The disappearance of Sombath Somphone: an Interview with Ng Shui Meng

By Lucy Duncan, American Friends Service Committee (07 May 2014)

Sombath Somphone’s portrait in Great Men and Women of Asia: Ramon Magsaysay Awardees from Southeast Asia 1990-2005.

I talked recently with Ng Shui Meng, the wife of Sombath Somphone, a Laotian man and close associate of AFSC who ran civil society programs in Laos until he disappeared in December, 2012.  Despite having close circuit television (CCTV) footage documenting his abduction, the Laotian government has denied any knowledge of Sombath Somphone’s whereabouts. Shui Meng came to the United States recently to request the assistance of AFSC, Amnesty International, Quakers and others to take action to support the return of Sombath Somphone.  You can find many ways to support Sombath at the website: -Lucy

Lucy Duncan (LD):  Tell me about the day of Sombath’s disappearance… what happened?

Ng Shui Meng (NSM): He disappeared on 15 December 2012, a Saturday. We usually go out in one vehicle, but I had a meeting early in the morning. He regularly plays ping pong for exercise, so he took his beat-up Jeep to go play ping pong. Then he came to meet up with me at 5:30 or 6:00 and we were going home for dinner. Continue reading “The disappearance of Sombath Somphone: an Interview with Ng Shui Meng”

Wife of missing Laos activist appeals for help in US

Zee News: 30 April 2014

The wife of a missing Laotian activist appealed Tuesday for US assistance in finding him, warning his case has had a chilling effect on civil society in the communist nation.

Sombath Somphone, a US-educated agriculture expert who ran one of Laos’ most prominent development organizations, disappeared in December 2012 as he was driving home. Closed-circuit footage released by the family showed he was taken away at a police post.

His wife, Ng Shui-Meng, said she was meeting with White House and other US officials to urge the United States to keep pressing Laos to investigate. Since his disappearance, she said that non-governmental groups have scaled back activities or encountered greater impediments from authorities.

“It’s clear that civil society space has narrowed,” Ng told reporters in Washington.

Ng said that Sombath had always been careful to seek government authorization for his work so as to avoid controversy. She said she did not wish to challenge the Laotian government’s assertion that authorities were not involved in his disappearance.

“For me, I am not interested as to who has taken Sombath. I am only interested in getting Sombath back,” Ng said. Continue reading “Wife of missing Laos activist appeals for help in US”

寮國異議人士失蹤500天 妻子要求真相

中央廣播電臺: 30 四月 2014

寮國著名的民權異議人士薩馮內(Sombath Somphone)(AFP)

寮國著名的民權異議人士薩馮內(Sombath Somphone)失蹤已經500天,他的妻子29日在華盛頓表示,至今完全沒有任何訊息,不知道薩馮內到底發生了什麼事。





薩馮內曾因引導年輕人參與發展計畫,在2005年獲得有亞洲諾貝爾和平獎之稱的麥格塞塞獎(Magsaysay Award)。但在媒體全由國家控制的寮國,薩馮內獲獎的消息遭到封鎖。

Missing Lao Civil Society Leader’s Wife Urges Action on His Case

Radio Free Asia: 29 April 2014

Sombath's wife Ng Shui Meng speaking in Washington, April 29, 2014. (RFA)
Sombath’s wife Ng Shui Meng speaking in Washington, April 29, 2014. (RFA)

Five hundred days after Laos civil society leader Sombath Somphone went missing at a police checkpoint, his wife called on the United States Tuesday to press the authorities in the Southeast Asian state for answers over his disappearance.

Ng Shui Meng, Sombath’s Singapore-born wife who is in Washington to highlight her husband’s case, said she hopes in meetings with congressional and White House staffers to “ask for whatever support they can give” to get to the bottom of the issue.

“I believe that Laos wants good relations with the U.S.,” Ng told reporters at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, calling on U.S. leaders to raise Sombath’s case at regional summits.

“A statement from [U.S. President Barack] Obama or from [Secretary of State] John Kerry when they attend critical meetings, ASEAN meetings … would be very good,” Ng said, referring to future gatherings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to which Laos belongs.

“I’m not sure what more can be done,” Ng said. Continue reading “Missing Lao Civil Society Leader’s Wife Urges Action on His Case”

Lao Activist Missing 500 Days, Wife Seeks Answers

ABC News: 29 April 2014

Five hundred days after Laos’ most prominent civil rights advocate went missing at a traffic police checkpoint in the capital Vientiane, his wife said Tuesday she remains completely in the dark about what happened to him.

Sombath Somphone’s disappearance was recorded on closed circuit television. The footage shows the activist being escorted by two men to a pickup truck and driven away.

But Laos has released scant information, and Sombath’s disappearance has sent a chilling message to civil society in the one-party state.

His Singapore-born wife, Ng Shui-Meng, is visiting Washington to urge the Obama administration and Congress to press the Lao government to resolve the case which she said has hurt the image of the Southeast Asian nation where she’s lived for more than 30 years. Continue reading “Lao Activist Missing 500 Days, Wife Seeks Answers”

Kidnapping In Laos Affects Civil Society

The Eugene Weekly: 17 April 2014

By Camilla Mortensen

Sombath Somphone is “one of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s most respected civil society figures,” according  to a December 2013 press statement from Secretary of State John Kerry on the one year anniversary of Sombath’s disappearance. Sombath was kidnapped from a police checkpoint in Laos and has not been heard from since. Sombath’s wife, Ng Shui-Meng, will be speaking about her husband’s disappearance and the challenges to free speech and human rights in Laos and in the rest of Southeast Asia while in Eugene on Monday, April 21.

“Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations,” Kerry writes. “Sombath’s abduction threatens to undermine those efforts.”

Ng Shui-Meng says that while some have called Sombath the “Nelson Mandela of Laos,” her husband was never involved in politics. He worked in nonviolence and consensus building, she says, and always worked with the approval of government officials. Sombath established the Participatory Development Training Center in Laos, which works to train young people and local government officials in community-based development. Continue reading “Kidnapping In Laos Affects Civil Society”

"Where is Sombath Somphone?" asks his wife prior to Oregon visit

The Oregonian: 16 April 2014

In this Sept. 16, 2005 photo given to Associated Press by Sombath Somphone family, Lao leading civil rights activist Sombath Somphone, right, with his wife Shui-Meng poses for a photograph during their holiday trip in Bali, Indonesia. (Courtesy of the family of Sombath Somphone)

By Mike Francis

It’s been 16 months, and Ng Shui-Meng wants to make sure the world remembers that her husband was taken off a public street in Laos and hasn’t been seen since.

Sombath Somphone was a lifelong activist for the poor and disenfranchised of Laos. He worked throughout his adult life on their behalf, advocating for their education, empowerment and happiness. (See his part in the “Happy Laos” video below.)

He was, his wife says, resolutely apolitical. He sought to build consensus, acting as a bridge between the governed of Laos and their governors. On his last major project before he was the victim of what Amnesty International calls an “enforced disappearance,” he co-chaired a key committee for the Asia-Europe Peoples’ Forum with Laos’ minister of foreign affairs.

Yet he evidently troubled some people. Continue reading “"Where is Sombath Somphone?" asks his wife prior to Oregon visit”

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (2)

My dearest Sombath,

Over the past week, the nights have been very clear and the light of the moon shines right into our bedroom turning it almost as bright as day. In the past, every time that happened, you would wake me up and ask me to see how beautiful the moonlight is, and see how the moon is reflected in the Mekong which our bedroom overlooks. We would sit and watch the beautiful moon and its silvery light. I would say to you that we are truly blessed to live just by the Mekong.  You would smile and say, “Yes, mother nature is so wonderful. Let’s be grateful.” Then you would snuggle back under the covers and go back to sleep leaving me wide-awake to enjoy the moonlight and watch the shimmering reflection of the moon on the silent Mekong.

Now whenever the full moon shines into our bedroom and its golden orb reflects on the waters of the Mekong, my tears stream down uncontrollably. Where are you? Can you see the moon wherever you are? Continue reading “Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (2)”