Is the Upcoming ACSC/APF a Safe Space for Independent Lao CSOs?

Focus on the Global South: 30 June 2016

ACSC-APF 2016 Logo“Laos’ CSOs have lost face because of Sombath Somphone. We have lost the financial sources from donors because of him,” said Mr. Cher Her, vice chair of Laos’ ASCS/APF NOC.

Chrek Sophea blogs on current issues confronting the ACSC/APF, reflecting on what have transpired in recent preparatory meetings and on the challenges that affect the future of this regional civil society formation, including Sombath Somphone’s enforced disappearance which continues to be a major issue.

In the two recently held preparatory meetings of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) in March and May respectively, there have been no indications that the upcoming ACSC/APF, to be held in Dili, Timor-Leste in August 2016, can provide a safe space for Laos’ progressive and independent civil society organizations (CSOs)—a space where they can critique, raise concerns, and voice dissenting opinions on various issues, including human rights violations, enforced disappearance, and the negative impact of infrastructure development projects, agri-business, mega power investment projects, extractive industries, etc. on ordinary peoples’ lives. By safe, I mean that even in the presence of government-sponsored NGO representatives, the voices of these members of independent CSOs shall be heard. That they shall be allowed to organize and conduct their own panels and wouldn’t feel threatened or intimidated. Continue reading “Is the Upcoming ACSC/APF a Safe Space for Independent Lao CSOs?”

Humanity and Nature: Traditional, Cultural & Alternative Perspectives

Humanity & Nature Publication CoverAn economy is often defined as “the wealth and resources of a country or region”. Few would contest that the greatest wealth and most fundamental resource for humanity is the earth on which we live; yet most do not see our environment as an economy in itself.  Conversely, nearly all contemporary economic and development models see the natural economy as a resource to be exploited (or at best managed) to serve the needs of the monetized economy.

While this perspective is certainly predominant, it is neither intrinsic nor universal. It is also increasingly proving to be unsustainable.

Focus on the Global South and The Sombath Initiative, in cooperation with the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, held the Sombath Symposium on February 15-17, 2016, to present and discuss knowledge and practice drawn from different cultures and traditions that can serve as an alternative foundation to the predominant growth-driven development model.

This publication, “Humanity and Nature: Traditional, Cultural and Alternative Perspectives”, compiles essays discussing these perspectives, as well as syntheses of the different parts of the symposium.  The Sombath Initiative and Focus on the Global South hope that this publication will serve as resource material, as well as a guide document for the ongoing and future work on alternative perspectives on humanity’s relationship with nature.

A short video of the symposium and videos of each presentation are available to view at The Sombath Initiative YouTube channel.

For more information about The Sombath Initiative and Sombath Somphone, please visit www.sombath.org

Humanity & Nature: Traditional, Cultural & Alternative Perspectives

Sombath Symposium-2016-02Public Forum

February 17, 2016, 9.30 am–12.30 pm

Ruan Chula Narumit, Chulalongkorn University

This public forum will share the key lessons and conclusions from the Sombath Symposium, a three day event which aims to exchange and explore various traditional, cultural and alternative perspectives on how humans value and interact with nature.

Participants of symposium will come from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, The Philippines, Indonesia, and India, and represent a wide range of ethnic, cultural, religious and vocational backgrounds and perspectives.

The forum will also be joined by local community and activists from Thailand to contribute to the discussion on their struggles to protect the nature and livelihood.

Organised by Focus on the Global South and the Sombath Initiative, in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation

English-Thai-English translation will be provided

Lunch will be served at 12:30 at SASA International House

For more information about this event and to confirm attendance please contact Hamdee Tohming at [email protected] or 089-004-4117.

Whose Vision? Whose Reality?

December 17th, 2015
Time: 14:00-17:00
DIPAK C.JAIN room, SASA International House, Chulalongkorn University

15-12-17-SI Panel2016 will be an important year for ASEAN, as it promises to turn its “vision” into a “reality”. Its chairmanship will be with the Lao PDR, where civil society organizations in the recent ACSC/APF agreed they will not hold their 2016 gathering. This forum aims to draw attention and give different perspectives to this so-called ASEAN “Reality” and “Vision” of a “Dynamic Community”.

Panelists:

  • Angkhana Neelapaijit, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
  • Kraisak Choonhavan, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  • Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch
  • Supalak Ganjanakhundee, the Nation

Moderator: Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South
For more information: Hamdee, 0890044117, [email protected]

1,000 days on, Sombath’s enforced disappearance a clear dereliction of Lao’s international obligations

1000 days11 September 2015

Today marks 1,000 days since prominent Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone “disappeared” at a police checkpoint on a busy street in Vientiane. We, the undersigned organizations, reiterate our call for the Lao government to intensify its efforts to conduct a prompt, impartial, and effective investigation into Sombath’s apparent enforced disappearance, to determine his fate or whereabouts, and to take the necessary measures to bring those responsible to justice.

At the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos, held in Geneva on 20 January 2015, 10 states made recommendations to Laos to investigate Sombath’s disappearance. In addition, five states raised questions about the issue.

We are dismayed by the Lao authorities’ failure to provide any specific information on the status and progress of the investigation since 7 June 2013. This failure has occurred despite the government’s claim in June 2015, during the UPR process, that it was “still thoroughly conducting” an investigation into Sombath’s “whereabouts.” It is not enough for Laos to simply assert it is still investigating the case. Laos’ international legal obligations require it to carry out a prompt investigation and to keep Sombath’s family informed on the progress and status of the investigation. Continue reading “1,000 days on, Sombath’s enforced disappearance a clear dereliction of Lao’s international obligations”

Soldarity for Sombath in Manila

photo2‘Let Us Not Forget’ Advocacy Launched

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines’ Office of Women and Gender Concerns, together with Focus on the Global South, launched a ‘Let Us Not Forget’ campaign through a solidarity mass at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on June 30. The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances participated in the event.

From hereon, the groups will conduct a ritual for remembering every first Saturday of the month to ensure that the campaign for the safe return of Sombath Somphone of Laos and other desaparecidos of Asia continues.

In the mass, officiating Catholic priest of the UST, Father Quirico, reminded those who were gathered that “forgetting about human dignity is a social sin” that serves as “root of evil doings” such as forcibly abducting and disappearing people.

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Sombath Somphone – One Year After

7pm Wednesday Dec 11, 2013
Members Free, Non-Members: 350 Baht

Sombath Somphone, perhaps the Lao PDR’s most prominent community development activist and founder of the Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC) was last seen on the evening of Dec 15, 2013 on a road in Vientiane. According to footage from a CCTV camera, he was stopped in his own vehicle by police, left it, and minutes later got into another vehicle and was driven off into the darkness.

Since then, a veil of silence has descended on the disappearance of the man who in 2005 was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. The Lao government which has denied any involvement in his disappearance, has come under pressure for a credible explanation – which has not been forthcoming. 100 days after Sombath disappeared, US Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement said “Regrettably, the continuing, unexplained disappearance of Mr. Sombath, a widely respected and inspiring Lao citizen who has worked for the greater benefit of all of his countrymen, raises questions about the Lao government’s commitment to the rule of law and to engage responsibly with the world.”

To mark one year since he disappeared and to ensure that the incident is not forgotten, the FCCT is pleased to host Sombath’s wife Ng Shui Meng who will speak about her husband’s life and work.

And to join Ng Shui Meng to speak about human security, transparency, accountability and state power, the FCCT is pleased to host:

Pablo Solón, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South. Mr Solon was the Plurinational State of Bolivia’s Ambassador to the UN and chief negotiator for climate change from 2009 to 2011. His brother (Jose Carlos Trujillo Oroza) was one of the forced disappeared in Bolivia in 1972 during the dictatorship of Banzer. His mother (Gladys Oroza de Solon) was co-founder of the Bolivian Association and Latin American Federation of the forced disappeared.

Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Executive Director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA). Ms. Balais-Serrano has over 40 years of experience in development, human rights and international justice work. Among other initiatives, she helped set up through the Task Force Detainees- Philippines (TFDP), a rehabilitation center for released political prisoners and torture victims and the filing of a class suit in Hawaii against President Marcos after 14 years of martial rule. She also helped establish the Human Rights Commission of the International Federation of Social Workers, where she served as Commissioner for Asia-Pacific for many years. Before returning to FORUM-ASIA in 2013, she spent 10 years as Coordinator for Asia-Pacific with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), a global network of civil society organizations advocating for a fair, independent and effective ICC.

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