International support is now needed to investigate the enforced disappearance of leading Laotian human rights defender Sombath Somphone, who was last seen in December 2012, a group of United Nations independent experts urged today.
“It is high time for the authorities of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to voluntarily request international assistance with the aim of shedding light on Mr. Somphone’s fate and whereabouts, two years after his disappearance,” the experts said in a news release.
“International law makes clear that the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has the duty to carry out an independent, thorough, credible and effective investigation,” they added.
The Laos government claims to care about its citizens. Now is the time to prove it.
Silence over the disappearance two years ago of community activist Sombath Somphone is a stain on the national conscience.
On the evening of December 15, 2012, Magsaysay award winner Sombath Somphone was seen getting out of his jeep and walking into a police outpost on Thadeua Road, Vientiane. Video from a traffic camera shows that a car with flashing lights then arrived, Sombath was escorted to it by unidentified men and then driven away from the scene.The video clip, available on YouTube and other websites, has been viewed by people around the world many times over the past two years. Lao authorities, meanwhile, have announced several times they are investigating Sombath’s disappearance, but on each occasion they have been unable to demonstrate any progress on the case to the public and his family.The international community, including the United Nations, has voiced concerns over his disappearance and pressured the government in Vientiane to make greater efforts to solve the case.Sombath had dedicated his life to the development of his motherland and the betterment of his fellow citizens, particularly the poor. He is a model Lao citizen with a deep love for Laos that he expressed in actions.
In the early 1970s, he received a scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii where he received a BA in Education and an MA in Agriculture. With these qualifications he was free to settle anywhere in the world after the Vietnam War and the fall of Vientiane to the communist Pathet Lao in 1975. But he chose to return home so as to help poor farmers improve their productivity. His contribution to Lao society matches that of the most idealistic members of the Vientiane government. In this regard, the government owes him a lot. But his work went largely unrecognised at home, only coming to international attention when Sombath was handed the prestigious Magsaysay Award for community leadership. Continue reading “Laos must come clean”
Two years ago, prominent activist Sombath Somphone vanished from the streets of the Lao capital Vientiane. Although the authorities could give answers, they have remained silent to this day, says HRW’s Phil Robertson. On the evening of December 15, 2012, civil society leader Sombath disappeared without a trace. He was on his way home from the office when he was pulled over at a police checkpoint. The rights activist was later taken to another vehicle and driven away. His whereabouts still remain unknown.
Right from the beginning, it is widely believed to be a case of enforced disappearance, with many suspecting the Southeast Asian nation’s Communist one-party government to be behind the abduction. The government, however, has so far firmly denied any responsibility for the incident. The Sombath case stirred an international outcry, with prominent figures like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Desmond Tutu calling for his safe return and urging the authorities not to block a thorough investigation.
Sombath had for decades campaigned for the rights of the land-locked nation’s poor rural population and the protection of environment. In 2005, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Prize, considered Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize. In a DW interview, Phil Robertson, Asia expert at Human Rights Watch, strongly criticizes the Lao government for their hard stance. Continue reading “HRW: Lao government's investigation into Sombath case 'is a sham'”
The Report of the 11th High Level Round Table Meeting, averred that: “With regard to the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, The Government of Lao PDR has concerns more than any nation,” and that it would continue the investigation and “…bring those involved into the justice.” (Emphasis added)
Yet when donors from other nations raised the lack of progress at this year’s Round Table, it was suggested that “…development partners turn their attention to Laos’ ‘more pending and important issues’ which were more pressing than the Sombath case.”
If assurances given at one Round Table are not important at the next such meeting, of what utility is the Round Table process?
Donor countries to Laos have pressed the government of Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong on the whereabouts of the country’s most prominent civil society leader who disappeared nearly two years ago.
European and U.S. development partners mentioned the case of Sombath Somphone at a roundtable meeting with members of the Lao government last week in the capital Vientiane, during which they discussed the country’s progress and challenges in implementing various development goals.
The civil society leader went missing on Dec. 15, 2012, when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint in the capital. He was then transferred to another vehicle, according to police surveillance video, and has not been heard from since.
With regard to the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, The Government of Lao PDR has concerns more than any nation. The Government has investigated and exchanged information with his family and ASEAN nations to find the person. Indeed, the Government of Lao PDR will continue the investigation process in accordance with its legal procedures and bring those involved into the justice.
For a country that relies on foreign assistance for roughly 70% of its budget, the agronomist’s disappearance—and the government’s subsequent unwillingness to forthrightly address it—has become a major headache. Few in Laos have built bridges between the foreign and local development communities as effectively as Sombath Somphone.
BANGKOK — The Lao government should share all information on the investigation into the abduction of Sombath Somphone with family members and independent parties, ending its deceptive game of hiding behind national sovereignty to excuse it from engaging in a sincere conversation regarding the investigation into his disappearance, Southeast Asian lawmakers said today.
“The Lao authorities have erected a brick wall of silence on this investigation, so much so that the only intelligent conclusion is that there is in fact no investigation taking place at all and that the obstinacy is part of a cover up for state officials implicated in his abduction,” said Mr. Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and Vice-President of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
“We regard Sombath as a citizen of ASEAN, not just of Laos, and therefore have the right and duty to help find out what has happened to him. The blatant game playing, refusal of assistance and deceptive and at times belligerent answers provided by the Lao authorities when asked for information on the investigation is growing tiresome and reflects badly not just on Lao PDR, but on all of ASEAN.” Continue reading “Lao government’s deceptive game on Sombath investigation must end”
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.
Vientiane (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”