‘Absolutely no political will…’

Charles Santiago-FCCT

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.

Laos facing possible aid review over missing activist, says Euro MP

Radio Australia: (07 November 2013)

A European parliamentary delegation says the Lao government has yet again failed to offer a credible explanation as to the whereabouts of a well-known rights activist.

(audio program)

It’s almost 11 months ago since the disappearance of the internationally-recognised development worker and teacher, Sombath Somphone.

And for the second time this year, a European delegation has visited Laos to press authorities on the case of the missing activist, but they say little progress has been made.

Presenter: Tom Maddocks

Speakers: Soren Sondergaard, delegation leader (August) and member of the European parliament; Werner Langen, delegation leader (October) and Chairman of the ASEAN delegation in the European Parliament; Rupert Abbott, Laos researcher, Amnesty International

MADDOCKS: In August, a European parliamentary delegation drew the conclusion that Lao authorities were “still in a state of denial” about the disappearance of Sombath Somphone.

The delegation was led by Danish member of parliament Soren Sondergaard.

SONDERGAARD: Our key message was that it is impossible in a country like theirs to accept that a person can disappear a few metres in front of a police control station, taken on camera, everything is taken on camera, and despite of that, eight months have gone without any result in the investigation. (more…)

European parliamentarians pressure Laos on missing activist

Europe Online: 28 October 2013

Bangkok (dpa) – European parliamentarians on a visit to Vientiane Monday vowed to keep diplomatic pressure on Laos to solve the case of missing activist Sombath Somphone.

“We did not get convincing answers to any of our questions,” said Werner Langen, chairman of the European Parliament‘s delegation for South-East Asia. “We will keep the pressure on.”

Langen and three other European parliamentarians met Lao legislators and ministers including Phongsavath Boupha, head of Laos‘ national steering committee on human rights, to discuss the case of Sombath who went missing in a Vientiane suburb on December 15 after being stopped at a police checkpoint.

CCTV footage showed Sombath being pushed into a pickup truck that was driven off. He has not been seen since.

The Communist regime has denied knowledge of the incident or Sombath‘s whereabouts.

“We made it clear that if the case is not solved they will lose credibility in the EU,” Langen said.

(more…)

Rights groups pressure EU to help find missing Lao activist

The Nation: 28 October 2013

Human rights groups pressured visiting European parliamentarians in Laos Monday to demand answers about missing activist Sombath Somphone.

“The EU should use all its leverage to ensure Sombath’s safe return,” said a joint letter from Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Federation Internationale des Ligues de droits de l’homme and Human Rights Watch.

The civil rights activist has not been seen since December 15, when he was detained at a police checkpoint in Vientiane, and CCTV footage captured images of him being forced into a truck and driven away.

The Communist regime has denied knowledge of the incident or Sombath’s whereabouts. (more…)

EU Must Maintain Efforts to Secure Safe Return of Sombath Somphone

AI-CSW-FIDH-HRWA number of international groups have called on European parliamentarians visiting Laos to maintain pressure to secure the release of Sombath Somphone. In part, the letter reads:

In line with the EU’s commitments to promote human rights through all its external actions, we call on you during your upcoming EP delegation visit to urge the Lao government to:

  • Ensure the safe and immediate return of Sombath Somphone.
  • Answer the many outstanding questions around Sombath’s disappearance and establish an independent commission to investigate the case.
  • Fully investigate the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone in a timely and transparent manner, appropriately prosecuting those responsible.
  • Address repression of civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Laos and ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders.

Until Sombath Somphone is back safely with his family, his case will not be forgotten and calls for his return will persist.

The full letter can be read here.