Solidarity Message to Somchai Neelapaijit’s family

Somchai Neelapaijit’s enforced disappearance remains a disheartening reality that we continue to remember. The Sombath Initiative is honored to commemorate his noble efforts in defending the rights of the victims of human rights violations. His endeavors, which challenged the interests and official power of the perpetrators of those violations, in turn made him the victim of human rights violations. His enforced disappearance was done to intimidate and induce fear in people and in the human rights community in particular. His disappearance should not be seen as a loss; neither has it happened in vain. His sacrifice has inspired and continues to inspire us and the wider public to build on and live up to his legacy, especially in eradicating enforced disappearance and in the struggle for genuine freedom and justice amidst the socially and structurally-entrenched widespread human rights violations and culture of impunity that continue to persist.

The Sombath Initiative reaffirms our solidarity with the Neelapaijit family and all the victims of enforced disappearance and their families. We proclaim our commitment to end this heinous crime against humanity and all forms of human rights violations. Our struggles shall endure until justice for the missing loved ones is served and human rights of all people are respected and protected.

In solidarity,

The Sombath Initiative

11 March, 2017

Where is Somchai? 13 Years

Event marking 13 years since the disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit. The Somchai Neelapaijit Award will also be announced.

11 March 2017: 9:00 AM to 12:45 PM

Pri Banomyong Institute, Thonglor, Bangkok, Thailand

Wives of missing Thai, Lao activists seek action over disappearances

Thomson Reuters Foundation: 20 December 2016

(L-R) Rights activists Shui Meng Ng, Angkhana Neelapaijit, Pinnipa Preuksapan and Angkhana’s daughter Pratubjit Neelapaijit at a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, December 19, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Alisa Tang

By Alisa Tang

BANGKOK, Dec 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The wives of three prominent Southeast Asian human rights campaigners who went missing after being detained by the authorities have united to urge Laos and Thailand to end impunity over forced disappearances.

All three women have become vocal critics of forced disappearances in a region where activists highlighting abuses over human, labour and land rights routinely face threats and violence. Some are gunned down, harassed through lawsuits, or simply “disappeared”.

“The biggest struggle is to get answers,” said Shui Meng Ng, whose husband Sombath Somphone, a Lao activist campaigning for rural development, went missing in December 2012.

The internationally acclaimed activist was last seen at a police checkpoint in the Lao capital Vientiane. Continue reading “Wives of missing Thai, Lao activists seek action over disappearances”

The Tragedy of Enforced Disappearances

Sombath Somphone and the Tragedy of Enforced Disappearances: A Press Conference and Interactive Dialogue was held at the FCCT in Bangkok, Thailand on 19 December 2016. Panelists included:

    • Pinnipa Preuksapan, wife of Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, ethnic Karen land and rights activist
    • Angkhana Neelapaijit, Commissioner, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, and wife of activist lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit
    • Shui-Meng Ng, wife of Sombath Somphone

The event was hosted by the Sombath Initiative moderated by Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

Video of the event can be seen in four parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Thailand: Wives of 3 Missing Men Discuss Their Grief

Benar News: 19 December 2016

Shui-Meng Ng, left, Angkhana Neelapaijit and Pinnapa Preuksapan discuss details of their husbands’ disappearances, at a press conference in Bangkok, Dec. 19, 2016.

The wives of three men who disappeared under mysterious circumstances years ago – including a Thai lawyer who has been missing since March 2004 – appeared Monday before reporters in Bangkok to discuss their ongoing ordeals.

Angkhana Neelapaijit, the wife of lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, joined Shui-Meng Ng and Pinnapa Preuksapan, the respective spouses of Laotian civil society leader Sombath Somphone and ethnic Karen activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, for a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.

Sombath, a winner of Asia’s Magsaysay Award, disappeared in Laos in December 2012. Billy vanished in Thailand’s Petchburi province in April 2014. The three wives believe their husbands were kidnapped. Continue reading “Thailand: Wives of 3 Missing Men Discuss Their Grief”

Mrs Angkana launches signature collection campaign to demand revival of Somchai’s case

Thai Visa News: 22 April 2016

Angkana Neelaphaichit-22 April 2016

BANGKOK: — The widow of missing Muslim lawyer Somchai Nilapaichit has launched a signature collection campaign to demand the revival of the enforced disappearance case of her husband.

Mrs Angkana Nilapaichit, a member of the human rights committee of the Law Council of Thailand, told Post Today Online that the campaign through the social media, www.change.org, which started a month ago has already collected about 17,000 signatures against her demand of at least 25,000 signatures.

Once the required signatures are collected, she said she would submit a petition accompanied by the list of signatures to Justice Minister Paiboon Kumchaya and six other persons to demand the revival of Mr Somchai’s case in an independent and transparent manner.

Somchai has disappeared without any traces about 12 years ago while he served as a defence lawyers for some of the suspected southern separatists. All the police officers charged with involvement in the lawyer’s disappearance have been acquitted.

Mrs Angkana said, besides the demand for the revival of the case, the signature campaign was intended to create public awareness about human rights, rights to safety and protection from enforced disappearance.

Note: The petition can be found here.

Family of missing Laos activist Sombath Somphone reveal new evidence three years after disappearance

Channel News Asia: 14 December 2015

The family of Sombath Somphone, a Laos civil society leader who went missing in the capital Vientiane three years ago, urged the government to do more to probe into his disappearance.

SB-Magsaysay-08
Sombath Somphone, an award-winning campaigner for sustainable development in Laos, pictured in 2005.

Sombath Somphone, an award-winning campaigner for sustainable development in Laos, pictured in 2005. (Photo: AFP)

Within days after his disappearance, the Laos government released footage showing his Jeep had been driven out of the capital Vientiane.

However, a new piece of evidence released on Monday (Dec 14) by an advocacy group, the Sombath Initiative, revealed his car had been turned around and driven back towards the city centre.

Presented at a press conference entitled “Three Years On: Demanding Answers for the Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone in Laos” in Bangkok was new footage his family retrieved from closed circuit TV cameras (CCTV) along the road where he is believed to have disappeared.

His family claimed they had presented state investigators the new evidence, adding the authorities have yet to examine it.

“This CCTV footage was gathered by Sombath’s family and sheds new light on what happened the night he disappeared,” said Sam Zarifi, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific for the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Continue reading “Family of missing Laos activist Sombath Somphone reveal new evidence three years after disappearance”

Press conference marks three years of Lao government complacency on investigation

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
  • Sam Zarifi, International Commission for Jurists
  • Laurent Meillan, UN Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights
  • Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch

A press release be seen here, and video of the conference itself is available here.

Notes on the synthesis video include:

  • 0:08: Map showing location of original traffic CCTV camera (Camera #1) and locations of cameras from which new CCTV footage was obtained (Camera #2 & #3).
  • 0:20: Original CCTV footage (Camera #1) beginning just after Sombath was stopped in his jeep. This footage, as well as explanatory notes, is available here.
  • 1:10:  Sombath getting out of his jeep and going to police post.
  • 1:51:  Person arriving on motorcycle
  • 3:35: Jeep being driven away, going away from city centre.
  • 3:56: Jeep seen going away from city centre on Camera #2
  • 4:42: Jeep seen coming back toward city centre on Camera #2
  • 5:00: Jeep seen going away from city centre on Camera #3
  • 5:45: Jeep seen coming back toward city centre on Camera #3.
  • 6:40: Truck with Sombath seen leaving police post on Camera #1. Note truck is second vehicle behind van.
  • 7:04: Same truck seen heading away from city centre on Camera #2.
  • 7:20: Same truck seen heading away from city centre on Camera #3.

Three Years On: Demanding Answers for the Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone in Laos

10:30 am, Monday, December 14, 2015

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT)

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.

Speakers include:

  • 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
  • Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch

For more information, please call +66-85-060-8406, or email: [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”