Sombath Somphone, EU aid, LDC status and human rights

At the UK Foreign Office, Andy Rutherford of the AEPF-IOC is asking…

In 2018, Lao PDR will be reviewed against markers for graduation from LDC status as a beginning of the process of assessing Lao PDR’s aspiration to graduate from LDC status by the 2020s.

…European development partners have committed approximately USD 550 million in support of the implementation of the Government’s 8th NSEDP (2016-2020). This represents over 30 percent of all the ODA received by the Lao Government to date. Nearly all of the European ODA is provided in grants.

 

International Human Rights organisations and the Asia Europe People’s Forum are of the opinion that the Lao Government is in breach of its human rights commitments, due to the enforced nature of Sombath’s disappearance and its failure to ensure the safe return of Sombath. There are also significant concerns about the restrictions on civil society.

 

Notwithstanding the clear statement of the European Union quoted above, it would appear that the ODA support given by the EU and other donors continues and that formally there have not been moves to suspend or change the flow of ODA in spite of human rights abuses by the Lao PDR.

 

…It is the view of many organisations that Lao PDR graduation from LDC status is not acceptable given its consistent record of human rights violations , including the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone.

Excerpts from letter to the Rt. Hon. Mark Field, Member of UK Parliament, from Andy Rutherford, member of International Organising Committee, Asia Europe People’s Forum

Final Declaration 9th Asia-Europe People’s Forum

This event is without a doubt the largest civil society event ever organized in the Lao PDR and regarded as the most successful AEPF to date. On that note, we Lao NPAs and iNGO civil society organizing partners of the AEPF9 are proud to share the AEPF9 Final Statement and look forward to cooperating with you in related follow up actions.

From the Final Declaration 9th Asia-Europe People’s Forum held in Vientiane, Lao PDR on 16-19 October, 2012.

Five years of silence…

Five years ago, Sombath Somphone gave the following keynote speech at the Asia-Europe Peoples’ Forum.

How many donors, diplomats or civil society organisations in Laos will dare to share his words today?

 

Challenges for Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development – A View from Laos

Sombath Somphone Founder and Advisor to PADETC

Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF9) 16-19 October, 21012, Vientiane, Laos

Excellency Dr. Thongloun SISOULATH, Deputy Prime Minister of the Lao PDR; Respected friends and colleagues from Laos, Asia, and Europe;

Ladies and gentlemen…

What an honor and what a pleasure it is for me to be welcoming you all to our small country, a land of gentle people but with big hearts. I am especially honored to represent Laos at this Asia-Europe People’s Forum to address you today and to share with you some thoughts on how we can together work towards reducing poverty and building a more sustainable future for ourselves and for our children. (more…)

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.
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