Seventy-two states made 203 recommendations, and the Lao government accepted 119 of them.
Ninety-three of those accepted recommendations called for a specific action, yet nearly two and one-half years later, and half-way until the next review, authorities have yet to release their plan for follow-up.
And while civil society organisations often play important roles in the follow-up and monitoring of the UPR implementation, those in Laos are apparently obliged to wait for the government plan.
At the 2nd Regional Consultation Meeting for the ACSC/APF held in Vientiane on 10-11 May, Dr. Maydom Chanthanasinh, Chair of Lao CSOs, said that lack of finances was the main reason the Asean People’s Forum will not be held in Laos this year.
However, it was earlier reported the decision not to hold the event in Laos was taken by CSOs themselves in a meeting convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs in late September, 2015.
At the same Regional Consultation Meeting, Dr. Yong Chanthalangsy, Director General of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assured participants that there are no restrictions on human rights CSOs in the Lao PDR.
As Laos celebrates its traditional new year, a few points to ponder:
While the Lao government claims it is continuing to investigate Sombath’s disappearance, no results have been released in nearly three years. But is anybody still asking?
Within days of his disappearance, Sombath’s family filed an appeal with the Supreme People’s Prosecutor. Authorities later claimed the document had been lost. But were attempts made to replace it?
Sombath co-chaired the Asia-Europe People’s Forum in 2012, and was abducted soon thereafter. Will AEPF be raising Sombath’s case at their meeting in Mongolia this July?
Will Sombath, other human rights issues, or the challenges facing Lao civil society be addressed at this year’s Lao Studies Conference in July?
Lao NPAs (and/or the Lao government) declined to host the Asia People’s Forum in Laos this year, in part because of issues surrounding Sombath. Will his plight be discussed at the ACSC/APF in East Timor?
The EU and other donors are providing significant support for INGOs and NPAs to follow-up on the Universal Periodic Review, which includes ten recommendations to more seriously investigate Sombath’s disappearance. Is Sombath’s name mentioned in any of this work?
Will world leaders attending this year’s ASEAN summit speak of Sombath or the worsening human rights situation in Laos, or will wider geopolitical issues prevail?
Will donors accept even more restriction, non-transparency and self-censorship at this year’s High-Level Donor Roundtable meeting?