Statement of Solidarity

15th Anniversary of the Disappearance of Dr Somchai Neelapaijit

Statement of Solidarity by Shui Meng Ng (wife of Sombath Somphone, Lao PDR)

Bangkok, Thailand, 12 March 2019

Today at the 15thAnniversary of the Disappearance of Dr Somchai Neelapaijit, I stand in solidarity and in unity with Khun Angkhana Neelapijit and her family.  I stand in solidarity with you, Khun Angkhana, for your relentless and untiring struggle with the Thai court systems to get truth and justice for Somchai.  I also stand in unity with your pain; a pain that no wife, or daughter or son, should ever have to bear to have their loved one torn away from them in such an ignoble manner.  I also stand in unity with your anger against the impunity of the system of injustice that despite the evidence that was repeatedly presented, your case was dismissed based on legal loopholes designed to protect the guilty and deny justice to the victim.

As the wife of another victim of Enforced Disappearance, Sombath Somphone, of Laos, I understand what you and your family have gone through these past 15 years, for I too have to bear the same pain and indignity as you.

However, Khun Angkhana, despite all the pain and suffering you have borne over the last 15 years, you have shown the Thai people, that you will never give up.  You have over the last 15 years become a symbol of the struggle against the injustice of Enforced Disappearance, and you have become the voice for other victims of Enforced Disappearances. Not only have you extended your hand of support to Thai victims, but you have also extended your hand to me.

When Sombath Somphone disappeared on 15 December 2012, nearly 7 years ago, you reached out to me when I was in the depths of my despair and helplessness; not knowing what to do, where to turn, or even to understand what was happening, and why.  You extended your hand to me and you gave me comfort – just by sitting with me and holding my hands. I think nobody can really understand what that means unless you are also a victim of such a heinous crime.

When I look around me and see the other family members of Enforced Disappearance, I am once more enraged by the lack of justice for the victims and families of Enforced Disappearance.  I am angry that state impunity against such crimes can continue unabated in our countries in such a callous manner.  We ordinary citizens expect our governments and institutions to protect us, not act against us.  And yet we are made to feel that we are the “criminals”, or our disappeared loved ones are on the wrong side of the law.

Let’s see what our disappeared loved ones have done, and what laws have they broken?  Who is Somchai Neelapaijit? Who is Sombath Somphone? Who is Billy and the others here today?

Somchai Neelapaijit is a well-known muslim lawyer and human rights defender; he was defending the legal rights of the muslims in Southern Thailand, and he was actively advocating the Thai state agencies to end torture when he was disappeared.

Sombath Somphone is a respected community development worker and a vocal advocate for environmental protection, and land rights for the poor in Laos.

And Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, is a prominent Karen rights activist, fighting for the rights of the Karen minority to have access and protection of their ancestral forestlands and resources.

So are people like Somchi, Sombath, and Billy criminals?  Or are they just people with a social conscience standing up for and defending the rights of those who have no voice in their own communities?

That is the crime of injustice of Enforced Disappearance, and that is why we the family members of the Disappeared must continue to speak up, to get truth and justice for our loved ones as well as for all other victims of Enforced Disppearances in our own countries and beyond.

Today we are here to remind everyone it has been 15 years since Somchai Neelapaijit has been disappeared, and it has been 15 years that Khun Ankhana Neelapaijit has been fighting for truth and justice for him.  It is time to give truth and justice to Somchai Neelapaijit; and it is time to give closure to Khun Angkhana and her family.

We urge you all here today to stand with us the victims; don’t stand with the perpetrators. Help bring our loved ones back to our families”

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (17)

My dearest Sombath

Today, February 14, is Valentine’s Day – a day to remind those who are dearest to us that they are loved and are precious.

Sombath, I know you never paid too much attention to Valentine’s Day because it is really not part of Lao’s cultural practice to celebrate the day.  I once teased you into buying me some flowers for Valentine’s Day, and you did that just to please me.  But you said, isn’t is better to grow flowers in the garden, take care of them and then we will have flowers all year round, rather than just flowers for Valentine’s Day! That’s you – always so practical, but also always thinking of what is truly important and valuable.  And indeed, that’s what you did in the garden – you always made sure we have flowers, fruits, and vegetables grown in the garden all year round.  Yes, you made sure that everyday we are surrounded by true love and not just a symbolic one.

And because you are so special, you are still remembered by the people who know and love you.  Today a friend brought me a special gift for you and I.  She brought me a Bodhi leaf from Sri-Lanka that was grown from a branch of the original Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha sat and meditated when he became enlightened.  Isn’t this the most befitting gift of love anyone could give to you and I on this day? When I look at that beautiful Bodhi leaf, it radiates the true nature of love and compassion. For me the Bodhi leaf is also a sign from you sending your love and reassuring me that you are fine.

So my love, with that assurance, I too am sending you a special message of love today. And not only today, but as with everyday since you were disappeared more than 6 years ago, I will continue to send you my prayers and love and best wishes for your good health, well-being and happiness – knowing that no matter where you are, you will spread love, kindness and wisdom to all around you.

Love you wherever you are.

Shui Meng

Wife of Sombath Somphone Calls Again on Laos for Answers to His Disappearance

Radio Free Asia: 12 December 2018

Six years after his disappearance at a Lao police checkpoint, the wife of rural development activist Sombath Somphone called again on the Lao government to account for his fate, saying she has been kept in the dark despite government promises to investigate his case.

“I am very sad that after six long years, I still have no news about Sombath,” Ng Shui Meng, a resident of Singapore, told RFA’s Lao Service in a phone call on Dec. 12.

“It’s the same situation,” Ng said.

“They keep saying that they cannot find Sombath, that they are still investigating,” she said. Continue reading “Wife of Sombath Somphone Calls Again on Laos for Answers to His Disappearance”

Six years on, wife of disappeared Laos activist ‘can’t move on’

Channel New Asia: 12 December 2018

Six years of searching have brought no answers and little solace to Sombath’s 72-year-old wife, Shui-Meng Ng AFP/CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT

BANGKOK: The wife of a prominent Laos activist who vanished after being stopped at a checkpoint on the streets of Vientiane said Wednesday (Dec 12) she “can’t move on” as the mystery over his fate remains unsolved almost six years later.

The disappearance of Sombath Somphone, an award-winning environmental campaigner, drew rare international attention to the poor rights record of Laos, an authoritarian one-party state where activists work under state scrutiny.

Sombath was last seen on the night of Dec 15, 2012, with CCTV cameras capturing the moment when police pulled him over at a checkpoint in the Laos capital. He was shown entering a separate truck with two other men and driven off.

His case cast a dark cloud over civil society in Laos and highlighted dangers faced by activists, journalists and human rights defenders in Southeast Asia who risk being targeted with impunity. Continue reading “Six years on, wife of disappeared Laos activist ‘can’t move on’”

Don’t forget Sombath, says Shui Meng Ng, wife of disappeared Laotian activist

SEA-Globe:  21 September 2018

The unsolved case of disappeared Laotian development worker Sombath Somphone is brought to light in a documentary that is screening at this year’s FreedomFilmFest in Malaysia

Sombath Somphone and wife Shui Meng Ng

Sombath Somphone was an internationally renowned development worker who disappeared nearly six years ago on the streets of Vientiane, Laos. CCTV footage suggests that the police snatched him. The case is still unsolved and the Lao police and government have continued to maintain their innocence in the matter.

The 2017 documentary film The Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone, directed by Rann Penn, will be screened at this year’s FreedomFilmFest, taking place in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

In the run up to the festival, which takes place between 29 September and 6 October, Southeast Asia Globe speaks with Shui Meng Ng, Sombath’s wife, to find out more about the man, the film and her quest for truth. Continue reading “Don’t forget Sombath, says Shui Meng Ng, wife of disappeared Laotian activist”

Brothers in belief and deeds

LaCroix: 03 September 2018

Separated by a generation, Jonas Burgos was abducted at 37 years old, Sombath Somphone a few months before turning 56

Filipino human rights activists call on the Lao government to surface Sombath Somphone, who went missing in Vientiane, Laos, in 2012. (Photo by Joe Torres/ucanews.com)

When we were invited to Europe to seek support for our search for my missing son, Jonas Burgos, my other son, who accompanied me, and I were greeted with welcome posters of Jonas with the caption “Jonas is mijn broer,” “Jonas ist mein Bruder,” “Jonas is my brother.”

The impact was such that now we have our own posters reading “Jonas is my brother.”

A few years back, I met Shui Meng Ng, a Singaporean whose husband, Sombath Somphone, is a victim of enforced disappearance. For three days, I learned about Sombath.

Continue reading “Brothers in belief and deeds”

Government slanders Sombath Somphone, issues “blanket denials” on enforced disappearances during rights review

FIDH: 18 July 2018

(Paris) During a review by a United Nations (UN) body, the Lao government slandered disappeared civil society leader Sombath Somphone and failed to provide any details concerning its purported investigation into his enforced disappearance, FIDH and its member organization Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) said today.

On 11-12 July 2018, FIDH and LMHR attended the first-ever examination of the situation of civil and political rights in Laos by the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) in Geneva, Switzerland. Continue reading “Government slanders Sombath Somphone, issues “blanket denials” on enforced disappearances during rights review”

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (16)

My dearest Sombath,

This letter is one of the most difficult letters I have to write to you.  It’s difficult because I have been so emotionally drained over the last two days following the live broadcast of the Lao Government’s initial report to the UN Committee for Human Rights in Geneva on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Of most interest to me is of course to hear answers to the questions posed by the expert panel of the UN Human Rights Committee on your enforced disappearance 66 months ago on 15 December 2012. Sixty-six long months have passed and I am still waiting for information about what happened to you on that fateful night.  Not one day has passed that I did not hope and pray that you will come back to me safely. Continue reading “Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (16)”

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (15)

My dearest Sombath,

Today, 17 February, is your birthday.  Today in celebration of your birthday I and a small group of family and friends went to Na Khoun Noi Forest temple to offer food to the monks and nuns, and also offer blessings for you – blessings that wherever you are – you will be healthy, happy, and well.

Sombath, the monks and nuns of Na Khoun Noi temple remember you well, especially Mae Kao Keo and Phra Arjahn Sithone.  They remembered that you have been a strong proponent of the concept of Socially Engaged Buddhism and you have been the one who introduced this concept to the temple and through the temple to many other communities in Laos.

Today, Na Khoun Noi temple continues to be the space to train young monks and nuns in the principles and practice of Socially Engaged Buddhism.  Many of the monks and nuns trained are now using their spiritual leadership to help build and improve the spiritual well-being, physical, and economic wellbeing of the community.  The monks and nuns have led the education of young people and guided them to internalize Buddhist teachings into daily life, such as respect for all living things, starting with the elders in the family and their teachers, to everybody around them, including all living beings. Continue reading “Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (15)”