“While Sombath has always advocated broader dialogue and participation on the overall development approaches in Laos and, especially advocated for sustainable development which is more balanced, taking into consideration development’s impact on culture, nature, spiritual well-being, as well as the economy, he never criticized specific projects nor actively supported any organizing against hydro-power dams.”

Ng Shui Meng, quoted in Dam dilemmas: Laos cashes in on hydro

EU Statement for Round Table

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 22.53.08 PMEuropean partners regard the unexplained disappearance of Mr Sombath Somphone as a very serious matter. We express our grave concern regarding his safety and wellbeing. European partners regard the statements made by the Government of Lao PDR on this case as neither sufficient nor convincing. We call on the Government of Lao PDR to conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation of this case…

From European Development Partners Statement at Lao PDR’s Round Table Meeting. 19 November 2013

Climate Change

Our hearts go out to the people of the Philippines, and in particular those friends and colleagues who have shown so much support and solidarity.

Now with 7 billion habitants, we begin to be concerned if we are overshooting the carrying capacity of the earth. The urban population has now overtaken that of the rural. The gaps between the have and have‐not continue to widen. Climate change resulting from industrial pollution is threatening the life‐support system of planet earth. Everyone wants to make more money, and everything is monetized.

Sombath Somphone, in The Force of Inter-connectedness


Laos’ UN Human Rights Council ambitions

Please-return-SombathImagine a man thinking and discussing about development in his country — many people know him, a regular person like you and me.

Imagine he organises civil society meetings which are transparent and non-controversial, open to everyone – including his own government.

Imagine that he is stopped one night ten months ago at a police post and never reappears.

Imagine that the last images of him getting out of his car are caught on closed circuit TV and shown to his family – but that this original footage is never released for analysis.

Imagine European parliamentarians and others in the EU openly and repeatedly calling for this man’s return—but receiving no answer.

Imagine how other human rights activists in his country feel when they see this happening.

And imagine that this country will apply for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in the near future.

The country is Laos, and the man is Sombath Somphone.

Katharine Derderian, Amnesty International EU Foreign Policy Officer. The full statement can be seen here.

The European Parliament

…whereas Sombath Somphone, a prominent figure in social development and youth education, disappeared on 15 December 2012 in the capital city of Vientiane…

…whereas there are violations of fundamental freedoms, particularly press and media freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, academic freedom and the rights of minorities in Laos…

The European Parliament

…Expresses its deep concern about the disappearance, safety and well-being of Sombath Somphone…

…Is concerned about the tardiness and lack of transparency of the investigation into the disappearance of Sombath Somphone; calls on the Lao authorities to undertake prompt, transparent and thorough investigations, in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law, and to ensure the immediate and safe return of Sombath Somphone to his family…

…Asks the Lao authorities to reaffirm publicly the legality and the legitimacy of the work for sustainable development and social justice, in order to counter the intimidation provoked by disappearances such as of Sombath Somphone…

…Calls on the EU to put Laos among its priorities for the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council…

…Calls on the Government of Laos to respect the rights of expression and association, the rights of minorities and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief ending all restrictions on the exercise of this right, as recommended at the UN Universal Periodic Review on 21 September 2010…

From Resolution of European Parliament on 06 February 2013

A Wonderful Person

In those days…most Laotians left the country, if they could. But Sombath decided to return to his country, and I think he is a wonderful person, very brave. He want to serve his country, and he had been doing so ever since. Bravely, skillfully, humbly, and I have known him all through this years, with much admiration…

…we respect the Lao government and we hope the Lao government will do everything they can to make sure that Sombath is a free person soon, because that will give Lao great credit, since we are now all very serious about ASEAN, but people think of ASEAN in terms of money and economics, but the essence of ASEAN is human dignity, human rights, and deep down, Lao has that…

…and I think Lao would have much reputation sharing with their neighbors that they care for human rights…

…It would be a great pity if he disappeared. It would be too much damage to the Lao government.

Sulak Sivaraksa at Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand on 21 December 2012


A More Balanced Development Model

To truly achieve the vision of our founding fathers of building a nation governed by the people and for the people and guided by the rule of law to bring about ‘peace, independence, solidarity, and prosperity for all Lao’, the Lao leaders and policy makers must shift away from the current predominantly western capitalist development model of economic growth and the ‘get rich quick’ mentality. Laos’ development policy and strategies need to become more holistic and balanced and take into consideration 4 dimensions of (1) economic or livelihood security; (2) cultural integrity and continuity; (3) environmental sustainability; and (4) good governance. It is only by adopting such a balanced development model that Laos can achieve longterm sustainable growth and poverty reduction, which is also the theme advocated by the Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF).

From “Lao Vision Statement and Recommendation for Actions presented to AEPF9.”

Listening to the youth


Mr Sombath said our greatest hope is listening to the youth and listening to the children. He said the children in Laos are very smart and they have great ideas and want to be a part of the change in Laos.

Laos kids express hope for the future through images” MindaNews: 07 September 2013

Culture of Silence

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller, speaking about the inaction of intellectuals during the Nazis’ rise to power.

According to Wikipedia, a Culture [or Conspiracy] of Silence “…relates to a condition or matter which is known to exist, but by tacit communal unspoken consensus is not talked about or acknowledged…[including]…Breaches of human rights, such as vanishing persons…”