Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (30)

My dearest Sombath

Today is 17 February, and once again it’s your birthday. You would be 72 years old today. In the past you never wanted to celebrate your birthday, but I would remember, and each year I would cook something special that you liked and wewould have a nice quiet dinner with members of the family. Now, I can only silently send you blessings for your birthday and wish you good health,happiness, and peace wherever you may.

Even though you have been missing for more than 11 years now, never a day passes that I do not think of you and still hope you will come back to me and the family.

Today I want to tell you the action I have taken to make sure that your memory and legacy can continue to live on even after I am gone, and will no longer be there to remind people of your enforced disappearance in 2012.

I have established a Memorial Fund in your name – the “Sombath Somphone Memorial Fund”. This Fund was officially launched in May 2023. It will be managed by the Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation (SNF), a Thai non-profit foundation, under which SEM (Spirit in Education Movement) and INEB (International Network for Engaged Buddhists) operate. Both SEM and INEB are founded by Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa, your mentor and Thailand’s most respected social justice activist and leading thinker of Engaged Buddhism.

The Sombath Somphone Memorial Fund’s goal is to continue your vision and mission to give opportunities to children and young people, especially those who lack opportunities and who want to improve themselves to work for the greater benefit of society in a holistic, sustainable, and balanced way with nature and the environment. The ultimate goal of the Fund is to develop the greater wellbeing (happiness) of the self and society as a whole.

The Sombath Memorial Fund will provide small grants of up to US$3,000.00 each to support:

  • Education – To provide full or partial scholarships, especially to marginalized children and young people seeking to complete their education in schools or colleges.
  • Community projects – To provide small grants to active young adults (up to 35 years of age) to initiate start-up work or activities for youth in community education or development.
  • To support organizations providing education or humanitarian relief to at risk children and families.

The Fund will target recipients, especially marginalized children, actively and socially engaged young adults, and at risk children and families in need of emergency support and humanitarian assistance from countries in the Mekong Sub-Region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam) and the southwest region of China.

These groups and countries are those you have paid most attention to and have worked with in the past.

Financial support for the Fund has come mostly from family and friends and NGOswhich support your work and your development vision. Interest in the Fund has grown rapidly with many friends and supporters, and from people who have not met you but have heard about your work and your enforced disappearance. They have generously made donations to the Fund.

In 2023, the Sombath Somphone Memorial Fund received 61 applications from which 11 applicants from Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam were selected by the Fund Committee to receive awards to support their projects. All the awardees have completed their projects, and last week they have presented results of their projects to the Fund’s Committee.

Sombath, if you have heard their presentations, you would have been so proud of what these young people have done and achieved with the small grants provided to support their work. Many worked under very difficult and challenging situations, especially the awardees from Myanmar and Vietnam, but all demonstrated real commitment and real passion for their work. Most of the awardees have worked in teams and used very creative and innovative approaches to gain support and participation from the communities to reach the objectives they set out to achieve. Their work truly reflect some the principles and values you promoted in your own community-based development work.

Last week, the Fund Committee called for applications for the Sombath Somphone Memorial for 2024. We hope this year the Fund will once more be able to support some worthwhile projects spearheaded by young people who want to make a real change to the communities and societies, just as you have done through your own life and work.

So my dearest Sombath, your legacy lives on even though you have been so unjustly taken away from me and our family and community. Those who committed this ignoble crime against you might have been able silence you, but they could never wipe out your legacy which will live on through the work of the Sombath Somphone Memorial Fund.

My dearest Sombath, I hope this will give you some solace on this your birthday and be comforted by the fact that you are still held up as a model for many young people in the region and beyond.

For myself, my birthday wish to you is that wherever you are, you will be
blessed with another year of good health, happiness and peace.

Love you always, Shui Meng


Stopping Enforced Disappearances: Where is Sombath Somphone?

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On 17 December 2019 a panel discussion was held at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok, Thailand. Panelists included:

  • Angkhana Neelapaijit: Director, Justice for Peace Foundation; Magsaysay Prize Award winner 2019, and wife of Somchai Neelapaijit who was enforcibly disappeared in 2004
  • Ng Shui Meng: Wife of Sombath Somphone, who was enforcibly disappeared in 2012
  • Katia Chirizzi: Deputy Director, Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Southeast Asia
  • Phil Robertson: Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

Click the link above for video of the event.

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ລຸງສົມບັດຫາຍຕົວໄປ… Uncle Sombath disappears…

ລຸງສົມບັດຫາຍຕົວໄປ… Uncle Sombath disappears…

Computer Monitorຈື່ໄດ້ວ່າ… ຕັ້ງແຕ່ຫົວຄ່ຳຈົນຮອດຕອນກາງຄືນວັນທີ 15/12/2012 ພວກເຮົາໂທຫາລຸງສົມບັດບໍ່ໄດ້.. ພວກເຮົານອນບໍ່ຫຼັບເພາະລຸງສົມບັດບໍ່ເຄີຍໄປໃສໂດຍບໍ່ບອກຈັກເທື່ອ ມັນປະຫຼາດອີ່ຫຼີ.. ພວກເຮົາຂັບລົດອ້ອມ ຕົວເມືອງວຽງຈັນ ໄປໂຮງໝໍມະໂຫສົດ ໂຮງໝໍ 103 ໂຮງໝໍ 150 ຕຽງຈົນຮອດ 2 ໂມງເຊົ້າເພາະຄິດວ່າອາດຈະ ເກີດອຸປະຕິເຫດກັບລຸງສົມບັດ ພວກເຮົາຖ້າຈົນເຊົ້າວັນທີ 16/12/2012 ແລ້ວໄປແຈ້ງຄວາມກັບຕຳຫຼວດເພາະ ເຄີຍໄດ້ຍິນວ່າຖ້າຄົນຫາຍເກີນ 24 ຊົ່ວໂມງແມ່ນໃຫ້ໄປແຈ້ງຕຳຫຼວດ ລົງບັນທຶກໄວ້ກັບປກສ ນະຄອນຫຼວງ ໃນໃຈກໍຮູ້ສຶກອຸ່ນໃຈວ່າຕຳຫຼວດຈະຊ່ວຍເຮົາໄດ້ແນ່ນອນ

Remembering… From early in the evening of 15 December 2012 until the middle of the night we couldn’t get through to Uncle Sombath’s phone… We could not sleep because Uncle never went anywhere without telling us… We drove around Vientiane, to hospitals–Mahosot, 103 and 150–until two AM because we thought he might have had an accident. We waited until the morning of 16 December, and then reported to the police, because we had heard that if someone was missing for more than 24 hours, it should be reported to the Vientiane police. Our hearts were somewhat warmed because we felt the police would certainly help.

ຫຼັງຈາກນັ້ນ… ຄິດໄດ້ວ່າມີກ້ອງວົງຈອນປິດຢູ່ບ່ອນທີ່ເມຍລາວເຫັນລາວຄັ້ງສຸດທ້າຍ ກໍຄື ຢູ່ປ້ອມຕຳຫຼວດຫຼັກ 3. ໃນວັນທີ 17/12/2012 ຕອນເຊົ້າ ພວກເຮົາກໍເຮັດເອກະສານຂໍອະນຸຍາດເຂົ້າເບິ່ງ ແລະ ໄດ້ຮັບການຮ່ວມມືເປັນ ຢ່າງດີ..ເຖິງວ່າຫົວໜ້າໃຫຍ່ບໍ່ຢູ່ຜູ້ເພິ່ນເປັນຮອງກໍເຊັນອະນຸຍາດໃຫ້… ພວກເຮົາກໍຮູ້ສຶກອຸ່ນໃຈວ່າຈະໄດ້ຕົວ ລຸງສົມບັດກັບມາແນ່ນອນ ແລະ ພວກເຮົາກໍພົບລຸງສົມບັດໃນພາບບັນທຶກກ້ອງວົງຈອນປິດ ພວກເຮົາຂໍບັນທຶກໄວ້ ທາງຕຳຫຼວດກໍອະນຸຍາດ ແຕ່ບອກວ່າຄອມສຽບ USB ບໍ່ໄດ້ ໃຫ້ທາງຄອບຄົວເອົາກ້ອງມາຖ່າຍເອົາ… ພວກເຮົາກໍເຮັດຕາມນັ້ນ…

After that…we remembered a closed-circuit camera at the place his spouse last saw him, at the kilometre three police post. On the morning of 17 December 2012, we wrote a request for permission to view the recording, and received good cooperation…even though the main supervisor was not in, the deputy signed the request… We again felt encouraged, that we would get uncle Sombath back for sure. When we saw Uncle Sombath in the closed-circuit recording, we asked to record it and the police agreed. We couldn’t plug a USB into the computer, but the family could use a camera, so that is what we did.

ຫຼັງຈາກນັ້ນ…ໃນຕອນຕອນສວາຍຂອງມື້ດັ່ງກ່າວພວກເຮົາຂໍເຂົ້າໄປເບິ່ງກ້ອງວົງຈອນປິດອີກ ປາກົດວ່າເພິ່ນບໍ່ ໃຫ້ເບິ່ງອີກແລ້ວ ເພາະວ່າຫົວໜ້າສັງຫ້າມບໍ່ໃຫ້ເບິ່ງ…

Then…around noon on the same day, we asked to view the closed-circuit recording again, but were not allowed to. The supervisor had forbidden it.

ແນວໃດກໍຕາມ ພວກເຮົາໄດ້ຂອບໃຈຕຳຫຼວດທີ່ຢ່າງໜ້ອຍກໍໃຫ້ຄອບຄົວເຮົາໄດ້ເຂົ້າເບິ່ງ ແລະກໍມີຄວາມຫວັງວ່າພາບດັ່ງກ່າວຈະຊ່ວຍໃຫ້ເຮົາສືບຫາຫາລຸງສົມບັດ…

In any case, we thank the police that let the family view the recording, and hope that it helps us to find Uncle Sombath…

Keep Sombath’s Vision Alive

Keynote Speech by Shui Meng Ng at the 10th Asia-Europe People’s Forum

Milan, Italy, 10-12 October 2014

“Towards a Just and Inclusive Asia and Europe-Building States of Citizens for Citizens”

Shui Meng-AEPF10Two years ago, at the 9th AEPF, my husband, Sombath Somphone, as the Co-Chair of the National Organizing Committee, gave the keynote speech at the opening session of the Forum in Vientiane, Laos.  He was at the time both happy and excited that after months of intensive preparation, the AEPF9 was officially declared open by no less than Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister.  More than 1,000 people representing civil society groups and organizations from across Asia and Europe participated.  As a Lao, Sombath was proud that his country could play host to such a major civil society forum.

Over the next few days between October 16-19, the forum participants passionately discussed, debated, shared, and exchanged lessons on common challenges and issues of poverty, social polarization, inequalities, indebtedness, and unemployment faced by ordinary folks in the countries of Asia and Europe.  The energy level was high, and the panel discussions were animated, inclusive, and constructive.  The participants eagerly presented their ideas and experiences, and worked hard to present the “People’s Vision” of shared hopes and aspirations which became incorporated as the final statement from the AEPF9 to the leaders of the ASEM countries for their deliberation and consideration for action in the follow-up ASEM Meeting.

aepf10logoBy all estimation, and publicly acknowledged by the International Organizing Committee, the AEPF9 was considered one of the most successful People’s Forum ever.  Then on 15 December 2012, two months after the close of AEPF9, Sombath Somphone was disappeared.  He was last seen stopped at a police post in Vientiane and taken away by a white truck. The entire sequence of Sombath’s abduction was recorded by the state-installed traffic-control camera, and the footages of the abduction have since been shared on You-tube. Continue reading “Keep Sombath’s Vision Alive”