HRW condemns Laos government’s gross rights violation

Asia Correspondent: 12 June 2104

Sombath Somphone
Laotian activist Sombath Somphone has been missing since 2012.

The Laos government routinely oppresses citizens, stifles basic human rights, and acts with impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a critique issued this week. The organization blasted the Southeast Asian country’s leaders for restricting “fundamental rights including freedom of speech, association, and assembly.” The critique concerns Laos’ failures to live up to recommendations issued in a 2010 Universal Periodic Review. The country is up for another review in October, and HRW believes the last UPR did not address critical areas, including “enforced disappearances; freedom of speech, association, and assembly; the treatment of detainees in drug detention centers; and labor rights.”

The critique notes the tight control the state exerts over the media, and a culture of self-censorship. News programs that encourage debate and discussion of hot-button rights issues are at risk of being shut down, and activists live with the real threat of harm and kidnapping.

HRW emphasized the country’s policy of enforced disappearance, particularly the high-profile case of Sombath Somphone, an activist who has been missing since 2012. Continue reading “HRW condemns Laos government’s gross rights violation”

人權觀察組織:寮國人權無進展

中央社商情網: 10 六月 2014

(中央社記者林憬屏曼谷2014年6月10日專電)人權觀察組織今天指出,寮國政府無法解決系統性的人權問題,包括嚴重限制基本自由、缺乏勞工權、未起訴就拘禁吸毒嫌犯,公民社會領袖頌巴斯失蹤至今仍令外界關注。

頌巴斯(Sombath Somphone)2012年12月在永珍被警方攔阻後失蹤至今,另一名環保人士宋包(Sompawn Khantisouk)2007年向警方報告後也失蹤。

人權觀察組織(Human Right Watch)亞洲副主任羅伯森(Phil Robertson)透過聲明指出,頌巴斯被強制失蹤,寮國當局以漠視抗拒國際社會對此案的關注,有關各國的政府不應坐視。

聯合國人權理事會今年10月將對寮國進行第2次的「全球定期審議」,檢視人權狀況。

人權觀察組織指出,寮國政府在2010年第1次全球定期審議上作出的承諾,一直無法作出具體改變,寮國應該批准國際人權公約,終止對言論、集會、結社、媒體的限制,寮國的勞工法仍無法達到國際標準。

人權觀察組織表示,寮國政府應該調查並終止毒品拘禁中心濫權的情況,改由有適當醫療、自發性、社區為主的方式,對毒品依賴進行治療。

羅伯森說,寮國政府無法容忍人民持有異議,以傷害人權的法律與長期拘禁避免任何人挑戰它的權力,寮國人民害怕政府,因為他們知道官員幾乎可以不受懲罰。

人權觀察組織今天把寮國的人權紀錄評論提交給聯合國,評論中指控寮國政府無法解決系統性的人權問題。

Laos: No Progress on Rights

Human Rights Watch: 10 June 2012

Urgently End Disappearances, Systematic Suppression of Basic Freedoms

sombath-somphone
Sombath Somphone, a social activist, was last seen in Vientiane, the capital, in December 2012. There is strong evidence that he was forcibly disappeared by Laotian authorities.

The government of Laos has failed to address the country’s systemic human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said today in a critique of Lao’s human rights record submitted to the United Nations. Laos will appear for the country’s second Universal Periodic Review in October 2014 at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Human Rights Watch highlighted several human rights issues that deserve international attention, including severe restrictions on fundamental liberties, absence of labor rights, and detention of suspected drug users without charge in abusive drug centers. Of particular concern is the forced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone, in Vientiane in December 2012 after he was stopped by the police, and of an environmentalist, Sompawn Khantisouk, who has been missing since he was ordered to report to a police station in January 2007.

“The Lao authorities are defying international concerns by ignoring calls to respond to the enforced disappearance of activist Sombath Somphone,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Concerned governments need to drive home the point that they will not sit complacently by as disappearances and other abuses multiply in Laos.” Continue reading “Laos: No Progress on Rights”

Censure, sequestri e abusi: Vientiane è il regime “più repressivo” del Sud-est asiatico

Asia News: 20 February 2014

Attivisti denunciano: “nel Paese vi è un governo dittatoriale e repressivo in tema di libertà individuali e diritti civili”. La sparizione di Sombath Somphone un monito per tutti gli attivisti e oppositori al regime. Un laotiano conferma: non si può discutere di politica o criticare il partito comunista al potere. Anche la religione sotto lo stretto controllo dello Stato.

Vlaoembassy_595(cropped)ientiane (AsiaNews) – Il partito unico comunista al potere a Vientiane perpetra “gravi” violazioni ai diritti umani, che il più delle volte passano sotto silenzio a causa del controllo strettissimo del governo sulla stampa e le associazioni attiviste. È quanto denunciano gruppi pro-diritti umani all’indomani della pubblicazione di un rapporto secondo cui il Laos è “lo Stato più repressivo” di tutta la regione del Sud-est asiatico. Fin dalla scomparsa dell’attivista e figura di primo piano della società civile Sombath Somphone, fermato il 15 dicembre 2012 a un check-point della polizia, il Paese è finito nel mirino dei movimenti internazionali che si battono per i diritti umani. Una sparizione dietro la quale vi sarebbero agenzie governative o membri legati ai poteri dello Stato.

In un’intervista a Radio Free Asia (Rfa) Phil Robertson, vice-direttore per l’Asia di Human Rights Watch (Hrw), sottolinea che “la situazione in Laos è molto seria”, perché il governo di Vientiane “usa il suo potere […] per controllare le posizioni politiche nel Paese, in un modo che viola chiaramente diversi trattati internazionali sui diritti umani”. Egli parla di esecutivo “dittatoriale” e “repressivo” in tema di libertà individuali e civili. Continue reading “Censure, sequestri e abusi: Vientiane è il regime “più repressivo” del Sud-est asiatico”

Laos Human Rights Abuses 'Serious,' But Mostly Hidden From View

Radio Free Asia: 19 February 2014

Rice farmers blocking a bulldozer from entering their land in a screen grab from an RFA video, Jan. 17, 2014. RFA
Rice farmers blocking a bulldozer from entering their land in a screen grab from an RFA video, Jan. 17, 2014. RFA

The one-party Communist government of Laos is committing “serious” human rights abuses which go largely unreported due to tight political controls, rights groups say, following a report that the country has become the most repressive state in the region.

Laos has been under sharper focus by rights groups since popular civil society leader Sombath Somphone vanished after being stopped in his vehicle at a police checkpoint in the capital Vientiane on Dec. 15, 2012.

The rights groups say there have been many abuses apart from the case of Sombath, who they suspect may have been abducted by government-linked organizations

“The situation in Laos is very serious,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of New York-based Human Rights Watch, told RFA’s Lao Service.

“The Lao government uses its power as a one-party state to effectively control political expression in the country in a way that clearly violates various international human rights treaties.”

“It is still a very dictatorial, rights-repressing government,” Robertson said. Continue reading “Laos Human Rights Abuses 'Serious,' But Mostly Hidden From View”

Laos: Anniversary of ‘Disappearance' Demands Action

Thomas Reuters Foundaton: 16 December 2013

The Lao government should immediately disclose the fate of prominent social activist Sombath Somphone, who was apprehended at a police checkpoint in Vientiane one year ago, Human Rights Watch said today.

(Bangkok) – The Lao government should immediately disclose the fate of prominent social activist Sombath Somphone, who was apprehended at a police checkpoint in Vientiane one year ago. The official investigation of his enforced disappearance on December 15, 2012 was inadequate, and the government has yet to offer a credible explanation of Sombath’s whereabouts.

“One year since Sombath Somphone ‘disappeared,’ the Lao government clearly hopes the world will just forget about what happened to one of its most prominent citizens,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Foreign donors to the Lao government should make Sombath’s enforced disappearance a priority until he can return home.”

Security camera footage shows police stopping Sombath’s jeep at 6:03 p.m. on December 15, and unidentified men taking him into the Thadeua police post. Shortly after, an unidentified motorcyclist stopped at the police post and drove off with Sombath’s jeep, leaving his own motorcycle by the roadside. A few minutes later, a truck with flashing lights stopped at the police post. Two people got out of the truck, took Sombath into the vehicle, then drove off.  Continue reading “Laos: Anniversary of ‘Disappearance' Demands Action”

Action in front of the Lao embassy in Tokyo

政府批判の許されないラオスで社会活動家が失踪〜大使館前で人権NGOが抗議のアピール

Independent Web Journal: 13 December 2013

(Please click on link above for article in Japanese, as well as a video.)

Tokyo EmbassyIn response to a call from Japanese rights groups, Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International Japan, around 20 citizens gathered in front of the Laos Embassy in Tokyo on Friday, December 13, 2013. They called out “Return Sombath!” and read out a letter addressed to Lao’s Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, urging his government’s prompt, transparent, and thorough investigation on the abduction and disappearance of Sombath Somphone. The action was to anticipate the Japan-ASEAN Summit held in Tokyo on December 13-15, to which the Lao government had also been invited. Despite the prior notice of the action and bell rings at the door, there was no response from the embassy side. Hence, the letter was put in their mail box.

The same groups also sent a letter to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, asking him to urge the Lao government to take an immediate action on the matter.

Japan: Raise Concerns About Abducted Lao Activist

Human Rights Watch: 11 December 2013

中国语文 Langue française

One Year On, Sombath Somphone Remains Forcibly Disappeared

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 9.39.28 AM“On the one-year anniversary of Sombath Somphone’s abduction, Prime Minister Abe should break Japan’s public silence and call upon the Lao government to reveal the truth about Sombath’s fate. Japan’s words carry weight since it is the largest donor to Laos. Prime Minister Abe should use this leverage to send a strong message to the Lao leadership that it needs to stop ignoring the pleas to reveal what happened to Sombath.” Kanae Doi, Japan director

(Tokyo) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan should raise concerns about the enforced disappearance of a prominent civil society leader in the prime minister’s meeting  with Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong at the Japan-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International Japan, Mekong Watch, Empowerment For All Japan, and two other Japanese nongovernmental organizations said today in a joint letter to Prime Minister Abe.

The Japan-ASEAN Summit, scheduled from December 13-15, 2013, falls during the one-year anniversary of the abduction and forcible disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a recipient of the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. Sombath was taken into custody by authorities at a checkpoint outside a police station in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on December 15, 2012. Continue reading “Japan: Raise Concerns About Abducted Lao Activist”

EU Must Maintain Efforts to Secure Safe Return of Sombath Somphone

AI-CSW-FIDH-HRWA number of international groups have called on European parliamentarians visiting Laos to maintain pressure to secure the release of Sombath Somphone. In part, the letter reads:

In line with the EU’s commitments to promote human rights through all its external actions, we call on you during your upcoming EP delegation visit to urge the Lao government to:

  • Ensure the safe and immediate return of Sombath Somphone.
  • Answer the many outstanding questions around Sombath’s disappearance and establish an independent commission to investigate the case.
  • Fully investigate the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone in a timely and transparent manner, appropriately prosecuting those responsible.
  • Address repression of civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Laos and ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders.

Until Sombath Somphone is back safely with his family, his case will not be forgotten and calls for his return will persist.

The full letter can be read here.

Laos: End Cover-Up in Activist’s ‘Disappearance’

Human Rights Watch: 14 June 2013

After six months, the Lao government’s failure to explain the abduction of a prominent social activist at a police checkpoint or account for his whereabouts raises the gravest concerns for his safety. The Lao authorities should realize their cover story is fooling no one, and start telling the truth. Brad Adams, Asia director

(Bangkok) – Authorities in Laos have failed to seriously investigate or credibly explain the enforced disappearance six months ago of a leading social activist, Sombath Somphone, Human Rights Watch said today.

Sombath, 60, the 2005 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, was last seen by his wife on December 15, 2012, as they were driving separately from his office in the capital, Vientiane, to their home for dinner. A police security video shows him being stopped at a police checkpoint and taken into custody. He never arrived home.

“After six months, the Lao government’s failure to explain the abduction of a prominent social activist at a police checkpoint or account for his whereabouts raises the gravest concerns for his safety,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Lao authorities should realize their cover story is fooling no one, and start telling the truth.”

Security camera footage from the Municipality Police Station, obtained by Sombath’s wife, Ng Shui Meng, shows police stopping Sombath’s jeep at the Thadeua police post at 6:03 p.m. on December 15. Unidentified men then took Sombath into the police post. A motorcyclist stopped at the police post and drove off with Sombath’s jeep, leaving his own motorcycle by the roadside. A truck with flashing lights then stopped at the police post. Two people got out of the truck, took Sombath into the vehicle, and then drove off. Continue reading “Laos: End Cover-Up in Activist’s ‘Disappearance’”