Who will choose Lao ACSC/APF participants?

While the Lao PDR was not able to host the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum last year, applications for participants from Laos to this year’s event in Manila are open.

Criteria include (unofficial English translation):

  1. ​ເປັນພົນລະເມືອງລາວທີ່ມາຈາກອົງການຈັດຕັ້ງຕ່າງໆ, ສະມາຄົມ ແລະ ມຸນນິທິ​ ທີ່ມີ​ຄວາມສົນໃຈກ່ຽວກັບວຽກງານພາກປະຊາຊົນ​ອາຊຽນ. Lao citizen from various organisations (associations and foundations) with an interest in ASEAN civil society work.
  2. ເປັນຜູ້ທີ່ມີຄວາມສາມາດໃນການສື່ສານ ແລະ ເຂົ້າໃຈພາສາອັງກິດດີສົມຄວນ. Reasonably able to communicate in and understand English.
  3. ເປັນຜູ້ທີ່ມີຄວາມເຂົ້າໃຈດີສົມຄວນ​ກ່ຽວກັບວຽກງານ​ຂອງອົງການຈັດຕັ້ງທາງສັງຄົມ ແລະ ວຽກງານເວທີ​ພາກປະຊາຊົນ​ອາຊຽນ. Appropriate knowledge of the work of social-sector organisations and ASEAN fora.
  4. ຜູ້ທີ່ມີປະສົບການຜ່ານຈາກກອງປະຊຸມ​ເວທີພາກປະຊາຊົນ​ອາຊຽນ ແລະ ເຂົ້າຮ່ວມກິດຈະກຳ​ພາກປະຊາຊົນ​ອາຊຽນ ຫລື ຢູຣົບ ແມ່ນຈະໄດ້ຮັບພິຈາລະນາພິເສດ. Those with past experience at the ACSC/APF and attendance at activities for ASEAN or European forums will be give special consideration.
  5. ເປັນຜູ້ທີ່ມີ​ເວລາເພື່ອເຂົ້າຮ່ວມ ແລະ ປະກອບສ່ວນເຂົ້າກິດຈະກຳຕ່າງໆຢູ່ພາຍໃນ ແລະວຽກ​ງານພາກປະຊາຊົນ​ອາຊຽນຢ່າງຫ້າວຫັນ. Sufficient time to attend and activitely participate in various internal and ASEAN civil society actvities.
  6. ເປັນຜູ້ທີ່ມີຄວາມສາມາດກຸ້ມຕົນເອງໃນການໃຊ້ຈ່າຍເຂົ້າຮ່ວມກອງປະຊຸມເວທີ​ພາກປະຊາຊົນ​ອາຊຽນ​ຍິ່ງເປັນການດີ. Abilty to pay own costs for attending the ACSC/APF.

Applicants can send a letter of interest to assi…@lao-cso-network.org  before 23 June.

Participants will be selected by the APF Committee, although the makeup of this committee is not specified.

Apparently, members of Lao civil society who are not selected will not be allowed to attend.

Sombath, Humanity & Nature at ASCS/APF

Dili-APF-2016-03“Humanity & Nature,” a workshop on traditional and alternative perspectives about humanity’s relationship with the environment was held on August 4th at the ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) in Dili, Timor Leste.

Topics discussed included Sombath’s work and philosophy, holistic education, gross national happiness, traditional wisdom, and agro-ecology. A video from an earlier workshop on these issues was also shared.

Government-appointed CSO representatives from the Lao PDR also briefly attended, apparently to monitor who was participating. Others stood for a picture of solidarity just after the event.

Limited Freedom of Expression

ACSC-APF 2016 LogoThe ACSC/APF 2016 will not take place in Lao PDR, due to concerns over possible restrictions and limited freedom of expression on key issues of concerns of ASEAN which are inconsistent with the agreed ACSC/APF’s modality of engagement.

From the CSO Statement of the 2016 ACSC/APF recently held in Timor Leste. Ironically, the forum’s Regional Steering Committee imposed their own restrictions and limitations by releasing the statement before participants at the forum could voice their concerns on its contents.

Workshop on Sombath at ACSC/APF

ACSC-APF-2016-Humanity & NatureLao civil society representatives made it clear that Sombath’s name, among other issues, would not be welcome at a ACSC/APF event held in Laos. For this and other reasons, the event was moved to Timor-Leste.

“Humanity and Nature” will be held from 16:15-18:15 PM on August 4th in room two of the Alola Foundation.

Speakers include:

  • Ng Shui Meng, Spouse of Sombath Somphone
  • Genito Santana, Kdadalak Sulimutuk Instititute
  • Cheek Sophea, Focus on the Global South
  • Myrna Dominguez, Integrated Rural Development Foundation
  • Sam Zarifi, International Commission of Jurists

Upcoming Asean forum must listen to Lao civil society

Bangkok Post: 02 August 2016

Sombath Somphone was disappeared at a police checkpoint near Vientiane more than three years ago, and the Laos government refuses to discuss his case. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu) 

The Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) which is to take place today in Dili, Timor-Leste appears to be clouded by uncertainty and fears.

Concerns have emerged as there have been no indications that the three-day meeting, as stated during preparatory events in March and May, can provide a safe space for Laos’ progressive and independent civil society organisations (CSOs) — a space where they can offer critiques, raise concerns and voice dissenting opinions on various issues, including human rights violations, forced disappearances and the negative impact of infrastructure development projects on ordinary peoples’ lives.

By safe, I mean that even in the presence of government-sponsored NGO representatives, the voices of members of independent CSOs shall be heard. That they shall be allowed to organise and conduct their own panels and don’t feel threatened or intimidated. Continue reading “Upcoming Asean forum must listen to Lao civil society”

Update: Lack of funding now main reason ASEAN People’s Forum not held in Laos

ACSC-APF 2016 LogoAt 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.

Dear Sombath…from Galileo

Dear Sombath,

GalileoI began meeting you only after they said you were gone, a victim of enforced disappearance.

I first met you in an email sent by my colleague at Focus on the Global South, Joseph Purugganan exactly one year ago, when I first joined the organization as a budding activist. He mentioned of the dramatic rise in the killing of environmentalists all over the world and the need to programmatically address the issue of extrajudicial killings and criminalization of dissent, as part of the Sombath Initiative and Focus’ broader Power and Democracy program. I was intrigued by your life so I began digging deeper and learning more about your ideas and ideals.

We are similar, in a way, in our preference of working in the field with the people rather than writing about it.

I met you for the second time, in Malaysia, in the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF). People were talking about you. People spoke of how you pioneered the use of Participatory Rural Appraisal in Laos and how you helped the Lao people to come up with solutions by themselves. Continue reading “Dear Sombath…from Galileo”

Is Sombath Being Forgotten?

Logo-Speak Out-Points to PonderAs 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?

ครบรอบ 3 ปี “สมบัด สมพอน” เจ้าของรางวัลแมกไซไซ ถูกอุ้มหายไร้ร่องรอย

ข่าวสด: 15 ธันวาคม 2558

01-police-stop-jeep-talk-to-sombathเมื่อวันที่ 15 ธ.ค. สำนักงานแอมเนสตี้ อินเตอร์เนชั่นแนล ออกแถลงการณ์ เนื่องในโอกาสครบรอบสามปีการหายตัวไปของนายสมบัด สมพอน เจ้าของรางวัลรามอน แมกไซไซ สาขาผู้นำชุมชน ในปีพ.ศ.2548 โดยเป็นจดหมายจ่าถึงรัฐบาลสปป.ลาว ระบุถึงความกังวลจากทุกมุมโลกต่อการหายตัวไป และการขาดการสืบสวนอย่างมีประสิทธิภาพในกรณีของนายสมบัด สมพอน มีใจความว่า

“การหายตัวไปของนายสมบัด สมพอนเป็นเรื่องที่น่าเป็นห่วงอย่างยิ่ง เพราะถึงแม้ว่ามีภาพจากกล้องวงจรปิดที่สามารถบันทึกเหตุการณ์ที่แสดงให้เห็นถึงการลักพาตัวนายสมบัด สมพอน ณ ด่านตรวจของเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจบนถนนท่าเดื่อ อำเภอสีสัดตะนาก กรุงเวียงจันทน์ ในตอนค่ำของวันที่ 15 ธันวาคม พ.ศ.2555 จนถึงปัจจุบันนี้ ยังไม่มีความคืบหน้าในการดำเนินการสืบสวนเพื่อหาตัวและนำนายสมบัดกลับคืนสู่ครอบครัวอย่างปลอดภัย”

จดหมายดังกล่าวยังตั้งข้อสังเกตว่า จากการหน่วยราชการอ้างว่ามีการดำเนินการสืบสวนอยู่นั้น เป็นสิ่งที่ยากจะเชื่อถือ  เพราะกระทรวงต่างๆ ที่รับผิดชอบยังไม่ได้เปิดเผยข้อมูลใดๆ ที่เป็นรูปธรรมและโปร่งใสว่า ได้มีการสืบสวนอย่างละเอียดถี่ถ้วนโดยเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจแล้ว

“ในทางกลับกันทั้งเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐและรัฐบาลลาวกลับมิได้ให้การตอบสนองอย่างเพียงพอต่อการร้องขอข้อมูล มักปฏิเสธที่จะตอบสนองใดๆ อีกทั้งยังมีความพยายามที่จะยุติ หรือหลีกเลี่ยงที่จะกล่าวถึงความกังวลของภาคประชาสังคมลาวและระดับภูมิภาคต่อการบังคับบุคคลให้สูญหายกรณีนายสมบัด สมพอน Continue reading “ครบรอบ 3 ปี “สมบัด สมพอน” เจ้าของรางวัลแมกไซไซ ถูกอุ้มหายไร้ร่องรอย”

Laos Refuses to Host Meeting of ASEAN Civil Society Groups

Radio Free Asia: 12 October 2015

Thida Khus, executive director of Cambodian NGO Silaka, addresses the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum in Malaysia, April 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of Silaka

Laos will not host a meeting of civil society organizations (CSO) in Southeast Asia on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit next year, a local official said, citing potential criticism by participants against governments in the region and inadequate resources as among reasons for the decision.

Maydom Chanthanasinh, Chairman of the Lao CSO Committee, told RFA’s Lao Service that a regional steering committee meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) People’s Forum next month will decide which country will host the next talks among the CSOs.

Laos will take over the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year from Malaysia.  The 10 ASEAN member countries take turns to host the grouping’s summit every year and typically organize a meeting for civil society organizations in the region on its sidelines. Continue reading “Laos Refuses to Host Meeting of ASEAN Civil Society Groups”