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.
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.
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)
[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…
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”
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.
31. The missing of Sombath Somphone is an unexpected incident for the Lao government as it happened after the Lao PDR successfully hosted the 9th ASEM in Vientiane in November 2012.
32. His missing is of concern to the Lao Government like the missing of any Lao citizen. Immediately after the missing happened the Lao Government established an investigation committee within the Ministry of Public Security to conduct investigation into the missing incident. From day one of its work the committee sent notice to all police headquarters across the county to find any clue which may be related to the incident. Furthermore, the investigation committee sent out notice to Interpol and ASEANAPOL for them to have looks for any information which may be related to the case. The Investigation Committee has always been open to views or suggestions to help the investigation and Committee is ready to receive suggestions from any interested parties with regard to the investigation which is still ongoing to the present time. It is the duty of the Lao government to find out the truth and bring perpetrators to justice in accordance with the law of the Lao PDR which has signed the Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
33. The Lao Government would like to reaffirm that the investigation committee is still seriously conducting the investigation. The investigation committee in the past made briefing to the Medias and all interested parties on the progress of the investigation and most recently the chief of the investigation committee met with foreign ambassadors and his wife whom the committee informed of the investigation. In addition, the Lao PDR accepted a number of recommendations under the UPR which are relating to the missing case.
From Lao Government’s response to Letter of Issues submitted by the UN Human Rights Council (CCPR). The full letter and response can be download here.
Far away from Laos is a small but beautiful land of Kashmir. Despite the distance from Laos, we heard loud and clear appeals for your resurfacing from the last few years, but sadly it seems that those at the helm of affairs in Laos are unable to hear the demand for justice and your safe return. They aren’t deaf or blind, their conscience has died long ago. It is due to the death of their morality, that people like you who work for justice and truth are subjected to enforced disappearances. We promise you that we won’t let your legacy of fighting for justice to die. You will live within us always.
Shui Meng has a bigger family now, struggling for reunion with you and with all those who have disappeared around the world.
We are committed to work for a world without desaprecidos.
Khurram Parvez (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)