A press conference entitled “Three Years On: Demanding Answers for the Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone in Laos” was held at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Bangkok, Thailand on Monday, 14 December 2014.
A synthesis of new CCTV footage (above) was shared showing: 1) Sombath’s jeep after he was stopped at a police post, 2) being driven out of town by another person after Sombath was called to the police post, and 3) then returning toward the city centre shortly thereafter. The videos also show the pickup truck that took Sombath away.
Despite claims they are conducting a serious investigation, Lao authorities have shown no interest in reviewing this additional evidence.
Panelists sharing remarks at the event included:
Angkhana Neelaipaijit, Thai National Human Rights Commissioner, Justice for Peace Foundation and Sombath Initiative Advisory Board
Three years ago, on December 15, Magsaysay award winner and acclaimed community development leader Sombath Somphone was detained at a police checkpoint in Vientiane, Laos, and then disappeared by state authorities. Since then, the Lao police and government authorities have consistently failed to seriously investigate the case, and continue to unpersuasively claim ignorance of Sombath’s whereabouts.
Yet evidence is still being uncovered, and on the 3rd anniversary of his enforced disappearance, new CCTV camera footage — obtained from the area where Sombath was abducted on the day that Sombath vanished into state custody – will be made public.
A panel of speakers will also provide the latest updates on Sombath’s case and the international campaign to demand answers from the Lao PDR government.
Angkhana Neelaipaijit,Thai National Human Rights Commissioner, Justice for Peace Foundation and Sombath Initiative
Sam Zarifi, International Commission of Jurists
Laurent Meillan, UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights
One thousand days after civil society leader Sombath Somphone was abducted at a police checkpoint in Vientiane, Lao authorities say they still have no clues about what may have happened to him.
“It’s been 1,000 days of waiting, 1,000 days of anxiety — and 1,000 days of nothing,” Shui Meng Ng, Mr Sombath’s wife, told a panel held to mark the milestone.
Mr Sombath, a renowned community activist, was last seen on Dec 15, 2012, when he was stopped at a police checkpoint in Laos’ capital city. While his apparent abduction was caught on CCTV camera footage, the probe into the case has stalled.
The video footage shows Mr Sombath being stopped at the police checkpoint and several men forcing him into another vehicle and driving away.
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”
The Lao PDR is scheduled for the second Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record on 20 January 2015. In preparation for this event, many organisations from civil society, the United Nations and the Lao government have submitted reports.
Nearly all of the submissions from stakeholders not subject to Lao government control raise the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, many emphatically. These include:
Lao leading civil rights activist Sombath Somphone, right, with his wife Shui-Meng during a drip to Bali in 2005. Pic: AP.
Two years have passed since the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a celebrated civil rights worker in Laos. Sombath was last seen being driven away in an unknown vehicle in Vientiane on Dec. 15, 2012. He has not been heard from since. Sombath’s family, friends, and colleagues continue to demand answers about his whereabouts and accountability from a government notorious for strong-arming activists and others seen as “troublemakers”.
CCTV footage shows Sombath was last seen when he was stopped at a police post in Vientiane after leaving dinner with his wife. The video shows him at the post and then being driven away in another vehicle. No one knows his whereabouts since then and the Laos government denies having knowledge about where he is, why he was detained, or what has happened to him. Continue reading “Two years on: Still no answers in disappearance of Sombath Somphone”
Video of the event is available here. Remarks were given by: 1) Angkhana Neelapaijit from the Justice for Peace Foundation, 2) Sam Zarifi from ICJ, 3) Matilda Bogner from OHCHR, and 4) Ng Shui Meng. (11 December 2014)
Two years after the abduction of the prominent, internationally acclaimed Lao development worker Sombath Somphone by Lao state agents, the Lao government has done very little to find the truth, experts say. Meanwhile, the disappearance and lack of justice has effectively created a climate of fear which has worsened the human rights situation in Laos.
“Today marks 726 days, four days short of two years, since Sombath has been taken away from me and my family,” Shui Meng Ng, the wife of Sombath, said at a seminar ‘Sombath Somphone Missing for Two Years’ in Bangkok on Thursday. “Even after the 726 days, the shock, the pain, the anguish have not lessened. In fact, the anxiety has grown with each passing day. Some people sometimes ask me ‘Do you think Sombath is still alive?’ My answer is ‘I can only hope that he is still alive’. Without that hope, I will not have the strength to get up each day”