Southeast Asia’s Desaparecidos

The Diplomat:  10 June 2020 by David Hutt

Enforced disappearances — a tragedy all too familiar in Latin America — are increasingly becoming a feature of Southeast Asian politics, too.

One of bloody characters of Latin American history is that of los desaparecidos, the activist or dissident or just unfortunate person who says the wrong thing who suddenly disappears, never to be heard of again. Sometimes their body is discovered years later, but in most cases they remain missing forever.   

In the English language, there is no word that conveys the sense of hopelessness and not knowing. The family who finds a murdered loved one can at least grieve – but for the families of those who remain disappeared, it is the not knowing that most consumes their anguish. Having spoken to families of desaparecidos from Argentina to Guatemala, the not-knowing is still as raw as it when their loved ones disappeared decades ago. Continue reading “Southeast Asia’s Desaparecidos”

Don’t forget ‘disappeared’

Bangkok Post: 21 December 2019

One year ago this month, Thai activist Surachai Danwattananusorn disappeared mysteriously from his residence in the Lao capital of Vientiane, while the bodies of his two aides were found in the Mekong River. Also, seven years ago this month, Lao activist Sombath Somphone suffered a “forced disappearance” in Vientiane.

These men were all prominent critics of the state, and this is perhaps a good enough explanation as to why neither the Thai and Lao governments have managed to unearth the truth behind the disappearances and killings.

Mr Surachai fled Thailand a few days before the 2014 coup and lived in exile in Vientiane to avoid being thrown behind bars for alleged lese majeste offences. He was followed by his aides, Chatchan Bupphawan and Kraidej Luelert, who used their time in Laos to criticise the military junta and the institution. Continue reading “Don’t forget ‘disappeared’”

Stopping Enforced Disappearances: Where is Sombath Somphone?

https://youtu.be/1HtQ-MSvDww

On 17 December 2019 a panel discussion was held at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok, Thailand. Panelists included:

  • Angkhana Neelapaijit: Director, Justice for Peace Foundation; Magsaysay Prize Award winner 2019, and wife of Somchai Neelapaijit who was enforcibly disappeared in 2004
  • Ng Shui Meng: Wife of Sombath Somphone, who was enforcibly disappeared in 2012
  • Katia Chirizzi: Deputy Director, Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Southeast Asia
  • Phil Robertson: Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

Click the link above for video of the event.

Denuncian impunidad en desapariciones forzadas en Tailandia

El Siglo de Torreón: 18 December 2019

Numerosas víctimas de diferentes países asiáticos han sido contabilizadas por lo menos 20 años

Activistas y familiares de desaparecidos forzados denunciaron este martes en Bangkok la impunidad con que este crimen se comete en el sudeste asiático, donde hay decenas de casos sin resolver en medio de un ambiente de “miedo”.

Así lo expresaron en una conferencia sobre desapariciones forzadas celebrada con motivo del séptimo aniversario de la desaparición del activista laosiano Sombath Somphone, que continúa en paradero desconocido desde que fue detenido en un control policial en diciembre de 2012 en Vientián. Continue reading “Denuncian impunidad en desapariciones forzadas en Tailandia”

Still No Progress on Seventh Anniversary of Sombath Somphone’s Disappearance

Radio Free Asia: 17 December 2019

Ng Shui Meng, wife of Sombath Somphone, who has been missing for seven years in what is widely believed to be an enforced disappearance, attends a press conference on Dec. 17, 2019. RFA

The wife of a missing Lao activist told a gathering to mark seven years since his disappearance that she has not heard any information from Lao authorities about his case in more than two years and believes they “stopped searching long ago.”

Sombath Somphone, who disappeared on Dec. 15, 2012—exactly seven years ago Sunday—when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital Vientiane.

Before his abduction, Sombath had challenged massive land deals negotiated by the government that had left thousands of rural Lao villagers homeless with little paid in compensation. The deals sparked rare popular protests in Laos, where political speech is tightly controlled. Continue reading “Still No Progress on Seventh Anniversary of Sombath Somphone’s Disappearance”

Seit sieben Jahren ist der Bürgerrechtler Sombath Somphone verschwunden – die Regierung von Laos hat darauf keine Antwort



Neue Zürcher Zeitung: 15 Dezember 2019

Obwohl die laotischen Behörden versprochen haben, den Fall aufzuklären, gibt es keine Ergebnisse. Bald werden sie vor der Uno dazu Stellung nehmen müssen.

Wenige Wochen nachdem Sombath Somphone verschwunden ist, hängt ein Unterstützer im Januar 2013 in der laotischen Hauptstadt Vientiane ein Poster mit dem Porträt des Vermissten auf. Gilles Sabrie / LightRocket / Getty

Es ist dunkel. Die Aufnahmen der Überwachungskamera sind körnig und unscharf. Dennoch ist zu erkennen, wie ein Jeep vor einem Polizeiposten in der laotischen Hauptstadt Vientiane anhält. Der Fahrer steigt aus und geht in den Posten. Wenig später kommt der Mann wieder aus dem Polizeiposten, nun in Begleitung zweier Personen. Sie steigen in einen weissen Geländewagen, der davonbraust, noch bevor die Türen geschlossen sind. Continue reading “Seit sieben Jahren ist der Bürgerrechtler Sombath Somphone verschwunden – die Regierung von Laos hat darauf keine Antwort”

As 7th Anniversary of Lao Activist’s Disappearance Approaches, More Remain Missing

Radio Free Asia: 13 December 2019

As families and rights groups prepare to mark the seventh anniversary Sunday of prominent Lao activist Sombath Somphone’s disappearance, the families of two other missing activists are lamenting the lack of answers from the communist government on their loved ones.

Sombath Somphone, who disappeared on Dec. 15, 2012 when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital Vientiane, will be remembered at an event in Bangkok, Thailand next week. Continue reading “As 7th Anniversary of Lao Activist’s Disappearance Approaches, More Remain Missing”

Zeven jaar spoorloos in Laos

NPO Radio: 13 december 2019

(Klik op de link hierboven voor audio}

Komende zondag is het precies zeven jaar geleden dat daar in het Aziatische staatje Laos de activist Sombáth Somphòne spoorloos verdween. Sombáth verliet zijn land in de jaren zeventig, toen de communistische partij er de macht overnam, maar keerde er weer terug om aan de slag te gaan als maatschappelijk werker en zich in te zetten voor duurzaamheid. Blijkbaar heeft hij daarbij vijanden gemaakt. Sombáth werd voor het laatst gezien vlakbij een politiepost in de hoofdstad. Zuidoost-Azië correspondent Kris Janssens zocht zijn vrouw op, die al zeven jaar leeft tussen hoop en wanhoop.

Civil society groups urge Laos, Thailand to investigate enforced disappearances, reveal fate of Sombath Somphone and Od Sayavong

15 December 2019: On the seventh anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, urge the Lao and Thai governments to investigate enforced disappearances, and demand Vientiane finally reveal Sombath’s whereabouts and ensure justice for him and his family.

Considering the Lao police’s protracted failure to effectively investigate Sombath’s enforced disappearance, a new independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts should be established without delay. The new body should have the authority to seek and receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional, independent, impartial, and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance. Continue reading “Civil society groups urge Laos, Thailand to investigate enforced disappearances, reveal fate of Sombath Somphone and Od Sayavong”

Invitation to Press Conference: Stopping Enforced Disappearances; Where is Sombath Somphone?

Date:     December 17, 2019

Time:    10:30 am

Place:   Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT, directions at www.fccthai.com)

Note: English-Thai interpretation will be provided

 

  • Angkhana Neelapaijit: Director, Justice for Peace Foundation; Magsaysay Prize Award winner 2019, and wife of Somchai Neelapaijit who was enforcibly disappeared in 2004
  • Ng Shui Meng: Wife of Sombath Somphone, who was enforcibly disappeared in 2012
  • Katia Chirizzi: Deputy Director, Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Southeast Asia
  • Phil Robertson: Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Moderator: Shalmali Guttal

Continue reading “Invitation to Press Conference: Stopping Enforced Disappearances; Where is Sombath Somphone?”