Open letter on repeal of decree on associations No. 238

International Commission of Jurists: 13 December 2017

H.E. Mr. Thongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister

Prime Minister’s Office, Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

 

H.E. Mr. Bounnhang Vorachith, President

President’s Office, Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

 

H.E. Mr. Xaysi Santivong, Minister of Justice

Ministry of Justice, Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic\

 

13 December 2017

 

Dear H.E. Mr. Thongloun Sisoulith, H.E. Mr. Bounnhang Vorachith and H.E. Mr. Xaysi Santivong,

 

RE:      REPEAL OF DECREE ON ASSOCIATIONS No. 238 of 2017

 

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), The Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR-Centre) and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)  express deep alarm about the issuing and coming into force of the Decree on Associations (No. 238 of 2017) (‘the Decree’) in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Continue reading “Open letter on repeal of decree on associations No. 238”

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. Continue reading “Amnesty International Report 2016/17: Laos”

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. Continue reading “Mystery surrounds disappearance of Laos man after traffic stop”

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.” Continue reading “Obama aide to meet with wife of missing UH-educated Laotian activist”

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. Continue reading “The questions Laos doesn’t want to answer”

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. Continue reading “Where’s Sombath? Activist’s mysterious abduction a human rights thorn for Laos as it hosts major summit”

Amnesty International: Où est Sombath ?

Amnesty InternationalAmnesty International: 30 August 2016

Alors que le monde entier célèbre la Journée internationale des victimes de disparition forcée, les autorités laotiennes doivent mener dans les plus brefs délais une enquête approfondie et efficace sur l’enlèvement et la disparition forcée présumée de Sombath Somphone, a déclaré Amnesty International mardi 30 août 2016.

Sombath Somphone, membre respecté de la société civile laotienne, a été arrêté par la police de la route le 15 décembre 2012 et emmené dans un pickup. On ignore toujours où il se trouve, les autorités n’ont pas tenu sa famille informée de l’affaire et aucune enquête crédible n’a été menée sur sa disparition forcée.

« La semaine prochaine, Barack Obama sera le premier président des États-Unis à se rendre au Laos. Il doit saisir cette occasion rare pour exprimer sa préoccupation quant à la situation des droits humains dans ce pays connu pour être très fermé, notamment en demandant aux autorités “Où est Sombath ?” », a déclaré T. Kumar, directeur en charge du travail international de plaidoyer au sein d’Amnesty International États-Unis. Continue reading “Amnesty International: Où est Sombath ?”

Amnesty International: #WhereIsSombath?

Amnesty InternationalAmnesty International: 30 August 2016

As the International Day of the Disappeared is marked around the world, the Laos authorities must promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigate the abduction and suspected enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, Amnesty International said today.

On 15 December 2012, Sombath Somphone, a leading member of Lao civil society, was stopped by traffic police and taken away in a pick-up truck. His whereabouts remain unknown, his family has not been kept informed by the authorities, and there has been no credible investigation into his enforced disappearance.

“Next week, Barack Obama will become the first US President to visit Laos. He must seize this rare opportunity to raise concerns about the human rights situation in the notoriously closed country, including by asking the authorities, ‘Where is Sombath?’” said T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA’s International Advocacy Director. Continue reading “Amnesty International: #WhereIsSombath?”

Urgent Action: Three Lao Activists Held Incommunicado

Amnesty International: 03 August 2016

Amnesty InternationalThree Lao human rights activists have been arrested on 5 and 22 March in circumstances that may constitute enforced disappearances. They remain in incommunicado detention since they appeared on national television on 25 May in a report that confirmed that they had been arrested for threatening national security through social media postings.

Soukan Chaithad (32), Lodkham Thammavong (30), and Somphone Phimmasone (29) are Lao nationals who had been working in Thailand until February 2016, when they returned to Laos to obtain documentation to continue working there. The three had participated in a peaceful demonstration of around 30 people outside the Lao embassy in Bangkok on 2 December 2015, Lao national day, and had posted a number of messages on Facebook criticising the Laos government for corruption, deforestation and human rights violations. Continue reading “Urgent Action: Three Lao Activists Held Incommunicado”

Amnesty’s new report on Laos

Amnesty International

Amnesty InternationalSombath Somphone, a prominent civil society member who was abducted outside a police post in the capital, Vientiane, in December 2012, remained disappeared with no progress in his case. In March, a former military general heading a non-profit organization – widely believed to be a government proxy – made a failed attempt to have Sombath Somphone’s name removed from the agenda of the ASEAN People’s Forum event. No progress was made in the case of Sompawn Khantisouk, an entrepreneur who was active on conservation issues. He remained disappeared since being abducted by men believed to be police in 2007.

From Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 report. The full report, which also raises concerns about the freedoms of expression and association, is available here.