Laos accused of lying over Sombath Somphone abduction

BBC: 28 August 2013

Many believe that Sombath Somphone was taken by elements within the security establishment

He was last seen in December when CCTV footage showed him being stopped at a police checkpoint and forcibly bundled into another car.

Authorities say that they cannot find Mr Sombath despite the video evidence.

Laos has been run by the Communist party since 1975.

Both civil society and media are tightly controlled.

Tightly controlled

Eight months after his disappearance there is still no information about what happened to Sombath Somphone. Continue reading “Laos accused of lying over Sombath Somphone abduction”


Bangkok Post: 16 June 2013

หกเดือนหลังจากการลักพาตัวสมบัด สมพอน ซึ่งเป็นนักเคลื่อนไหว ทำให้ประเทศลาวอยู่ในสภาพล้าหลังประเทศเพื่อนบ้าน เป็นภาพของระบอบปกครองที่สร้างความกลัวเพื่อรักษาอำนาจและประโยชน์ของตน

UNITED FRONT: กลุ่มนักเคลื่อนไหวประมาณ 20 คนจากประเทศไทยและลาวได้รวมตัวที่กรุงเทพฯ เพื่อเรียกร้องให้ทางการที่กรุงเวียงจันทน์เร่งสืบสวนสอบสวนกรณีการหายตัวไปของสมบัด สมพอน

หกเดือนหลังจากการหายตัวไปในกรุงเวียงจันทน์ของสมบัด สมพอน ผู้ก่อตั้งองค์กรพัฒนาเอกชนเพื่อช่วยเหลือเยาวชนในชนบท รัฐบาลลาวมีสภาพเหมือนแกะดำมากขึ้นเรื่อย ๆ ในบรรดาประชาคมอาเซียน

ในขณะที่พม่าถอยห่างจากระบอบเผด็จการในอดีตมากขึ้นเรื่อย ๆ มีการเปิดเสรีด้านสื่อสิ่งพิมพ์ และเปิดพื้นที่การเมืองให้กับฝ่ายคัดค้านรัฐบาล แต่รัฐบาลลาวยังคงติดยึดอยู่ในบ่วงของระบอบเผด็จการเบ็ดเสร็จ ซึ่งไม่สอดคล้องกับบริบทของภูมิภาคเลย

สัญญาณล่าสุดของปรากฏการณ์ดังกล่าวเกิดขึ้นเมื่อช่วงปลายเดือนพฤษภาคม กล่าวคือทางการลาวได้ส่งตัวเยาวชนเก้าคนกลับไปประเทศเกาหลีเหนือ ทั้ง ๆ ที่พวกเขาได้หลบหนีมาจากประเทศบ้านเกิดที่ปกครองด้วยระบอบสตาลิน ด้วยความช่วยเหลือจากชาวคริสต์เกาหลีใต้ทำให้สามารถเดินทางหลบหนีข้ามประเทศจีนเข้าสู่ลาว

ข้าพเจ้าอยากอธิบายว่าระบอบปกครองในลาวเหมือนกับระบอบธนาธิปไตย มีการนำทรัพยากรธรรมชาติของประเทศออกประมูลขายเพื่อผลประโยชน์ของคนกลุ่มเล็ก ๆ โดยอ้างว่าเป็นการทำตามลัทธิคอมมิวนิสต์” ผู้สังเกตการณ์ชาวตะวันตกคนหนึ่งในเวียงจันทน์กล่าว
และการหายตัวไปของสมบัด ซึ่งเป็นนักกิจกรรมอาวุโสซึ่งเป็นที่รู้จักและเป็นที่เคารพอย่างมากในลาว เป็นสัญญาณที่เลวร้ายซึ่งสะท้อนถึงด้านมืดของประเทศนี้

Continue reading “การหายตัวไปของนักกิจกรรมทำให้เกิดภาพที่มัวหมองของรัฐบาลลาวที่เป็นส่วนหนึ่งของอาเซียน”

Activist's disappearance gives Vientiane a black eye in Asean

Bangkok Post: 16 June 2013

Six months after the abduction of activist Sombath Somphone, the nation appears to be falling behind its neighbours and stuck in the grip of a self-serving regime ruling on fear

UNITED FRONT: A group of about 20 activists from Thailand and Laos gather in Bangkok to call on authorities in Vientiane to speed up their investigation into the disappearance of Sombath Somphone.

Six months after the disappearance in Vientiane of Sombath Somphone, the founder of an NGO set up to help rural youth, the Lao government is looking increasingly like the black sheep among its Asean.

As Myanmar progressively distances itself from its dictatorial past by liberalising the press and opening political space for the opposition, the Lao regime is sinking into an obscurantist authoritarianism which seems out of touch with the regional context.

The last sign of this anachronism came at the end of May when Lao authorities sent back to North Korea nine youths who had fled their Stalinist mother country and, with the help of South Korean Christian, had crossed from China into Laos.

”I would characterise the Laotian regime as a plutocracy that is auctioning the natural resources of the country for the benefit of a small group under the guise of communism,” said a Western observer in Vientiane.

And the disappearance of Mr Sombath, the most well known and respected Lao NGO worker, is a tragic testament to the country’s dark side. Continue reading “Activist's disappearance gives Vientiane a black eye in Asean”

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’”

Fears grow for abducted Laos campaigner Sombath

BBC News: 30 April 2013

By Jonah Fisher

It is a case that a decent detective would crack in a week. Sombath Somphone’s abduction was caught on camera and took place on a busy road at a police checkpoint.

Mr Sombath founded the PADETC organisation in Laos

But more than four months after Laos’ leading development worker disappeared, the authorities say they have no leads and yet need no outside help finding him.

It is little wonder that aid workers and diplomats in this small South East Asian nation are fearing the worst.

Mr Sombath’s wife Shui-meng Ng last saw her husband in the rear-view mirror of her car.

It was Saturday, 15 December 2012, and the couple were driving home in their respective vehicles along Thadeua Road, which runs parallel to the Mekong River.

The Mr Sombath, 62, had been doing some early evening exercise while his Singapore-born wife had attended a meeting in town.

With the day coming to a close, they met up at the small shop Ms Shui-meng runs and decided to head home in convoy.

Despite the absence of traffic, the cars lost contact with each other. When she got home, Ms Shui-meng waited for several hours before heading back out to look for her husband.

Having found no trace of him or his Jeep, she reported him missing the next morning. Continue reading “Fears grow for abducted Laos campaigner Sombath”

Archbishop Tutu Speaks out for Sombath

Sombath with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

On behalf of Archbishop Tutu’s office we confirm that Archbishop Tutu addressed a letter, dated 25 February 2013, to H.E. Mr Thongsing Thammavong, Prime Minister of Laos, and H.E. Mr. Choummaly Sayasone, Secretary General of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and President of the Lao PDR. The Archbishop’s office has received no acknowledgement of receipt of the letter.

The letter regarded the “disappearance” of human rights campaigner Mr Sombath Somphone, in Laos.

The Archbishop wrote that Mr Somphone’s commitment to poverty alleviation and sustainable development at home and in the region had been nothing short of inspirational. He had worked extensively with Buddhist monks and elders to set up youth meditation camps and this care for the spiritual core of the Laotian people had touched many in the region and beyond.

The Archbishop wrote that Mr Somphone’s participation and ability to speak freely at the Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) in Vientiane, last November, marked an enriching moment for free speech in Laos and allowed an inclusive conversation to take place between all levels of Laotian society.

“It is a tragedy that someone with such a deep love for his people could disappear,” the Archbishop wrote. Continue reading “Archbishop Tutu Speaks out for Sombath”

Carving up LAOS: Land disputes rattle the government

The Edge Review: 5 -11 April 2013

By Marwaan Macan-Markar / Bangkok

When they gathered for the second annual session of the National Assembly last December, Laotian lawmakers may have had a reason to feel buoyant. The communist-ruled country appeared on the verge of gaining international respectability. The preceding months had seen this impoverished nation shed some of its image as a diplomatic backwater in the region.Carving up Laos

The remake came in stages. In July, Hillary Clinton flew into Vientiane, becoming the first US Secretary of State to visit the landlocked country in 57 years.

Then, in October, the World Trade Organisation approved Laos’ application to join the WTO, signalling that this agrarian nation had joined the world of international commerce. And finally, in November, Laos hosted its most important international gathering, the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem), which drew world leaders from Asia and Europe.

But by the time the 12-day session of the country’s parliament drew to a close in December, the assembly had traded open buoyancy for secrecy, raising questions about the prospect of a liberal political culture taking root. Nothing was more deafening to some community leaders than the assembly’s decision to silence one of the rare new avenues of openness – a hotline for the public to call the 132-member parliament.

This rollback in a country where political dissent has traditionally not been tolerated was hard to ignore. After all, the first annual session of the parliament, held in July, seemed to indicate that the nod given to greater openness in recent years by the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) might be genuine. There were close to 300 calls that citizens made using the hotline, a number that was widely publicised in the local media. Continue reading “Carving up LAOS: Land disputes rattle the government”

Laos: Rhetoric Vs. Reality? – Analysis

Eurasia Review: 02 April 2013

By Aparupa Bhattacherjee, Research Intern, SEARP, IPCS


The arcane disappearance of a Laotian citizen, award-winning activist, Sombath Somphone has baffled the world. The Laos government is facing criticism from their neighbouring countries, and especially from the US, due to their inability to probe into the case after more than hundred days of Mr. Sombath’s disappearance. Interestingly, this is not the first case of disappearance in Laos. Authorities in Laos have obstructed the US’ investigations into the whereabouts of two US citizens and an American permanent resident that have been missing from Laos for a long time. The government has taken no major initiative to investigate these cases. These incidents hamper the image of the Communist Laos government, whose newly liberalised economy propels them to be dependent on their neighbour and the US for both investment and funding. Moreover, the changes which liberalisation has brought into Laos are being questioned under such circumstances.

Changes brought about due to Liberalisation

For the world outside, Laos is a beautiful landlocked country. That is the image portrayed by the Laos government, which is quite evident from their slogan “simply beautiful”. Laos has a long history of struggle and bloodshed. The Communist government, which followed the Chinese and USSR model of governance, faced a lot of criticism due to their mistreatment of the ethnic tribes, especially the Laotians of Hmong ethnicity. Voices against the government were also brutally crushed. The system of governance was very opaque. The disappearances of people who were critical of the government were not unusual. The situation seems to have changed only after liberalisation. But the question arises that has the scenario changed for the better or for worse? Continue reading “Laos: Rhetoric Vs. Reality? – Analysis”

Laos Feels Heat Over Missing Activist's Case

Radio Free Asia: 26 March 2012

By Parameswaran Ponnudurai

imageA 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines.                AFP/Somphone family

Are the authorities in Laos trying to cover up a carefully planned abduction of Sombath Somphone, the country’s most respected civil society leader?

It may seem so — going by the conduct of the one-party Communist government since he went missing on Dec. 15 last year.

As his disappearance reached its 100th day on Monday, the Lao government has yet to come up with a satisfactory report on the circumstances under which the 60-year-old highly respected community worker vanished after being stopped at a police checkpoint in the capital, Vientiane.

“Observers can’t help but think its continuing refusal to release its findings is a cover-up for something,” said Murray Hiebert, deputy director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

“The Lao government needs to quickly make public the findings of its investigation into what happened to Sombath,” he said.

The activist’s disappearance “sends a chill through civil society and nongovernmental organizations operating in Laos,” said Heibert, who had worked on development issues in Laos in the 1970s when he first met Sombath, a U.S.-educated agronomist.

Not only has the Lao government failed to acknowledge any responsibility for Sombath’s disappearance, it has also turned down international requests to provide any assistance in the investigations.

This has raised concerns that the case represents the beginning of a state crackdown on dissenting voices.

“One hundred days have passed since Sombath’s abduction and two things remain constant—there is no sign of Sombath, and the Lao government’s assertions and claims regarding his disappearance still totally lack credibility,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of New York-based Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division.

“The Lao government should recognize they cannot play for time because the international community’s interest in this issue is not going to diminish,” he said. Continue reading “Laos Feels Heat Over Missing Activist's Case”

Statement by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, on Sombath Somphone

US State Department
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
March 24, 2013      2013/0338

100 Days since the Disappearance of Lao Civil Society Leader Sombath Somphone

Today marks the 100th day since the disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, a respected individual known for his work with non-governmental organizations, the government, and the international community.  Video footage suggests that Mr. Sombath may have been abducted from a police checkpoint in the capital city of Vientiane.  The United States shares the international community’s serious concerns about Mr. Sombath’s safety and well-being.  We call on the Lao government to do everything in its power to account for his disappearance without further delay.  We are concerned at the lack of significant information we have received from the Lao government about Mr. Sombath’s case, despite our offers to assist with the investigation and numerous expressions of concern about Mr. Sombath’s welfare.

Mr. Sombath’s disappearance resurrects memories of an earlier era when unexplained disappearances were common.  We note that Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations, including its accession to the World Trade Organization and its hosting of the Asia-Europe Summit Meeting last November.  Regrettably, the continuing, unexplained disappearance of Mr. Sombath, a widely respected and inspiring Lao citizen who has worked for the greater benefit of all of his countrymen, raises questions about the Lao government’s commitment to the rule of law and to engage responsibly with the world.

We join with countless organizations, governments, journalists and concerned citizens around the world in demanding answers to Mr. Sombath’s disappearance and urging his immediate return home.