Enforced Disappearance, Injustice and Silence:  We Have Not Forgotten Sombath Somphone

We can’t believe it has been 6 years already since the day Sombath Somphone was enforced disappeared. The days have gone by so quickly yet the pain and wait remain the same for the family and friends as if the days have not gone by.

Memories and CCTV footages of the day Sombath Somphone was enforced disappeared 6 years ago showed the authority and the police were clearly involved in the incident. Six years later, the Lao government has shown no progress in the investigation and brought no one to be responsible.

We can’t believe that Sombath Somphone, who once contributed so much to the Lao society and development for over 30 years, would be the name the Lao government tries to forget.

Uncle Bath, a prominent senior development worker, is renowned and respected by the civil society and development workers across Lao, ASEAN and the globe. Uncle Bath’s humble leadership was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005 and many others by international organizations. His fruitful contribution to PADETC was recognized by the ESCAP Human Resources Development Award, given by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in 2001. Anyone who has worked with Uncle Bath would recognize his charisma.

For what Sombath Somphone has done all his life, it will not be that easy for the world to forget Sombath Somphone regardless of the the prolonged enforced disappearance and the Lao government’s silence and attempt to erase Sombath Somphone’s name. As time passes, his name slowly becomes a symbol of the Lao government’s mistake and failure.

We, the young adults and youth of the Mekong Region, demand the Lao government to promptly resolved this issue for the Lao people and youth. It is time to free us from fear and doubts on the Lao government’s involvement in the enforced disappearance of our beloved uncle Sombath Somphone 6 years ago.

We hope Uncle Bath is still alive and will soon return to his family. We hope he will spend the rest of his life with those he loves and love him. Uncle Bath shall be the symbol of integrity and happiness for the Lao people, towards a path of development based on the Gross National Happiness (GNH).

End enforced disappearance for peace in the Mekong Region
Sombath Somphone & Beyond Project

Six years on, civil society worldwide demands answers to the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone

FIDH: 14 December 2018

14 December 2018: On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, reiterate our calls for the Lao government to conduct an independent, impartial and effective investigation to reveal his fate and whereabouts. Continue reading “Six years on, civil society worldwide demands answers to the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone”

Wife of Sombath Somphone Calls Again on Laos for Answers to His Disappearance

Radio Free Asia: 12 December 2018

Six years after his disappearance at a Lao police checkpoint, the wife of rural development activist Sombath Somphone called again on the Lao government to account for his fate, saying she has been kept in the dark despite government promises to investigate his case.

“I am very sad that after six long years, I still have no news about Sombath,” Ng Shui Meng, a resident of Singapore, told RFA’s Lao Service in a phone call on Dec. 12.

“It’s the same situation,” Ng said.

“They keep saying that they cannot find Sombath, that they are still investigating,” she said. Continue reading “Wife of Sombath Somphone Calls Again on Laos for Answers to His Disappearance”

Six years on, wife of disappeared Laos activist ‘can’t move on’

Channel New Asia: 12 December 2018

Six years of searching have brought no answers and little solace to Sombath’s 72-year-old wife, Shui-Meng Ng AFP/CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT

BANGKOK: The wife of a prominent Laos activist who vanished after being stopped at a checkpoint on the streets of Vientiane said Wednesday (Dec 12) she “can’t move on” as the mystery over his fate remains unsolved almost six years later.

The disappearance of Sombath Somphone, an award-winning environmental campaigner, drew rare international attention to the poor rights record of Laos, an authoritarian one-party state where activists work under state scrutiny.

Sombath was last seen on the night of Dec 15, 2012, with CCTV cameras capturing the moment when police pulled him over at a checkpoint in the Laos capital. He was shown entering a separate truck with two other men and driven off.

His case cast a dark cloud over civil society in Laos and highlighted dangers faced by activists, journalists and human rights defenders in Southeast Asia who risk being targeted with impunity. Continue reading “Six years on, wife of disappeared Laos activist ‘can’t move on’”

The Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone

Filmvorführung und Podiumsdiskussion

Englisch mit deutschen Untertiteln, Filmvorführung (50’) mit anschliessender Podiumsdiskussion; Apéro

  • Dienstag, 2. Oktober
  • 19:00 bis 21:00
  • Uhr Volkshaus Zürich, Blauer Saal
  • Eintritt 10.– CHF

Anmeldung erforderlich unter helvetas.org/sombath

Ende 2012 wurde der laotische NGO-Aktivist Sombath Somphone von der Polizei verhaftet – seither fehlt jede Spur von ihm. Trotz erdrückender Beweislast lehnt die Regierung von Laos jede Verantwortung ab und verweigert jegliche Unterstützung bei der Aufklärung des Falles. Entsprechend scheiterten alle bisherigen Bemühungen von Angehörigen, Freunden und Partner- organisationen, Sombaths Schicksal aufzuklären.

Am Dienstag, 2. Oktober weilt Shui Meng, die Frau von Sombath Somphone, auf die Einladung von Helvetas hin in der Schweiz, um einen neuen, bereitspreisgekrönten Dokumentarfilm über Sombath und sein langjähriges Engagement für ein offenes und tolerantes Laos zu zeigen. Der Film ist sehr bewegend und vermittelt auch die jüngere Geschichte Laos’ auf eindrückliche Art und Weise. Helvetas nimmt den Film zum Anlass, um mit Shui Meng und weiteren Gästen über die Menschenrechtslage in Laos und die Rolle der Schweiz zu diskutieren:

  • Shui Meng, Frau von Sombath Somphone
  • Barbara Dietrich, Programmverantwortliche Laosbei Helvetas
  • Guido Käppeli, Honorarkonsul von Laos in der Schweiz
  • Sandra Lendenmann Winterberg, Chefin der Sektion Menschenrechtspolitik der Abteilung Menschliche Sicherheit, Eidgenössisches Depar- tement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten (EDA)
  • Moderation: Daniel Hitzig, Alliance Sud

“Paucity of Relevant Information”

[The UN Human Rights Committee] …regrets the paucity of relevant information provided by the State party regarding the measures taken, and the progress achieved, in investigating the enforced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone…

[The Lao PDR should] Step up efforts to conduct a thorough, credible, impartial and transparent investigation into the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, and in all other cases of alleged enforced disappearances…

From UN Human Rights Committee Concluding observations on the initial report of Lao People’s Democratic Republic,” 26 July 2018.

Lao Delegation Ducks Questions at UN Rights Review

Radio Free Asia: 16 July 2018

Lao delegate Phoukhong Sisoulath addresses the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, July 11, 2018. Screen grab from UN Web TV

Lao government representatives evaded tough questioning at a U.N. review of the country’s rights record last week, speaking to points that had not been raised and saying that villagers arrested for refusing to leave confiscated land had sought to block the country’s development.

Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from July 11 to 12, the U.N. Human Rights Committee (CCPR) examined for the first time the state of civil and political rights in communist Laos. The committee tracks the compliance of state signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Laos became a state party to the Covenant in 2009.

Addressing the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, an agricultural expert who vanished at a police checkpoint outside the Lao capital Vientiane in 2012, Lao delegate Bounkeut Sangsomsak refused to answer detailed questions from the Committee concerning government efforts to find the missing civil society leader. Continue reading “Lao Delegation Ducks Questions at UN Rights Review”

“They have taken little or no action”

Enforced disappearances continue to be reported and there has been no progress in investigations or prosecutions. While the Lao PDR has accepted recommendations to investigate the enforced disappearance of leading civil society member Sombath Somphone, who was not been seen since being stopped by traffic police and taken away in a pick-up truck in Laos in December 20127, they have taken little to no action. No steps have been taken to review new evidence in the form of video footage provided by his family. The Government has also failed to establish the fate or whereabouts of other alleged enforced disappearances, including that of Kha Yang, a Lao ethnic Hmong arrested after his forced return from Thailand in 2011, and of Sompawn Khantisouk, an entrepreneur who was active on conservation issues and abducted in 2007 by men believed to be police.

From Amnesty International’s submission to the UN Human Rights Committee for consideration in its 123rd session.