Southeast Asia’s performance is especially disheartening. The “disappearance” of Sombath Somphone, an internationally acclaimed civil society leader who was kidnapped from the streets of Vientiane in late 2012, is a glaring example of a worsening of the human rights situation in Laos.
From “They talk of war but it’s their own citizens these ‘strong’ men fear most,” in Euractiv, 21 February 2018
This event is without a doubt the largest civil society event ever organized in the Lao PDR and regarded as the most successful AEPF to date. On that note, we Lao NPAs and iNGO civil society organizing partners of the AEPF9 are proud to share the AEPF9 Final Statement and look forward to cooperating with you in related follow up actions.
From the Final Declaration 9th Asia-Europe People’s Forum held in Vientiane, Lao PDR on 16-19 October, 2012.
The decree [115/PM] reflects the view of the Lao government that civil society has a role to play in the country’s development, but civil society should play this role under the government’s control and in line with government policies and goals.
…The government accepts that CSOs have a role in service delivery in close collaboration with the state. The presence of CSOs on the ground is recognized, and the government expects efficient and inclusive service delivery, but also the downward accountability of CSOs.
…Donors (both INGOs and bilateral donors) expect Lao civil society to take up a broader and more diversified role beyond service delivery. Their general rationale for supporting civil society is the need for an improvement in governance and the promotion of a plurality of voices in Lao society.
…Cases of threat and harassment also happened to a number of other activists. People were put into insecurity and fear and Lao civil society in effect relapsed to an even worse state than prior to AEPF. The trust between government and civil society receded.
…In the past two years, the government has enforced more restriction and control on the participation of civil society in Round Table Meetings and other venues. The registration of non- profit associations (NPAs) has been more difficult with a very few new successful registrations since.
…Meanwhile, the AEPF incidents have left Lao civil society in trauma. Critical CSOs emerging during the period leading to the AEPF have either closed down or significantly diluted their work. Civil society workers now feel insecure when they speak of issues that differ from or critical of the government.
Excerpts from “Reflections on Lao Civil Society,” KEPA, March, 2015.
Monk’s chanting is not very interesting to the young people. But at the same time the young monks are very active and they want to do something. So I think linking these dynamic monks with young people is important so that the young people can learn about cultural and spiritual aspects though actually doing the work.
Sombath Somphone, Towards Global Transformation: Making Change Happen, at the 3rd International Conference on Gross National Happiness, November 2007, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Vientiane has never adequately addressed the 2012 disappearance of prominent community activist Sombath Somphone, a globally recognised figure. His apparent abduction indelibly scarred Laos’ international reputation.
From “Nations lose every time rights are denied” The Nation 27 June 2017