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?

Statement from AEPF

Asia Europe People’s Forum: 15 December 2015

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Lao People’s Democratic Republic – Sombath Somphone’s enforced disappearance and demands for his safe return

The Asia Europe People’s Forum International Organizing Committee remains deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Mr. Sombath Somphone. It is now three years today since his enforced disappearance.

Sombath is one of the most respected and influential voices for sustainable people‐centred and just economic and social development in Laos. He is the founder and former Director of the Participatory Development Training Centre (PADETC), and the winner of the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership. He was the most prominent Lao co‐organizer of the Asia Europe People’s Forum 9 (AEPF9), which was held in October 2012 in the Lao capital Vientiane, before the Asia‐Europe Meeting, ASEM9.

On 15th December 2012 Sombath Somphone disappeared, taken away in a truck by unknown persons after being stopped by police in Vientiane. Nobody has seen or heard from him since. Continue reading “Statement from AEPF”

Pre-Session for Universal Periodic Review

LMHR-LogoA pre-session for the Universal Periodic Review of the Lao PDR (scheduled for January, 2015) was held on 03 December in Geneva. While many international human rights organisations did not attend the session, a briefing paper summarising UPR submissions from some groups was compiled.

The summary includes the following recommendations:

  • APHRImmediately undertake a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation, consistent with international standards, into the apparent enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, publicly release original images of the closed circuit television (CCTV) video of Sombath’s disappearance, and accept offers from foreign experts to assist in examining evidence, including the CCTV footage.
  • Human Rights WatchImplement the commitments made during the 2010 UPR, including by becoming a party to the ICPPED and incorporating all provisions of the various international human rights treaties to which the Lao PDR is a party.
  • Amend its Penal Law to provide for criminal liability for all acts of enforced disappearance and corresponding penalties accounting for the extreme seriousness of these acts.
  • Forum AsiaAllow Ng Shui Meng, Sombath Somphone’s wife, to have access to files and findings of the investigation and other information to which she is entitled.
  • Provide Ng Shui Meng with access to an effective remedy and reparation for the enforced disappearance of her husband.
  • Undertake a thorough, impartial, and effective investigation into all allegations of enforced disappearances, including those related to the nine activistsICJ arrested on 2 November 2009 in connection with planned peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy, justice, and respect of their land rights.

AEPF Participants call on ASEM

119 participants at the 10th Asia-Europe People’s forum signed a petition to the ASEM heads of states and government:

aepf10logoEnforced disappearance is never an internal matter in any country.  It is a contravention of international law and widely held to be a crime against humanity. Sombath’s family and friends and the people of Laos have the right to the truth, to know what happened to Sombath. Sombath and his family have the right to justice.

We remind all ASEM member states of their human rights obligations, both domestically and internationally. We sincerely demand that the Lao Government to complete their invesrigation on Sombath’s disappearance, make public the investigation report, and take forward legal process 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.

The full statement and list of signatories can be seen here.

Recommendations to the ASEM summit

Transnational Institute: 16 October 2014

Hilde van der Pas

aepf10logoOne week before the official Asia-Europe government meeting (ASEM) gathers in Milan, over 400 people from 42 countries in Europe and Asia gathered at the 10th Asia-Europe Peoples forum (AEPF) to present their demands and recommendations.

More than 400 people, representing social movements, organisations and citizens from 42 countries, met from October 10– 12 2014 to discuss five thematic areas that concern citizens across Europe and Asia. As an outcome of the forum,that takes place every two years in Asia or Europe, recommendations will be presented to the governments at the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) on climate change, trade and investment policies, social protection, food sovereignty, migration, peace and security.

The forum started with a keynote speech from Shui Meng Ng, whose husband Sombath Somphone was abducted two years ago, shortly after he participated in the AEPF9 in Laos, as co-chair of the National Organizing Committee. Sombath was last seen when he was stopped by a police car and taken away, on September 15th 2012.

“Sombath was optimistic that many of the challenges and crises in Laos, as well as in Asia and Europe, could be tackled through open and frank dialogue and concrete actions between ordinary citizens in partnership with civil society groups and the government. “said Shui Meng Ng.

Paul Emile Dupret, member of the GUE group in the European Parliament, who went to Laos after Sombath’s disappearance on a mission with the EP, talked about the difficult environment they faced when talking to the Lao government and stated that the European left party rejects “….fake socialism – promoting landgrabbing and corruption”.

Malaysian MEP Charles Santiago put on a Sombath t-shirt to express his solidarity on behalf of all ASEAN parliamentarians. “Don’t tell us we have no business making you accountable,” he said. Continue reading “Recommendations to the ASEM summit”

Final Declaration of AEPF10

p6aepf10logoThe final declaration of the 10th Asia-Europe People’s Forum, held in Milan, Italy on the 10th to 12th of October, has been released. Below is an except about Sombath. The full statement can be read here, or on the website of the Transnational Institute.

On December 15 2014, it will be two years since the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone. Sombath was one of the main organisers of AEPF9 held in Vientiane just before ASEM10. Sombath, a Magsaysay Award winner, is one of the most respected people in ASEAN working for sustainable development. Sombath’s abduction on December 12, 2012 was captured by a CCTV camera. The footage shows that his jeep was stopped in front of a police booth. After he voluntarily went to the booth, a third person came and drove the jeep away. He was seen next being taken away in a pickup truck. 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.

The Lao PDR depends heavily on international aid and in the lead up to its annual Roundtable scheduled for November 2014, the Lao Government is requesting even more financial support from the international community.

Enforced disappearance is never an internal matter in any country. It is a contravention of international law and widely recognised to be a crime against humanity. Sombath’s family and friends and the people of Laos have the right to the truth, to know what happened to Sombath. Sombath and his family have the right to justice.

We remind all ASEM member states of their human rights obligations, both domestically and internationally. We sincerely demand the Lao Government to complete their investigation into Sombath’s disappearance, make public the investigation report, and take forward the legal process 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.

Sumbath Somphone, scomparso due anni fa nelle strade di Vientiane

il Manifesto: 15 Ottobre 2014

Luciana Castellina

Il caso del leader desaparecido. Dagli anni ’80 dava sostegno alle piccole conduzioni contadine. Sotto accusa il governo laotiano

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Un poster chiede la liberazione di Sumbath Somphone © Reuters

Che l’attività dei movi­menti e delle asso­cia­zioni che fanno capo al Forum dei popoli euro­pei e asia­tici non sia indo­lore, che non si tratti di sole parole ma di una dura lotta per cam­biare e imporre una demo­cra­zia sostan­ziale, lo prova il caso dram­ma­tico di Sum­bath Som­phone, la cui imma­gine ha colo­rato le mura di tutte le sale dove si sono svolti i lavori della conferenza.

La vicenda ce la rac­conta nell’articolo che segue la moglie, Shii Meng Ng, che, con il suo discorso, ha aperto i lavori della Aepf. Sum­bath, come rac­conta, gui­dava la sua vec­chia jeep nel cen­tro di Vien­tiane, lei lo pre­ce­deva verso casa sul suo vei­colo, quando si è accorta che il marito era stato fer­mato a un posto di blocco della poli­zia. Non ci ha fatto molto caso, pen­sando ad una infra­zione stra­dale, nor­male nel cao­tico traf­fico della capi­tale lao­tiana. L’allarme è scat­tato quando non l’ha più visto arri­vare a casa e inu­tili sono state le ricer­che presso gli ospe­dali e la polizia. Continue reading “Sumbath Somphone, scomparso due anni fa nelle strade di Vientiane”

Keep Sombath’s Vision Alive

Keynote Speech by Shui Meng Ng at the 10th Asia-Europe People’s Forum

Milan, Italy, 10-12 October 2014

“Towards a Just and Inclusive Asia and Europe-Building States of Citizens for Citizens”

Shui Meng-AEPF10Two years ago, at the 9th AEPF, my husband, Sombath Somphone, as the Co-Chair of the National Organizing Committee, gave the keynote speech at the opening session of the Forum in Vientiane, Laos.  He was at the time both happy and excited that after months of intensive preparation, the AEPF9 was officially declared open by no less than Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister.  More than 1,000 people representing civil society groups and organizations from across Asia and Europe participated.  As a Lao, Sombath was proud that his country could play host to such a major civil society forum.

Over the next few days between October 16-19, the forum participants passionately discussed, debated, shared, and exchanged lessons on common challenges and issues of poverty, social polarization, inequalities, indebtedness, and unemployment faced by ordinary folks in the countries of Asia and Europe.  The energy level was high, and the panel discussions were animated, inclusive, and constructive.  The participants eagerly presented their ideas and experiences, and worked hard to present the “People’s Vision” of shared hopes and aspirations which became incorporated as the final statement from the AEPF9 to the leaders of the ASEM countries for their deliberation and consideration for action in the follow-up ASEM Meeting.

aepf10logoBy all estimation, and publicly acknowledged by the International Organizing Committee, the AEPF9 was considered one of the most successful People’s Forum ever.  Then on 15 December 2012, two months after the close of AEPF9, Sombath Somphone was disappeared.  He was last seen stopped at a police post in Vientiane and taken away by a white truck. The entire sequence of Sombath’s abduction was recorded by the state-installed traffic-control camera, and the footages of the abduction have since been shared on You-tube. Continue reading “Keep Sombath’s Vision Alive”

สืบทอดภาพฝันของสมบัด

ปาฐกถาของอึ้งชุ่ยเม้ง (Shui Meng Ng) ในงานเวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรปครั้งที่ 10 (Asia-Europe People’s Forum – AEPF)

มิลาน อิตาลี 10-12 ตุลาคม 2557

“มุ่งสู่รัฐในเอเชีย-ยุโรปที่เป็นธรรมและมีส่วนร่วม รัฐของพลเมืองเพื่อพลเมือง”

Shui Meng-AEPF10อึ้งชุ่ยเม้ง เวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรปครั้งที่ 10: เมื่อสองปีที่แล้ว ในเวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรปครั้งที่ 9 คุณสมบัด สมพอน สามีดิฉันเป็นประธานร่วมของคณะผู้จัดงานเวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรป เขาได้กล่าวปาฐกถาในพิธีเปิดของงานซึ่งจัดขึ้นที่กรุงเวียงจันทน์ ประเทศลาว ตอนนั้นเขาทั้งมีความสุขและตื่นเต้นเพราะหลังจากเตรียมการอย่างหนัก เวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรปครั้งที่ 9 จะเริ่มขึ้นอย่างเป็นทางการ โดยมีรองนายกรัฐมนตรีของประเทศลาวเป็นประธาน ผู้เข้าร่วมกว่า 1,000 คนมาจากกลุ่มและหน่วยงานภาคประชาสังคมตลอดทั่วเอเชีย-แปซิฟิก ในฐานะคนลาว สมบัดภูมิใจที่ประเทศของเขาได้เป็นเจ้าภาพจัดเวทีภาคประชาสังคมที่สำคัญครั้งนี้ ในช่วงไม่กี่วันต่อมาระหว่างวันที่ 16-19 ตุลาคม ผู้เข้าร่วมมีโอกาสแลกเปลี่ยน โต้เถียง แบ่งปันและนำเสนอบทเรียนต่าง ๆ อย่างเต็มที่ เป็นผลมาจากปัญหาท้าทายที่คล้ายคลึงกัน ปัญหาความยากจน การแบ่งขั้วทางสังคม ความไม่เท่าเทียม ภาระหนี้สิน และการว่างงาน ซึ่งเป็นปัญหาร่วมกันของประชาชนทั่วไปทั้งในเอเชีย-ยุโรป การพูดคุยเป็นไปอย่างคึกคัก เวทีอภิปรายได้รับความสนใจอย่างยิ่ง ผู้เข้าฟังต่างมีส่วนร่วมและเสนอความเห็นอย่างสร้างสรรค์ พวกเขาต่างกระตือรือร้นที่จะเสนอแนวคิดและประสบการณ์ และต่างมุ่งทำงานเพื่อนำเสนอ “ภาพฝันของประชาชน” ที่สะท้อนถึงความหวังและความฝันร่วมกัน และต่อมามีการนำเนื้อหาส่วนหนึ่งไปจัดทำเป็นแถลงการณ์ฉบับแรกของเวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรปครั้งที่ 9 เพื่อเสนอต่อผู้นำประเทศต่าง ๆ ของ ASEM ให้มีการพิจารณาและนำไปปฏิบัติในการประชุม ASEM ครั้งต่อไป aepf10logoจากการประเมินของหลายท่าน และจากการยอมรับต่อสาธารณะของคณะกรรมการผู้จัดงานระหว่างประเทศ ถือว่าเวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรปครั้งที่ 9 เป็นเวทีภาคประชาชนที่ประสบความสำเร็จมากสุดครั้งหนึ่ง จากนั้นในวันที่ 15 ธันวาคม 2555 สองเดือนหลังจากปิดการประชุมเวทีภาคประชาชนเอเชีย-ยุโรปครั้งที่ 9 สมบัด สมพอนก็หายตัวไป มีผู้พบเห็นเขาครั้งสุดท้ายระหว่างถูกเรียกให้จอดรถที่ป้อมตำรวจในกรุงเวียงจันทน์ จากนั้นถูกนำตัวไปไว้ในรถกระบะสีขาว ภาพเหตุการณ์ขณะลักพาตัวสมบัดได้รับการบันทึกไว้ในกล้องวีดิโอของตำรวจจราจร และต่อมามีการนำคลิปวีดิโอการลักพาตัวดังกล่าวไปเผยแพร่ทาง You-tube Continue reading “สืบทอดภาพฝันของสมบัด”

Da oggi Milano è la casa dei popoli di tutto il mondo

Villagio Globale: 10 Ottobre 2014

forum-milanoLa tre giorni di convegni e workshop su Commercio internazionale, Protezione sociale, Sovranità alimentare, Cambiamento climatico, Pace e sicurezza. Un appello rivolto ai governi e alle istituzioni di tutto il mondo per far tornare a casa Sombath Somphone.

Una sedia vuota e un appello rivolto ai governi e alle istituzioni di tutto il mondo per far tornare a casa Sombath Somphone. È iniziato così il Forum dei popoli che ha preso avvio stamane a Milano, casa della decima edizione del Forum della società civile Asia-Europa, AEPF10.

A prendere la parola per prima dinanzi a oltre 400 delegati provenienti da tutto il mondo è stata Shui Meng Ng, moglie dell’attivista premio Nobel asiatico Sombath Somphone, vittima di una sparizione forzata il 15 dicembre 2012. La sua colpa, aver organizzato la nona edizione del Forum nel Laos, nel nome della lotta alla povertà, alle disuguaglianze, alle iniquità.

«Mi sono chiesta se Sombath abbia varcato qualche soglia sconosciuta, scontentando chi non vuole riconoscere alla società civile uno spazio maggiore», ha ragionato a voce alta Shui Meng Ng, che ha aggiunto: «Sombath non avrebbe mai rinnegato la sua vita e il suo impegno. Non si sarebbe mai pentito».

All’appello si è unito anche Basilio Rizzo, presidente del Consiglio comunale di Milano e simbolico padrone di casa nella cornice casalinga che ospita il Forum: la Fabbrica del Vapore. «Confermo l’impegno a tutti i livelli istituzionali affinché Sombath possa tornare a casa, perché oggi più che mai è impossibile alcuna politica priva dell’apporto determinante della società civile da voi ben rappresentata». Continue reading “Da oggi Milano è la casa dei popoli di tutto il mondo”