Amnesty International Report 2016/17: Laos

Amnesty International: February 2017

The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remained severely restricted. State control of media and civil society was tightened as Laos hosted international meetings. Repression of human rights defenders continued. Two prisoners of conscience were released in March after being held for almost 17 years.

There was no progress in the investigation into the enforced disappearance in 2012 of a
society member. The death penalty remained mandatory for serious drug offences. (more…)

Mystery surrounds disappearance of Laos man after traffic stop

USA Today: 11 September 2016

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Ng Shui Meng, the wife of disappeared Laotian activist Sombath Somphone, stands near a missing person flyer at her crafts shop in Vientiane, Laos. (Photo: Thomas Maresca)

The last time Ng Shui Meng saw her husband, he was driving his beloved vintage American jeep.

That was a December evening almost four years ago, after Sombath Somphone was stopped by traffic police. He never arrived home for dinner.

The disappearance of Sombath, 64, a prominent Lao activist who focused on rural development and reducing poverty, is a persistent reminder of human rights abuses by the communist government here. (more…)

Obama aide to meet with wife of missing UH-educated Laotian activist

Honolulu Star Advisor: 06 September 2016

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In this June 25, 2008 photo provided by Shui Meng Ng, Sombath Somphone poses for a photograph in an unknown location in Japan. The disappearance of Sombath Somphone nearly four years ago is a reminder of the dismal human rights record of the authoritarian government of Laos.

A top aide of President Barack Obama said he will meet with the wife of a missing Laotian activist and East-West Center graduate, whose case has been repeatedly highlighted by human rights groups as an example of authoritarian excesses of Laos’ one-party Communist government.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters today he will meet with Shui Meng Ng on Thursday while Obama is visiting Laos. The president arrived on Monday to attend a regional summit.

Human rights activists were hoping that Obama would speak about Ng’s husband, Sombath Somphone, who was picked up apparently by security forces on Dec. 15, 2012. He has not been seen since.

Obama has not mentioned him so far in his public remarks, but Rhodes said that “we care very deeply about her case and her husband, and we believe she deserves to know what happened to her husband.” (more…)

The questions Laos doesn’t want to answer

Amnesty International: 06 September 2016

Der südafrikanische Erzbischof Desmond Tutu bei einem Treffen mit Sombath Somphone (re.).

Nestled in the Mekong region, with mighty China to its north, is landlocked Laos. Famed for its sedate surroundings, and tragically the country where the U.S. dropped more than 260 million bombs during its war in Indochina, it rarely receives the attention received by its more prominent neighbours.

This week, Barack Obama will become the first U.S. President to ever visit the country for the ASEAN summit. In advance of the visit, US officials have spoken of an emerging partnership on development between the two countries, which focuses on health, nutrition and basic education.

As visitors frequently note, the pace of life is slow in Laos, remarkably so. But beneath the tranquil surface that President Obama will encounter, there lurk endemic human rights problems. (more…)

Where’s Sombath? Activist’s mysterious abduction a human rights thorn for Laos as it hosts major summit

South China Morning Post: 05 September 2016

Sombath Somphone (d.) en compagnie de l'archevêque sud-africain Desmund Tutu en 2006. Wikimedia Commons / Shui-Meng Ng

The disappearance of an award-winning activist nearly four years ago is a reminder of the dismal human rights record of the authoritarian government of the tiny landlocked nation.

The light was fading over Vientiane on a cool December evening when a Jeep was stopped at a traffic light. CCTV video later showed the occupant of the car being pulled out and taken away in a pickup truck, never to be seen again.

The disappearance of Sombath Somphone nearly four years ago is a reminder of the dismal human rights record of the authoritarian government of Laos, which prepares to host Asian leaders and US President Barack Obama at a regional summit starting Tuesday. (more…)