại Lào

Thế nhưng hơn bốn tháng sau khi nhà hoạt động hàng đầu trong lĩnh vực phát triển của Lào mất tích, các nhà chức trách nói họ không có đầu mối nào và chưa cần tới trợ giúp từ bên ngoài trong việc tìm kiếm ông.

Chẳng có gì đáng ngạc nhiên khi các nhân viên cứu trợ và các nhà ngoại giao tại quốc gia nhỏ bé ở Đông Nam Á này đang lo sợ điều tồi tệ nhất có thể xảy ra

Vợ của ông Sombath, bà Shui-meng Ng, nhìn thấy chồng mình lần cuối trong chiếc gương chiếu hậu trên chiếc xe của bà.

Đó là hôm thứ Bảy ngày 15 tháng Mười Hai năm 2012, và hai vợ chồng bà đang đi xe về nhà trong hai chiếc xe riêng rẽ dọc con đường Thadeua, chạy song song với dòng sông Mekong.

Trước đó ông Sombath, 61 tuổi, đã đi tập thể dục buổi tối trong khi bà vợ người Singapore của ông dự một cuộc họp trong thành phố.

Tới cuối ngày, họ gặp nhau tại một cửa hàng nhỏ mà bà Shui-meng quản lý và quyết định về nhà.

Mặc dù không bị tắc nghẽn giao thông, hai xe mất liên lạc với nhau. Khi về đến nhà, bà Shui-meng đợi vài giờ sau đó đã quay trở lại để tìm chồng.

Sau khi không thấy bất cứ dấu vết nào của ông hay của chiếc xe Jeep của ông, sáng hôm sau bà đã trình báo việc ông bị mất tích.

Continue reading “Quan ngại về giới hoạt động ở Lào”

Wife pleads for return of abducted Laos aid worker

BBC video, 30 April 2013

Click this link or the image below to watch the video.

BBC_coverage_of_Sombath_disappearanceThe wife of a prominent Laos civil society leader who disappeared four months ago while driving home has urged that more be done to find her husband.

Security camera footage showed Sombath Somphone being taken away by unidentified men after he was stopped by police in the capital Vientiane.

The communist authorities in Laos say they do not know what has happened to him.

Mr Sombath had been campaigning for sustainable development and fair land rights for small farmer.

Fears grow for abducted Laos campaigner Sombath

BBC News: 30 April 2013

By Jonah Fisher

It is a case that a decent detective would crack in a week. Sombath Somphone’s abduction was caught on camera and took place on a busy road at a police checkpoint.

Mr Sombath founded the PADETC organisation in Laos

But more than four months after Laos’ leading development worker disappeared, the authorities say they have no leads and yet need no outside help finding him.

It is little wonder that aid workers and diplomats in this small South East Asian nation are fearing the worst.

Mr Sombath’s wife Shui-meng Ng last saw her husband in the rear-view mirror of her car.

It was Saturday, 15 December 2012, and the couple were driving home in their respective vehicles along Thadeua Road, which runs parallel to the Mekong River.

The Mr Sombath, 62, had been doing some early evening exercise while his Singapore-born wife had attended a meeting in town.

With the day coming to a close, they met up at the small shop Ms Shui-meng runs and decided to head home in convoy.

Despite the absence of traffic, the cars lost contact with each other. When she got home, Ms Shui-meng waited for several hours before heading back out to look for her husband.

Having found no trace of him or his Jeep, she reported him missing the next morning. Continue reading “Fears grow for abducted Laos campaigner Sombath”