Greetings from the Netherlands. I was asked to write you a letter. That is not easy, I don’t know where you are, how you are; are you still in this world? It is very difficult to imagine that your presence is no longer under your own control. The first time we shared an event was the Gross National Happiness conference in Canada in 2005. We all got absorbed in the joyful style of this conference and the place that was given to spirituality, good food, the First Nation people of Canada, art, the initiators from Bhutan and to young people. You wholeheartedly joined the preparations for the next GNH conference, first in Thailand for partners from the Mekong region, and in 2007 the international event in Nongkhai and Bangkok, Thailand. You had hosted the visit of a delegation from Bhutan to PADETC and several places in Laos in order to familiarize our Bhutanese friends with the way of life in the Mekong region. We discovered a lot of the same intentions across countries: in particular to support young people in their discovery of genuine happiness; and how to integrate this happiness perspective in education.
You presided over the interreligious opening ceremony at Wat Hin Mak Peng, just the opposite bank of the Mae Kong River from Vientiane. You spoke at the provincial hall in Nongkhai and at the main auditorium of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. The memories come back now as we prepare for the next GNH conference in Thimphu, Bhutan. We all miss you dearly, Sombath.
What I most remember, now, is that we meditated and prayed for the wellbeing of all people at many occasions. You often led us in these meditations. When I go back to these moments of silence I feel united with you, with all the people you prayed and worked so hard for. With effort I feel even united with the people who are responsible for your disappearance. May we all be well and happy and realize the sometimes awful mistakes we made. Let us try to bring back your sincere intentions and your inner strength.
Hans van Willenswaard, School for Wellbeing Studies and Research
Today I stand before you humbled and also a little sad that it is I who is here to receive this Special Award for Human Rights on behalf of my husband, Sombath Somphone. It would have been such a happy occasion, and such an honor, if Sombath could be here to receive this award himself. Unfortunately, circumstances do not allow it. Sombath was disappeared…
…Sombath always says that development and progress cannot be guided only by technical knowledge and science alone. Development and progress must be underpinned by spiritual values – values of compassion, kindness, respect of all life (human and animal) and respect for nature.
Gwangju Human Rights Award Committee has also selected Sombath Somphone of Laos who is the founder of the Participatory Development Training Center in Vientiane as a recipient of Special Award of 2015. Sombath Somphone has over more than 30 years worked vigorously and tirelessly empowering and training the youth of Laos, promoting quality education, and ecologically sustainable development especially in poor rural communities. Unfortunately, he was disappeared right in front of a police post on December 15, 2012. His abduction was recorded on the police surveillance camera (CCTV) and has been seen by many people all over the world.
The authorities of Laos have denied any involvement in his disappearance. The May 18 Memorial Foundation has decided to launch the campaign to urge the Lao Government Authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation to find him and return him safely to his family and to the global community.
We hope this Special Award will contribute to raising awareness of his disappearance and finding his whereabouts and bringing him back to his family as soon as possible.
We promote technologies which are relevant, simple, low-cost, and fairly assured of quick returns. If successfully implemented a relationship of trust will emerge between the project team and the villagers.
Sombath is quite a special man, he looks at the potential of how to share ideas, concepts. He never says “this is my idea,” but “I saw this thing is useful for society–what is your idea?”
He is open, just stimulates thinking. I was in media, a creative person, but in my mind I never thought of the social aspects, just broadcasting. But Sombath thought of alternative media for the country.
He is a creative person, Like sang san (ສ້າງສັນ) in the Lao language, it means creation, or to seek. He is thinking more rapidly, ahead of many people. Something like dreaming, but not only a dream, but doing real things. He is an open person. In meetings he never stops anyone from saying things. He records and then shows this is your idea not mine.
Sombath did many things differently.
Draft translation from interviews done with many of Sombath’s colleagues. Original Lao transcripts currently unavailable.
This award is also for our young Lao volunteers and youth leaders, who have demonstrated to us, the adults, that they have the capacity, and indeed the right, to claim the space to determine their own and their community’s development pathway. I believe that it is their passion and their hopes and dreams for a better future which are recognized and celebrated through this prestigious award today.
Today, 17 February, is your birthday. This is the third year that you have not celebrated your birthday with me. Not having you with me is already very difficult; but not having you with me on this special day is even harder to bear.
So, to mark the day, members of your family and I went to offer food for the monks in the forest temple, Wat Na Khoune Noi, the temple that you have been so closely associated with. This is the temple where you first started the Buddhist Development Program (BDP), under the protective endorsement from Phra Arjan Sali, the Vice Partriarch of the Buddhist Sangha. Through the BDP you were able to introduce to some monks the concepts of Engaged Buddhism, a system of Buddhist teachings and practice that encourage the monastics to step outside the confines of their temples and be more engaged in issues that affected the wider community and society. Continue reading “Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (7)”
The bank will continue to be the bank and continue to operate as a bank. The people who work in the bank are the people who are the product of the education system which basically doesn’t make the connection between things.
…To ask the bank to be part of sustainable development is very difficult, because that have a certain mandate which is basically to give loans. So they can be a part of the players, but we cannot rely on them too much.
Remarks by Sombath at a panel discussion held at the FCCT in Bangkok, Thailand, 10 November 2008