He’s a Listener…

Castan CentreHe has also a very strong respect for indigenous practices and local wisdom. He always believes that you could not survive in farming if you did not know what to do.

Not like some agriculture specialists nowadays who walk straight into a developing country and say ‘We can teach you what to do.’

Sombath never did that. He always tried to learn and listen first, and that has always been the way he works with other people. He’s a listener. He doesn’t talk very much. He listens first.

Ng Shui Meng, in remarks given at Castan Event: Enforced Disappearances in Asia: the case of Sombath Somphone, held at the Monash University, Melbourne, Australia on 06 March 2014.

On human capacity in Laos

…the Lao have certain capacities that we don’t put as much value on as we should: The capacity to share; the capacity to care. It’s very high here. But we don’t see that as capacity.

On Economics and DevelopmentThis video is one of a series from an interview by Ore Huiying with Sombath in August, 2010.

Let the Young People Work on It

sombath_fishing_skillsThe most effective way of bringing about holistic education is the participation of young people in designing the future of our education and pattern of development. Young people themselves are more open-minded to new ideas and behaviors and should take ownership in designing their own future. We, adults, are not their future. We, adults, have broken the world. And we do not know how to fix it. So let the young people work on it. We can use our wisdom, not greed, and compassion to guide and mentor them.

Sombath, in “Interconnectedness for Happiness Together,” Asian Public Intellectuals Newsletter, March-August 2012.


Dear Sombath…from Anne-Sophie Gindroz (1)

Dear Sombath

These words are to thank you
Thank you for what I have learnt with you
Not only the what, but more importantly the how
As the journey matters more than the destination.

You believe in education
Not to reduce the world to few theories
But to learn from diversity,
Not to frame minds into models
But to stimulate critical thinking.

You practice education that opens windows
Not education that builds walls,
Because power lies in consciousness
And freedom to make own decisions.

Dear Sombath,
I admire the way you navigate authoritarian systems
Led by your unshakable faith
That there is wisdom in every mind
And kindness in every heart.

You always look for common grounds
Always to engage, never to confront
Compromising not on the fundamentals
But on time necessary to make these acceptable.

Real authority is not the one imposed by others
But the one we retain on our life choices,
When we follow values instead of orders
And obey sense of justice rather than duty.

And this is all part of happiness
This ultimate goal that should guide us all,
Which can’t be measured by individual wealth
Nor economic growth based development.

If freedom is about making own choices
Happiness comes from this deep and strong conviction
That we are making the right choices
As individual, community members, citizens of the world.

Dear Sombath,
Beyond awards and public recognition
You are a leading figure for your community
A father for so many young people
And a cherished friend for those who got to know you.

You have gained respect for what you are
Living by those values you believe in
And your humility and wisdom
Are more powerful than violence and lies.

Bodies are not immortal, but souls are
People might disappear, but ideals remain
Cultivated by younger generations,
Nurtured by their quest for harmony and justice.

Dear Sombath,
Your light will shine on
Like stars in the sky
Your presence will always be
Like hope in my heart.