Australian academics voice concern for missing Somchai, Sombath

Asian Human Rights Commission: 06 March 2014

Academics of the Australian National University on Thursday submitted a letter to the diplomatic mission of Thailand in Canberra marking the tenth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit.

File photograph of Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit

The 23 scholars said they lamented that nobody had been held responsible for Somchai’s abduction on 12 March 2004 and presumed killing, even though five police were accused of the crime, and that to date his remains had not been recovered.

“We are especially concerned by indications that the DSI wants to close the investigation, since it will make the prospects that Mr Somchai’s family will ever obtain justice even less likely,” they said, referring to the Department of Special Investigation, under the justice ministry.

The group urged the Thai justice minister that his government continue to work on the case until the perpetrators were identified and prosecuted. Continue reading “Australian academics voice concern for missing Somchai, Sombath”

สิทธิมนุษยชนอาเซียนอยู่ไหน เมื่อคนเห็นต่างจากรัฐถูกอุ้มหาย…

สำนักข่าวอิศรา: 15 ธันวาคม 2013

131256จากวันที่ “สมบัด สมพอน” นักพัฒนาอาวุโสชาวลาว ได้หายตัวไปจากกรุงเวียงจันทร์ เมื่อวันที่ 15 ธันวาคม 2555 ก็ล่วงเวลามา 1 ปีแล้ว ที่เราต่างเชื่อกันว่า เขาเป็นเหยื่ออีกหนึ่งรายที่ถูกบังคับให้หายสาบสูญไปโดยน้ำมือของเจ้า หน้าที่รัฐ เฉกเช่นเดียวกับนายสมชาย นีละไพจิตร นักกฎหมายและทนายความด้านสิทธิมนุษยชน ผู้ถูกบังคับหายไปจากประเทศไทย เมื่อวันที่ 12 มีนาคม 2547 หรือเมื่อ 10 ปีที่แล้วนั้นเอง

การถูกบังคับให้หายตัวไปของผู้ทำคุณประโยชน์ให้กับสังคมทั้ง 2 ราย ถือเป็นการถูกละเมิดสิทธิมนุษยชนจากคนของรัฐ เพียงเพราะพวกเขาทำงานเพื่อประชาชนที่ถูกเอารัดเอาเปรียบ อีกทั้งครอบครัวผู้สูญหายยังต้องเผชิญกับการเพิกเฉยจากรัฐในการติดตามผู้ กระทำความผิดมาลงโทษ ซึ่งขัดต่อหลักปฏิญญาสากลว่าด้วยสิทธิมนุษยชน

พันธมิตรองค์กรภาคประชาสังคมต่าง ๆ มองเห็นปัญหาที่อนาคตจะมีการเปิดการค้าเสรีอาเซียน และตั้งคำถามกับกระบวนการยุติธรรมของไทยและลาวที่ล้วนแต่เป็นสมาชิกสมาคม อาเซียน และไม่ต้องการให้รัฐมุ่งหน้าเพียงการพัฒนาเศรษฐกิจให้ก้าวไกล และปล่อยให้ปัญหาการละเมิดสิทธิมนุษยชนขยายตัวเพิ่มมากขึ้น จึงให้มีการจัดงานเสวนาเพื่อเรียกร้องให้รัฐดำเนินการในกระบวนการยุติธรรม ที่ถูกต้อง Continue reading “สิทธิมนุษยชนอาเซียนอยู่ไหน เมื่อคนเห็นต่างจากรัฐถูกอุ้มหาย…”

NGOs speak out

We, the undersigned 62 regional and international organizations, express outrage over the Lao Government’s ongoing failure to shed light on the enforced disappearance of prominent activist and civil society leader Sombath Somphone.

62 Non-governmental organizations have released a statement calling for a new investigation into the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone.

Signatories include NGOs from all ASEAN countries, except Brunei and Laos. The full statement is available in English here, and in Chinese here.

亚洲哀恸多位宗教领袖、爭取人权者和异见人士被「强迫失踪」

AsiaNews: 09 September 2013

“Asia’s sad record of ‘enforced disappearances’ of religious leaders , activists and opponents”

从西藏班禅至老挝人权人士,亚洲有几千人被当地政府拘留,他们被视为会威胁政府当局的管治。观察家认为,报告列举的案例只是冰山一角,实际情况更加恶劣。多国政府否认有此问题,只有四个国家已确认国际公约。

ASIA_-_PanchenLama_PLACARD曼谷(亚洲新闻/通讯社) – 在亚洲,西藏班禅、泰国穆斯林律师会主席和老挝争取农民权益人士的共通点,是他们成为所谓的「国家拘留」受害者,他们被限制自由和关押在不明地方,因为他 们都是「敏感」的政治和宗教人物,甚至因为他们的观点以人权为先。随着时间逝去,这些「国家囚犯」可以得到公平审讯及其家人想讨回公道的机会,变得越来越 微弱。这种打压异己的方法,却在整个亚洲大陆越来越普遍。

亚洲反对被迫失踪联会秘书长玛利·巴嘉素(Mary Aileen Bacalso)指出,这个现象很普遍。「亚洲的人口众多,是最多失踪案件的洲份。」此外,官方确证关闸的人数,却是远低于实际的数字,尤其是在政权专制国家,以及常有武装冲突的地区。

在亚洲,据争取人权人士说,有几万人处于「强迫失踪」,但只有一小部分有被记录,因为害怕当局报复。联合国工作组在2012年的报告中指出,在亚洲 国家中,斯里兰卡有5,676宗审查和未完案件、菲律宾621宗、尼泊尔458宗、东帝汶428宗、印度353宗、印尼162宗、巴基斯坦99宗、泰国 71宗、中国30宗及北韩20宗。联合国代表形容此为「冰山一角」。

在西藏,班禅于1995年当他只有6岁时被中国当局带走,一直没有消息,他是藏传佛教的第二位最重要的宗教领袖。然而,在该地区的激进组织,有数百 名僧侣及活动家在北京警方拘留,采用相同的方法来抑制国内持不同政见者,又如在新疆的穆斯林自治区。东南亚国家,如泰国、印尼、菲律宾和老挝,都是国际人 权组织所关注的国家。自1990年代在苏哈托将军的独裁统治期间的强迫失踪,以至亚洲诺贝尔奖得主老挝森巴(Sombath Somphone),他自去年12月被老挝万象当局带走。

对于人权人士或者组织争取释放「被迫失踪」者,往往遇到最大的问题是亚洲多国政府否认有这个问题,也不承认有任何强迫失踪案件。亚洲只有日本、哈萨 克斯坦、伊拉克和柬埔寨四个国家,有确认国际公约,保护所有的人不会被国家拘留。联合国呼吁设定一个有罪不罚的过渡期,政府要负起这责任,而家庭希望与他 们的亲属早日团聚。

An accidental activist

Bangkok Post: 06 September 2013

Pratubjit Neelapaijit is coping with the uncertain fate of her father by speaking out for the disappeared

539374
PHOTO: PORNPROM SATRABHAYA

Pratubjit Neelapaijit considers herself part of Bangkok’s middle class through and through. Growing up listening to her father, the disappeared lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, and mother Angkhana discussing human rights violations and social issues, the young Pratubjit felt compassionate yet detached.

But life is a series of unexpected incidents – despite her lack of inclination at a younger age, Pratubjit has found herself engaging in activism.

“I was not into human rights issues much when I was a kid,” she said. “Partly I always thought that I was in the middle class in Bangkok and human rights violations happened with ethnic minorities, like hilltribe people and farmers. I believed I was middle class, so this type of problem would not happen to me.” Continue reading “An accidental activist”

จับผิดจากกล้อง-Caught on Camera

Caught on Camera-Thaiรายงานองค์การแอมเนสตี้อินเตอร์เนชั่นแนล “จับผิดจากกล้อง: การบังคับบุคคลให้สูญหาย กรณีสมบัด สมพอน” มีเป็นภาษาไทยดว้ย. กรุณาคลิกที่ภาพ.

The Amnesty International Report, “Caught on Camera: The Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone” is now available in Thai Language. Please click the picture.

Justice Elusive for Asia's Victims of Enforced Disappearances

Radio Free Asia: 02 September 2013

A European parliamentary delegation at a press conference in Bangkok on Lao activist Sombath Somphone's disappearance, Aug. 28, 2013.
A European parliamentary delegation at a press conference in Bangkok on Lao activist Sombath Somphone’s disappearance, Aug. 28, 2013.

Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s designated successor the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has been missing for nearly two decades.

In Thailand, Somchai Neelapaijit, the chairman of the Thai Muslim Lawyers Association, disappeared nine years ago while providing legal assistance to Muslims accused of involvement in violence against security forces in the country’s troubled south.

More recently, a prominent Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who has been critical of the government’s policies for the poor, vanished after being stopped at a police checkpoint.

In all three cases, governments are believed to be behind the disappearances.

Enforced disappearances—the detention of persons by the state, usually the military or police, followed by a refusal to reveal their fate or whereabouts—has become a major human rights concern in Asia. Continue reading “Justice Elusive for Asia's Victims of Enforced Disappearances”

Letter from Shui Meng on the International Day of the Disappeared

Today (August 30) is the International Day of the Disappeared. Shui Meng has shared the following letter with friends and colleagues to call attention to this terrible practice.

A number of groups and media organisations are doing research on the number and nature of Enforced Disappearances in Laos. If you have any verifiable, documented evidence, please share it.

Dear All,

August 30 marks the International Day of the Disappeared. In many Asian countries, there are activities marking the day to show solidarity with the victims of Enforced Disappearances.

Although Laos is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Enforced Disappearances, and many other human rights conventions and protocols, and despite receiving substantial assistance from development partners for awareness and capacity building on HR issues, there is little awareness or even recognition that Enforced Disappearance is an HR issue in Laos.

In fact, in HR terms Enforced Disappearance is considered the “Mother of HR Violations” because a disappeared person is a “non-person,” and until the person’s whereabouts and proof of life or otherwise are known, the family is left in limbo; left waiting without any possibility of “closure”; left hanging between hope and despair. Nobody, except those who have experienced such violations, can even describe the agony and trauma they face every minute of the day, and outsiders can never understand those feelings and emotions.

I write this not because I am venting my feelings, but to urge you all, as development practitioners and HR advocates, to do more about raising awareness of the issue of disappearances in the HR context of Laos.

There are many cases of disappearances in Laos, more than are admitted, because the family members of the victims are too afraid to speak or reach out for help. Recently, I wanted to reach out regarding one case which was reported to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, but was told that the family wants it to remain confidential. Such is the scale of fear, and that is why the perpetrators in Laos can continue to act with impunity and know that they will face little or no consequences.

I have spent my entire working life working on development in Laos and elsewhere to improve the lives and rights of the poor and disenfranchised, and I have been very proud of our mission. So, I urge you all, my development colleagues, to take a firmer and more forthright stand on the issue of disappearances with your Lao partners at the national and at the local levels. I at least have a voice, please be the voice and conscience of those Lao people who are voiceless and afraid.

Yours sincerely, Shui Meng

"Answers are Needed"

I hope the Lao government would assume a more active role in finding out the truth of this particularly unwelcome event…

It does touch on the value of human rights. There are disappearances [when people go missing] and enforced disappearances [when people may have been seized by the state]….

You can’t have enforced disappearances – it’s not something we like in this part of the world.

Anand Panyarachun, former Thai Prime Minister and Magsaysay winner, in The Nation, 11 January 2013

I feel that answers are needed… The government has the responsibility to answer questions as to what has happened to him. The government of the Lao PDR is not really taking up this responsibility.

Jon Ungpakorn, former Thai Senator and Magsaysay winner, in The Nation, 11 January 2013