AEPF11 Final Declaration

AEPF11-LogoAEPF: 06 July 2016

11th Asia- Europe People’s Forum – AEPF11

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
6th July 2016

We, over 750 participants, representing social movements, people’s organisations and citizens from 42 countries across Asia and Europe joined together from the 4th to 6th July 2016 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia at the 11th Asia Europe People’s Forum under the title “Building New Solidarities: Working for Inclusive, Just, and Equal Alternatives in Asia and Europe”.

Urgent Concerns

Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone

On 15th December 2016, it will be four years since the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone.  Sombath was one of the main organisers of AEPF9 held in Vientiane just before ASEM9.  Sombath’s abduction on 15th December 2012 was captured by a police CCTV camera. Since then, the Lao Government has provided no meaningful information to Sombath’s family, friends and the public about his abduction and continuing disappearance. Instead, successive statements and actions by the Lao Government indicate a continuing denial of its basic responsibility and obligations.

We should be reminded that while concerns continue to be raised in the confines of the Universal Periodic Review and similar human rights dialogues, the policies and programmes of governments, donors, and development agencies remain largely unaltered. While Laos is the chair of ASEAN this year, for the first time in its history the parallel ASEAN People’s Forum must be held in another country.

We remind all ASEM member states of their human rights obligations, both domestically and internationally. We sincerely demand that the Lao Government complete their investigation into Sombath’s disappearance, make public the investigation report, and take forward appropriate legal processes against the perpetrators of the crime.  We urge ASEM member states to monitor the fulfilment of these demands and ensure that Sombath and his family receive the justice that is surely their right and that he is returned safely to his family.

(The full declaration can be seen here.)

An open letter to the 2016 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

AEPF-2016-06On the occasion of the eleventh Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, we are reminded of the ninth AEPF held in Vientiane, the capital of the Lao PDR, in 2012.

As the first international civil society forum held in the country, and building on widespread public consultations in every province, AEPF9 was hailed as a milestone for Lao civil society.

But there have been no more such events in the Lao PDR in the subsequent four years.

Soon after AEPF9, Sombath Somphone, the forum’s co-chairperson, was following up on intimidation of participants by authorities both during and after the forum. On December 15, he was stopped at a police check post and then taken away in full view of CCTV cameras.
(more…)

Disappearance Casts a Pall Over Laos as ASEAN Conference Looms

Radio Free Asia: 07 July 2016

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A 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines. AFP/Somphone family

Sombath Somphone’s shadow continues to hang over Laos, with the rural development expert’s disappearance in 2012 still haunting the country as it prepares to host the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Sombath’s abduction remains unsolved even though there is video footage of Sombath’s Jeep being stopped at a police checkpoint that also shows Sombath being herded into a white truck and taken away. In the video, a man dressed in white returns and drives off in his Jeep.

Though police promised to investigate, Lao authorities soon backtracked saying they could no longer confirm whether the man in the video footage was actually Sombath.

And that’s the way the case has remained despite international calls to solve it. (more…)

Surface missing devt worker Sombath: Asia-Europe People’s Forum to Lao govt

Interaksyon: 05 July 2016

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ULAAN BAATAR – Sombath Somphone, the missing development worker who won the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, has been a focal point of the 11th Asia-Europe People’s Forum here.

The estimated 500 participants from the two continents and the host country Mongolia were asked by Somphone’s wife Shui Meng Ng to sign a petition asking the Lao government to surface him now.

Ng’s message, read by Evelyn Balais-Serrano of the Bangkok-based Forum Asia, also asked the Lao government to conclude its four-year investigation into what the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, has already dubbed as a case of enforced disappearance.

Her assumption that “AEPF was a safe, inclusive space for civil society engagement was misplaced” when Somphone disappeared right in front of a police outpost in the Lao capital of Vientiane in December 2012, Ng said. (more…)

Shui-Meng’s remarks at AEPF11

Remarks by Ng Shui-Meng, read at the opening of the Asian-Europe People’s forum in Ulaanbataar:

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Greetings to all participants gathered together at this 11th AEPF in Ulaan Baatar. Once more representatives from civil society groups across Asia and Europe are gathered together for another Asia-Europe People’s Forum. Two years ago I was in Milan at the 10th AEPF recalling Sombath Somphone’s role and engagement in the 9th AEPF in Vientiane and his optimism and vision of seeing civil society groups, working alongside governments and businesses to support the fostering of more inclusive and sustainable societies across Asia and Europe, and especially for Laos. Unfortunately, Sombath’s aspirations and expectations of a safe and inclusive space for civil society engagement and debate were misplaced.  Two months after the 9th AEPF Sombath was disappeared right in front of a police post in Vientiane, with his abduction clearly recorded by the Lao police surveillance camera.

AEPF11-LogoNow, nearly four years later, Sombath is still missing. His abduction has been acknowledged world-wide as an “Enforced Disappearance”, and his case remains open at the UN Working Group for Enforced Disappearances, as well as at the UN Universal Periodic Review. To all the questions and calls for accountability of Sombath’s abduction, the Lao Government has stubbornly maintained the position that the state is not involved, and the police are still investigating.  (more…)