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 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…)
AEPF: 06 July 2016
11th Asia- Europe People’s Forum – AEPF11
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”.
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.)
On 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.
Radio Free Asia: 07 July 2016
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…)