Sombath – 100 Days: Statement from the International Organising Committee of the Asia Europe People’s Forum

Alternative Regionalisms: Transnational Institute: 26 March 2013

Please-return-SombathOn December 15th 2012 Sombath Somphone disappeared, taken away in a truck by unknown persons after being stopped by police in the Lao capital, Vientiane. Nobody has seen or heard from him since.Today, March 25th 2013, is the 100th day since Sombath’s disappearance.

Despite sustained appeals from many hundreds of individuals and organizations and widespread, ongoing media coverage, the Lao government has yet to conduct a satisfactory investigation into Sombath’s disappearance or provided any explanation for his abduction. There have been repeated enquiries through diplomatic channels and two delegations of parliamentarians to Laos, one from ASEAN and one from Europe.

On the 6th February 2013 the European Parliament unanimously passed a resolution on ‘Laos: the case of Sombath Somphone’. The resolution formally calls on the EU to include Laos and the case of Sombath Somphone in its priorities for forthcoming sessions of the UN Human Rights Council.

In the absence of the safe return of Sombath to his family, many organisations and institutions and bodies outside Laos, are committed to beginning a new phase of international activity. The members of the International Organising Committee of the Asia Europe People’s Forum are committed to this new phase of activity. There is a deep commitment that from today until Sombath is safely returned to his family that the continuing disappearance of Sombath would begin to preface or even dominate bi-lateral, multi-lateral and international discussions with and about Laos.

This could happen with discussion at the WTO, with the Asia Development Bank, at the UN Human Rights Council to name but a few instances. Even, if it is still necessary, in due course it could influence discussions about Lao PDR’s graduation from LDC status.

Whilst Sombath has not returned safely to his family, there will be a growing negative effect on foreign engagement and foreign investment in Laos at a time where Laos is deeply committed to developing stronger ties and links. In 2013 there is now a very real possibility that the credibility of Laos will be deeply tarnished with significant negative effects whilst Sombath is not returned safely to his family.

In addition to Sombath’s disappearance there are also concerns that there is an increasing perception that the ‘spaces’ for dialogue, discussion and debate on how to achieve more sustainable economic and social development in Laos are becoming constricted. The climate of positive and constructive dialogue that was a part of AEPF9 is felt to have dissipated. This is of great concern and there is a call for positive measures and actions to be taken by the Lao Government to enable a secure environment that encourages learning and reflection and provides space for open, respectful, diverse and constructive debate for people committed to Sustainable Development in Laos.

International Organising Committee,

Asia Europe People’s Forum

Statement by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, on Sombath Somphone

US State Department
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
March 24, 2013      2013/0338
STATEMENT BY SECRETARY KERRY

100 Days since the Disappearance of Lao Civil Society Leader Sombath Somphone

Today marks the 100th day since the disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, a respected individual known for his work with non-governmental organizations, the government, and the international community.  Video footage suggests that Mr. Sombath may have been abducted from a police checkpoint in the capital city of Vientiane.  The United States shares the international community’s serious concerns about Mr. Sombath’s safety and well-being.  We call on the Lao government to do everything in its power to account for his disappearance without further delay.  We are concerned at the lack of significant information we have received from the Lao government about Mr. Sombath’s case, despite our offers to assist with the investigation and numerous expressions of concern about Mr. Sombath’s welfare.

Mr. Sombath’s disappearance resurrects memories of an earlier era when unexplained disappearances were common.  We note that Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations, including its accession to the World Trade Organization and its hosting of the Asia-Europe Summit Meeting last November.  Regrettably, the continuing, unexplained disappearance of Mr. Sombath, a widely respected and inspiring Lao citizen who has worked for the greater benefit of all of his countrymen, raises questions about the Lao government’s commitment to the rule of law and to engage responsibly with the world.

We join with countless organizations, governments, journalists and concerned citizens around the world in demanding answers to Mr. Sombath’s disappearance and urging his immediate return home.

ร้อยยี่สิบห้าองค์กร แปดสิบราษฏรไทยร้องนายกไทยร่วมนานาประเทศถามหาสมบัด สมพอน

วันนี้ (25 มีนาคม 2556) ภาคประชาชนและภาคประชาสังคมไทย 125 องค์กรพร้อมทั้งประชาชนอีกแปดสิบรายชื่อ ส่งจดหมายเรียกร้องต่อนางสาวยิ่งลักษณ์ ชินวัตร นายกรัฐมนตรีไทย ในโอกาสที่สมบัด สมพอน นักพัฒนาอาวุโสชาวลาว ถูกอุ้มหาย ทั้งนี้ แม้มีหลักฐานจากกล้องวงจรปิด แสดงให้เห็นว่าสมบัดโดนเรียกให้หยุดรถโดยเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจจราจรก่อนถูกกลุ่มชายฉกรรจ์มานำตัวไป ทางรัฐบาลลาวยังไม่มีคำตอบที่ชัดเจนให้กับประชาคมโลก ที่เฝ้าติดตามASEAN Watchและทวงถามถึงชะตากรรมของสมบัดแต่อย่างใด

จดหมายภาษาไทยอยู่ที่นี่ และ ภาษาอังกฤษอยู่ที่นี่

การถูกอุ้มหายของสมบัด สมพอน นักพัฒนาผู้มีบทบาทยอมรับกันไปทั่วโลก และถือเป็นราษฏรอาวุโสผู้มีบทบาทสำคัญยิ่งในลาว เกิดขึ้นในช่วงเวลาที่สปป. ลาวกำลังเปิดตัวเองเข้าเป็นส่วนหนึ่งของประชาคมโลก และเรียกร้องความช่วยเหลือร่วมมือจากนานาประเทศ ก่อให้เกิดกระแสความเป็นห่วงและคำถามมากมายต่อรัฐบาลสปป.ลาวจากทั่วโลก จดหมายจากประชาชนและภาคประชาสังคมไทย เรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลไทยมีส่วนร่วมคุ้มครองสิทธิพื้นฐานของประชาชนในสปป.ลาว ในฐานะที่ไทยเป็นเพื่อนบ้านใกล้ชิดที่มีส่วนในการสนับสนุนสปป.ลาวให้เข้าร่วมกับตลาดโลก เพื่อให้พ้นจากสภาพประเทศที่พัฒนาน้อยที่สุด (LDC) โดยให้นายกรัฐมนตรี “แสดงจุดยืนและความสมานฉันท์ร่วมกับชุมชนประชาคมโลก ในการให้ความสำคัญกับสิทธิของประชาชน ซึ่งเป็นเป้าหมายหลักที่จะได้รับประโยชน์จากการพัฒนาในประเทศสปป.ลาว ด้วยการส่งเสริมการเติบโตของภาคประชาสังคม ในการเคารพและคุ้มครองสิทธิมนุษยชนของประชาชน โดยให้ความสำคัญกับกรณีการอุ้มหายท่านสมบัด สมพอน โดยตระหนักว่า เหตุการณ์ดังกล่าวมีความสำคัญเทียบเท่ากับความร่วมมือในการพัฒนาของทั้งสองประเทศ” ทั้งนี้ ในความเห็นของภาคประชาชน การพัฒนาระหว่างไทย-ลาวที่ผ่านมา รัฐบาลยังเน้นการค้าการลงทุน แต่ยังละเลยประเด็นการพัฒนาที่ยั่งยืนและสิทธิพื้นฐานของประชาชนลาว ที่การถูกอุ้มหายของสมบัด สมพอน นักพัฒนาอาวุโสเจ้าของรางวัลแม็กไซไซปี 2548 ผู้มีความเชื่อว่า การพัฒนาที่แท้จริง ย่อมวัดได้จากดัชนีความสุข ไม่ใช่ดัชนีการเติบโตทางเศรษฐกิจเพียงอย่างเดียว จึงสะท้อนให้เห็นปัญหาที่มีอยู่ในลาวที่ไม่ได้รับการพูดถึงที่ต้องการการแก้ไข

“การหายตัวไปโดยไม่ได้รับคำตอบของบุคคลอย่างท่านสมบัด เป็นความเงียบงันอันเป็นสิ่งบ่งชี้ว่ามีข้อเท็จจริงบางประการในสังคมลาวที่ก่อให้เกิดความรุนแรงต่อผู้คนในลาว ที่ถูกละเลยไม่พูดถึงมาเป็นเวลานาน“ จดหมายระบุ

ในวันนี้ซึ่งเป็นวันครบรอบ 100 วันของการหายตัวไปของสมบัด สมพอน มีองค์กรทั้งภาคประชาชนและภาครัฐนานาประเทศ ส่งจดหมายและแสดงพลังร่วมกันไปยังรัฐบาลในประเทศของตน รวมทั้งทวงถามถึงสมบัด สมพอนกับสถานทูตลาวในประเทศต่าง ๆ รวมทั้งประเทศไทย ฟิลลิปปินส์ สหรัฐอเมริกา ออสเตรเลีย และประเทศในสหภาพยุโรป รวมทั้งนายจอห์น แคร์รี รมว.กระทรวงการต่างประเทศสหรัฐที่มีสารแสดงความเป็นห่วงของสหรัฐอเมริกาในวันนี้ด้วย โดยมีข้อความตอนหนึ่งในสารว่า “(การถูกอุ้มหายของสมบัด) ทำให้เกิดคำถามต่อระบบกฏหมายและความพันธะสัญญาและความรับผิดชอบของลาวต่อประชาคมโลก” อันทำให้เป็นข่าวชิ้นใหญ่ในหนังสือพิมพ์ฉบับใหญ่ในสหรัฐอเมริกาเช่นนิวยอร์ค ไทมส์ในทันที

ข้อมูลเพิ่มเติม กรุณาติดต่อ:

สุนทรี หัตถึ เซ่งกิ่ง คณะกรรมการประสานงานองค์กรพัฒนาเอกชน (กป.อพช)/ASEAN Watch-Thailand โทร. 089-713-2070

Legacy of People's Forum in jeopardy

The International Oganising Committee of the Asia Europe People’s Forum has issued a statement saying that due to the disappearance of Sombath Somphone and other recent developments “the legacy of the AEPF9 in Laos is in great jeopardy”

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 7.22.06 AMThe 9th Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF9) took place from 16 to 19 October 2012 in Vientiane. Sombath Somphone was the co-chair of the Lao National Organising Committee and a key note speaker during the Opening Day. He also facilitated the production of the highly acclaimed ‘Happy Laos’ film which was shown at the closing of the Forum.

The AEPF in Vientiane was initially deemed a success, but subsequent events have led to a reassessment by the Internal Organising Committee (IOC).  The latest statement by the IOC identifies four developments in Laos:

  • The ‘disappearance’ of Sombath Somphone on December 15th 2012
  • The expulsion of Anne-Sophie Grindroz, the Country Director of Helvetas.
  • An increasing perception that the ‘spaces’ for dialogue, discussion and debate on how to achieve more sustainable economic and social development in Laos are becoming constricted.
  • An increasing number of reports of harassment at the local level of participants in the AEPF9 who have been taking forward initiatives to promote sustainable development.

Due to these developments, the IOC is now of the view that…

The lived reality for many people in Laos today is in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of the Vientiane Declaration on Strengthening Partnership for Peace and Development agreed at the end of ASEM9.

The IOC statement concludes by calling upon the Government of Laos to sincerely and accountably take forward their commitments to enable space for open, respectful, diverse and constructive debate.

European Delegation: The clock is ticking for Laos with the case of Sombath Somphone

Press Statement by the European Delegation,  9th March 2013

A European Delegation was in the Lao Capital, Vientiane from the 6th to 9th of March 2013 to express their grave concern that Sombath Somphone, highly respected member of Lao civil society, has still not returned safely to his family. Sombath disappeared on the 15th December 2012, taken away in a truck by unknown persons after being stopped by police in Vientiane. Nobody has seen or heard from him since.

The Delegation formally presented to the Lao National Assembly and the Vice Foreign Minister of the Lao PDR the European Parliament Resolution on ‘Laos: the case of Sombath Somphone’, unanimously adopted on 6th February 2013.

Dutch Senator and Delegation leader Tuur Elzinga stressed that the delegation strongly felt that it was within the capacities of the Lao Government to ensure Sombath’s safe return to his family and that it is therefore essential that appropriate actions are prioritised.

He also stressed that for every day that passes without Sombath’s safe return to his family, the credibility of Laos weakens.

The 8th of March 2012 is the 83rd day since Sombath’s disappearance and for many organisations a 100 days is a time for reflection and taking stock on progress. If no positive result has been achieved a new phase of international activity will inevitably be entered as the European Parliament resolution formally calls on the EU to include Laos and the case of Sombath Somphone in its priorities for forthcoming sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. The year 2012 started a positive year for Laos’ credibility, both nationally and internationally, hosting the ASEM9 Summit and entering the WTO. Unfortunately this credibility is now at stake.

Senator Elzinga: ‘If Lao officials think the issue of Sombath’s disappearance will go away, they are wrong. It will be the first item on any agenda in bi-lateral, multi-lateral and international discussions with and about Laos, until Sombath is safely returned to his family’.

The full report of the delegation is available here.

Background:

The Delegation met with

  • Representative of the Government of the Lao PDR, the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Alounkeo Kittikhoun
  • The Vice President of The National Assembly of the Lao PDR, Mr.Somphanh Phengkhammy  and members of the National Assembly including Mr. Onsy Saensouk, Vice Chair of National Assembly Committee for Security and National Defence , Mr. Kisinh Sinphanngam Vice Chair and the National Assembly Law Committee and Mr. Khongsy Sisengdeuane, Deputy Permanent Secretary.
  • The Chargé d’Affaires, Head, of the European Delegation in Laos and Ambassadors from European Union member states in Laos
  • Representatives from Lao development organisations
  • Representatives from International NGOs based in Laos
  • Ng Shui-Meng, the wife of Sombath Somphone

Note for press:

Tuur Elzinga, Senator (for the Socialist Party) in the Dutch Parliament and member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Elzinga was accompanied by Andy Rutherford, a representative of the International Organising Committee of the Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), who had worked closely with Sombath in the preparations for and organising of the AEPF9 that took place in Vientiane between 16th and 19th October 2012 in the weeks before ASEM9.

Senator_Tuur_Elzinga_presents resolution_of_European_parliament_to Lao_National_AssemblyPhoto shows Senator Tuur Elzinga formally presenting the unanimously agreed Resolution of the 6th February 2013 of the European Parliament on ‘Laos: the case of Sombath Somphone’ to the Lao National Assembly. Vientiane, Laos Thursday 7th March 2013

The Resolution of the European Parliament is available here.

Laos: End Silence on ‘Disappeared’ Activist

Press release from Human Rights Watch

(Française)

(Việt)

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 9.39.28 AM(Bangkok, February 19, 2013) – Lao authorities have failed to provide information on leading social activist Sombath Somphone since his apparent enforced disappearance in December 2012, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its human rights commission should intervene in the case with the Lao authorities, who have denied detaining Sombath, and who have not reported his fate or location, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Lao government’s long silence about Sombath Somphone’s whereabouts increase our concerns for his safety,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities seem more focused on deflecting international criticism than genuinely investigating Sombath’s disappearance.”

There is strong evidence that Sombath, a prominent 60-year-old social activist who received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005, was forcibly disappeared by Laotian authorities in Vientiane, the capital, more than two months ago, Human Rights Watch said. He was last seen by his wife, Ng Shui Meng, on December 15 as they were driving separately back from his office to their home for dinner. Shiu Meng lost sight of Sombath’s jeep at around 6 p.m. near the police post on Thadeua Road (KM 3) in Vientiane, and he never arrived home.

Security camera footage from the Municipality Police Station, obtained by Shui  Meng, shows that Sombath’s jeep was stopped by police at the Thadeua police post at 6:03 p.m. Sombath was then taken into the police post. Later, a motorcyclist stopped at the police post and drove off with Sombath’s jeep, leaving his own motorcycle by the roadside. Another truck with flashing lights then came and stopped at the police post. Two people got out of the truck, took Sombath into the vehicle, and then drove off.

On December 19, the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement confirming the incidents as recorded on the security camera, but claimed he was kidnapped for personal or business reasons. Lao authorities have told Sombath’s family, foreign diplomats, United Nations agencies, and civil society groups across Asia that they have been investigating the case. But to date, they have provided no information on Sombath’s whereabouts, his fate, or who was responsible for his enforced disappearance, Human Rights Watch said.

“Lao authorities have not answered the simplest questions about this case, such as why, if Sombath was kidnapped, did the police at the scene do nothing to protect him,” Adams said. “The absence of any real investigation points to the government’s responsibility.”

Enforced disappearances are defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the fate or whereabouts of the person.

Enforced disappearances violate or threaten to violate a range of fundamental human rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Laos is a party, including prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and extrajudicial execution.

Laos is one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in September 2008. As a signatory, Laos is obligated under international law to refrain from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty.

Members of ASEAN, to which Laos belongs, should publicly raise their concerns about Sombath’s enforced disappearance, Human Rights Watch said. On February 19, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the commissioners of the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), calling for them to investigate the case. AICHR’s Terms of Reference provides the commission the right “to obtain information from ASEAN Member States on the promotion and protection of human rights.”

“Sombath’s disappearance is a major test for ASEAN and its human rights commission,” Adams said. “ASEAN’s silence in Sombath’s case reflects a deeply rooted lack of credibility in protecting the basic rights of people in Southeast Asia.”

The latest letter from Human Rights Watch to the Lao Government can be downloaded here.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Laos, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/laos

Australian Foreign Minister expresses concern

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr today held talks with Deputy Prime Minister and
Foreign Minister Dr Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos, in Vientiane.  After the meeting, Bob Carr confirmed via Twitter that he had expressed concern about the case of Sombath Somphone during his meeting.

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 12.02.09 PM

 

84 concerned parties

Please-return-SombathFebruary 13, 2013

Minister of The Prime Minister’s Office
President of The National Assembly
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Public Security
Vientiane, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic

CC:

ASEAN Secretary General
ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights
EU Subcommittee on Human Rights

Re:       Status of investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone

Dear Madams and Sirs:

We write to you once again with deepening urgency. It has now been almost two months since Mr. Sombath Somphone, founder and former Director of PADETC, was abducted from in front of a police post in Vientiane. Since that time, the Lao Government has claimed that authorities are seriously investigating the matter to arrive at the truth.

We note with great regret that to date, the Lao Government has provided virtually no meaningful updates about the investigation. On the contrary, reports from Vientiane indicate that false and slanderous rumours are being spread about why Mr. Sombath may have disappeared. Sombath Somphone is deeply respected both nationally and internationally for his integrity, honesty and service to his country. Suggestions of personal or business conflicts should be substantiated with credible evidence, or retracted and rejected. Such minimal standards of legal process are surely Mr Sombath’s due as a Lao citizen.

Mr. Sombath’s abduction and the lack of progress of the official investigation has received tremendous international attention and is tarnishing the reputation of the Lao PDR, placing the country’s international profile in serious jeopardy. As noted by the Lao Ambassador in Geneva, the Lao PDR is State party to seven core UN Human Rights Conventions and two Optional Protocols, and signatory to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. A résolution adopted by the European Parliament on February 7 calls on 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;”

We once again urge the Lao Government to act in good faith, expedite its investigation into Mr. Sombath’s abduction, and provide his family with meaningful updates on the progress of the investigation.

Swift actions by the Lao Government on this matter and the safe return of Mr. Sombath will surely bring credit to the country.

Respectfully,

  1. Alec Bamford, Thailand
  2. All India Forum of Forest Movements, India
  3. AKSI, Indonesia
  4. Andrew Bartlett, United Kingdom
  5. Andrew Nette, Australia
  6. Angela Savage, Australia
  7. Anne-Sophie Gindroz, Indonesia
  8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Thailand
  9. Bank Information Centre, USA
  10. Bert Cacayan, Terres des homes Germany, Philippines
  11. Brett M. Ballard, USA
  12. Brian Angelo Lim, Singapore
  13. Bruce Shoemaker, USA
  14. Carl Middleton, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
  15. Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  16. Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth, Sri Lanka
  17. Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
  18. Centre for Sustainable Development (CENESTA), Iran
  19. Chanida Bamford, Thailand
  20. Chris Greacen, USA
  21. Chris Lang, Indonesia
  22. Cheng Shuling, China
  23. Dani Setiawan, Anti Debt Coalition (KAU), Indonesia
  24. Don Macleod, United Kingdom
  25. Ellen Agger, Canada
  26. Emma Glesen, New Zealand
  27. Femy Pinto, Philippines
  28. FIAN International, Germany
  29. Finnish NGO Platform KEPA, Finland
  30. Focus on the Global South, Thailand, India and Philippines
  31. Forest Peoples Programme, United Kingdom
  32. Fresh Eyes–People to People Travel, United Kingdom
  33. Gary Lee, Australia
  34. Global Witness, United Kingdom
  35. Grainne Ryder, Canada
  36. Herman Kumara Wijethunge, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) Sri Lanka
  37. Hozue Hatae, Friends of the Earth Japan, Japan
  38. International Accountability Project, USA
  39. International Rivers, USA
  40. Jacquelyn Chagnon, USA
  41. Jenina Joy Chavez, Philippines
  42. Jeremy Ironside, New Zealand
  43. Jim Enright, Mangrove Action Project, Asia Regional Office, Thailand
  44. Joan Carling, Secretary General, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Thailand
  45. Jon Ungphakorn, Thailand
  46. Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt & Development, Philippines
  47. Karen Janigan, Canada
  48. Karin Downs, Mass. Dept. of Public Health, USA
  49. Keith Barney, Australian National University, Australia
  50. Ken Kampe, USA
  51. Kevin Kamp, USA
  52. Kenji Fukuda, Representative Director, Mekong Watch, Japan
  53. La Via Campesina, South Asia, India
  54. Lam Thi Thu Suu, Vietnam Rivers Network (VRN), Vietnam
  55. Laofang Bundidterdsakul, Lawyer, Thailand
  56. Lisa ter Woort, Canada
  57. Margie Law, Mekong Monitor, Australia
  58. Martin Lemenager, France
  59. Migrant Forum in Asia, Philippines
  60. Mueda Nawanat, Thailand
  61. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan
  62. Peta Colebatch, Australia
  63. Peter Swift, USA
  64. Philip Hirsch, University of Sydney, Australia
  65. Pierre-Marc Blanchet, France
  66. Pieter Jansen, Both ENDS, Netherlands
  67. Randall Arnst, USA
  68. Randall Ireson, USA
  69. Rebeca Leonard, United Kingdom
  70. Re:Common, Italy
  71. Roger Henke, Netherlands
  72. Roger Rumpf, USA
  73. Rural Poor Institute for Land & Human Rights Services (RIGHTS), Inc., Philippines
  74. Sabrina Kathleen, USA
  75. Samuel Martin, France
  76. Theresa Wong, Singapore
  77. Tipakson Manpati, Thailand
  78. The Cornerhouse, United Kingdom
  79. The Peoples’ Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA), Indonesia
  80. Towards Ecological Recovery & Regional Alliance (TERRA), Thailand
  81. Transnational Institute, Netherlands
  82. Walden Bello, Philippines
  83. Water Initiatives Odisha, India
  84. World Rainforest Movement, Uruguay

Resolution of the European Parliament

The case of Sombath Somphone was discussed at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasboug today (7th February 2013).  You can watch a video of the debate on YouTube.

The resolution was passed unanimously, with the following 9 points:

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;
  • Calls on the HR/VP to closely monitor the Lao government’s investigations about the disappearance of Sombath Somphone;
  • 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;
  • Welcomes the visit of a group of ASEAN parliamentarians to Laos in January 2013 to seek information about Sombath Somphone and calls on the ASEAN Human Rights Commission to establish an inquiry Committee to investigate the events surrounding the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone;
  • Calls on the EU to put Laos among its priorities for the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council;
  • Stresses that the Lao authorities should take all necessary steps to end the practice of arbitrary arrests and secret detention; calls on the Lao authorities to make enforced disappearance a criminal offense and to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; stresses that enforced disappearances are clear violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • 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;
  • Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the ASEAN Secretariat, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Government and Parliament of Laos.

The full text of the resolution can be seen here.

Urgent Appeal of Parliamentarians across Asia and Europe

Urgent Appeal of Parliamentarians across Asia and Europe for Mr. Sombath Somphone

 February 5, 2013

His Excellency
Thongsing Thammavong
Prime Minister
People’s Democratic Republic of Laos

Dear Excellency,

Re: Request urgent investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone

We, members of parliament across  Asia and Europe, write to you deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Mr. Sombath Somphone one of the most prominent Lao co-organizers of the Asia Europe People’s Forum 9, the founder and former Director of PADETC and one of the most respected and influential voices for sustainable people-centred and just economic and social development in Laos as well as in Asia.

Mr. Sombath Somphone has been missing since about 5 pm on Saturday December 15th 2012. His wife and colleagues last saw Mr. Sombath Somphone on December 15 at 5 pm when he left the PADETC office in Vientiane to go home.  He left the office in his own car; his wife was in another car.  He did not reach home and his family has had no news from or about him since then.

We are concerned about his safety, his state of health and his well-being.

We are aware that the International Organising Committee of the Asia Europe People’s Forum has worked intensively with Mr. Sombath Somphone over the last year. His contribution to the successful Asia Europe People’s Forum 9 in Vientiane on the 16-19 October was extremely significant, widely recognized and deeply respected.  In addition he is a highly respected educationalist, inspiration for sustainable development and a recipient of the prestigious international Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005.  He has dedicated his life to sustainable development and poverty reduction in the Lao PDR, and has contributed positively to numerous international processes, including the AEPF9. Mr. Sombath is an inspiration to development practitioners all over the world.

We are deeply concerned for Mr. Sombath’s safety and well-being and his disappearance is cause for great alarm.

We urge the Lao Government to immediately and urgently initiate an investigation into Mr. Sombath’s disappearance.  And, we call on the government to undertake all actions necessary to ensure his immediate safe return to his family.

Yours sincerely,

SIGNATURES Continue reading “Urgent Appeal of Parliamentarians across Asia and Europe”