The ASEAN Charter provides that all Member States shall take turns in acting as Chair of the ASEAN. The chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
There were instances in the past, however, when Member States switched turns or did not take a turn in the rotation. For instance, Myanmar did not take a turn as ASEAN Chair from 2006 to 2014. It was reported that Myanmar feared Western countries could boycott meetings held there and cause the country to gain bad publicity. In 2011, Indonesia switched places with Brunei because it did not want to be swamped with organizing too many meetings in 2013 as they were scheduled to also host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in the same year.
Laos failed attempt to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council in a secret vote in New York was greeted with relief on Thursday by a leading Lao human rights group, which urged the communist government to adhere to U.N. rights treaties before trying to join the council.
The secret ballot by the U.N. General Assembly in Wednesday saw Laos come up short for one of five vacant Asia-Pacific slots on the council, with those regional slots going to Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
The Paris-based Lao Movement for Human Rights told RFA’s Lao Service it would have been “most unfortunate” to see the authoritarian one-party government in Vientiane join the 47-member council.
On the missing Case of Mr. Sombath Somphone… Today, I would like to reassure that the concerned authorities of the Lao PDR have conducted and are still seriously conducting the investigation and will continue to do so to find out the truth and to bring perpetrators to justice in accordance with the law of the Lao PDR. A missing case is complex and difficult to solve quickly. We need time and our concerned authorities are trying their utmost efforts under the law of the Lao PDR.
Mr. Thongphane Savanhphet, Permanent Representative of the Lao PDR to the United Nations in Geneva, to the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council on 25 June 2015.
Yesterday marked the first month of Sombath’s disappearance… His wife was asked to go talk to the police as part of the investigation process. She turned up at the police station at 9:00 AM, and the questions they had for her, after one month of the investigation was, ‘When did you get married to Sombath? How did you guys meet each other? Where do you guys stay and whether you have children?’ …and the questioning was done, the investigation was done by the lowest ranking officer at that particular police station.
Now this raises fundamental questions. The first is it raises the notion that, after one month you call a wife and tell her ‘When did you guys get married, or when did you meet for the first time?’ Which actually shows that the police and the civil administration have absolutely no interest, no political will, to get the the root of this problem. Absolutely no interest, and no political will to resolve this issue, except saying in all our meetings that ‘We want to get to the root of this problem because the credibility of Laos has been hit, and therefore we want to solve this problem as soon as possible.’
But when asked about the investigation itself, there is absolute stonewalling, and the same script being repeated all the time…
Charles Santiago, Member of Malaysian Parliament, at FCCT press conference after travelling to Laos in January, 2013.
…the disappearance of Sombath Somphone is not an isolated case in an otherwise acceptable human rights landscape, but perhaps the most visible manifestation of a broader and deeper malaise.
We ask what potential and resolve exists to address the many other human rights issues given that Lao authorities so steadfastly ignore this one?
From a letter by the Sombath Initiative to those countries making recommendations about enforced disappearance during the Lao PDR’s Universal Periodic Review in February. The Lao government must respond to the UN Human Rights Council regarding these recommendations in the next few days.
5.25. Conclude the process of ratification of the ICCPED shortly, and investigate vigorously all cases of enforced disappearances, including the case of civil society activist, Sombath Somphone, and inform the public transparently about the results of such investigation as far as feasible without endangering the investigation, and bring perpetrators to justice (Germany);
5.94. Carry out without further delay an independent, credible investigation into the unexplained disappearance of a human rights defender, Mr. Sombath Somphone, which occurred on 15 December 2012 in Vientiane (Luxembourg);
5.95. Carry out a prompt, independent and impartial investigation aimed at determining the fate or whereabouts of Sombath Somphone (Poland);
5.96. Undertake a thorough investigation, consistent with international practices and standards, into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone (Portugal);
5.97. Intensify the investigation into the disappearance of Mr Sombath and accept external assistance in the investigation and make the results publicly known, and investigate in a transparent and credible manner all cases of enforced disappearances (Sweden);Continue reading “UPR Recommendations on Sombath”
Scores of additional appeals, statements and suggestions from the above and many other concerned governments, organisations and individuals can be found here.
More comments and recommendations have been made during the Universal Periodic Review itself. If Lao authorities are truly “…ready too receive suggestions from any interested parties…”, will they work to ensure these are included in the Outcome Report?
Finally, Mr. Boupha suggests that Lao authorities “…cooperated sincerely with [Sombath’s] wife and relatives, allowed them to view and record the footage.”
What better way to demonstrate their sincerity and seriousness than to simply release the original recording, a suggestion that has been made dozens of times?
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: