“NGOs generally exercised self-censorship…”

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) generally exercised self-censorship, which civil society considered was a direct result of Sombath Somphone’s disappearance. The chilling effect of the disappearance of an internationally respected civil society advocate caused lesser-known local activists to believe they had little hope of avoiding a similar fate if they were too outspoken.

From US State Department 2016 Human Rights Report on Laos.

Mystery surrounds disappearance of Laos man after traffic stop

USA Today: 11 September 2016

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Ng Shui Meng, the wife of disappeared Laotian activist Sombath Somphone, stands near a missing person flyer at her crafts shop in Vientiane, Laos. (Photo: Thomas Maresca)

The last time Ng Shui Meng saw her husband, he was driving his beloved vintage American jeep.

That was a December evening almost four years ago, after Sombath Somphone was stopped by traffic police. He never arrived home for dinner.

The disappearance of Sombath, 64, a prominent Lao activist who focused on rural development and reducing poverty, is a persistent reminder of human rights abuses by the communist government here. Continue reading “Mystery surrounds disappearance of Laos man after traffic stop”

For disappeared man’s wife, Obama trip yields little

CNN: 08 September 2016

Shui Meng Ng, the wife of Sombath Somphone, who disappeared in Laos in 2012. She has appealed to President Barack Obama for help in finding out what happened to her husband.
Shui Meng Ng, the wife of Sombath Somphone, who disappeared in Laos in 2012. She has appealed to President Barack Obama for help in finding out what happened to her husband.

In 1975, 14-year-old Barack Obama and 23-year-old Sombath Somphone were both living in Oahu, the future US president starting high school and the Lao exchange student on his way toward a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii.

Forty-one years later, their paths converged again, in a way. Obama this week became the first sitting US president to visit Laos. Sombath, meanwhile, has vanished — stopped on a street in this sleepy Mekong outpost in 2012, stuffed into a pick-up truck, and never heard from again. Continue reading “For disappeared man’s wife, Obama trip yields little”

Obama aide to meet with wife of missing UH-educated Laotian activist

Honolulu Star Advisor: 06 September 2016

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In this June 25, 2008 photo provided by Shui Meng Ng, Sombath Somphone poses for a photograph in an unknown location in Japan. The disappearance of Sombath Somphone nearly four years ago is a reminder of the dismal human rights record of the authoritarian government of Laos.

A top aide of President Barack Obama said he will meet with the wife of a missing Laotian activist and East-West Center graduate, whose case has been repeatedly highlighted by human rights groups as an example of authoritarian excesses of Laos’ one-party Communist government.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters today he will meet with Shui Meng Ng on Thursday while Obama is visiting Laos. The president arrived on Monday to attend a regional summit.

Human rights activists were hoping that Obama would speak about Ng’s husband, Sombath Somphone, who was picked up apparently by security forces on Dec. 15, 2012. He has not been seen since.

Obama has not mentioned him so far in his public remarks, but Rhodes said that “we care very deeply about her case and her husband, and we believe she deserves to know what happened to her husband.” Continue reading “Obama aide to meet with wife of missing UH-educated Laotian activist”

US to Laos: Step Up Probe of Activist Somphone’s Disappearance

Voice of America: 16 December 2015

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FILE – Sombath Somphone of Laos went missing in Vientiane, Laos, on December 15, 2012. Some rights groups believe he annoyed someone powerful within the government,

The United States on Wednesday called on Laos to resolve the mystery of the disappearance three years ago of prominent social activist Sombath Somphone, saying his abduction sent a “chilling message” on human rights.

Sombath went missing in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on December 15, 2012. A video previously released by authorities shows him being stopped at a police checkpoint and being led into a pickup truck.

“The United States remains deeply concerned over [Sombath’s] fate and the chilling message his abduction sends to members of civil society and the people of Laos more broadly,” the U.S. State Department said. “We are troubled by the fact that no progress has been made in locating Mr. Somphone and call on the Lao government to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation. The government should take measures to resolve this case immediately.” Continue reading “US to Laos: Step Up Probe of Activist Somphone’s Disappearance”

US ‘deeply concerned’ over Laos activist fate

Al Jazeera: 16 December 2013

Sombath Somphone was abducted from police checkpoint a year ago, but Laos’s government is silent on the matter.

Sombath Somphone
The US said diplomats raised Somphone’s abduction case with Lao president following a donor meeting [AP]
The United States has said it is “deeply concerned” that the fate of one of Laos’ most prominent social activists is still unknown, one year after he was abducted from a police checkpoint in Vientiane.

The abduction of Sombath Somphone, 61, at a busy traffic junction in the Laotian capital on December 15 last year was recorded on government surveillance cameras.

Despite calls by foreign governments and rights groups for information on Sambath’s disappearance, the Laos communist-led government has maintained almost complete silence on the matter.

“Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations. Sombath’s abduction threatens to undermine those efforts,” the US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Sunday.

“We call on the government to take all actions possible to ensure his safe return to his family.” Continue reading “US ‘deeply concerned’ over Laos activist fate”

Kerry Warns Laos Over Missing Civil Society Leader's Case

Radio Free Asia: 15 December 2013

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

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Laos Sunday that the unresolved case of a missing local civil society leader could undermine the authoritarian state’s aspirations of becoming a responsible member of the international community.

Kerry, who is visiting Southeast Asia, said the United States “remains deeply concerned” over the fate of Sombath Somphone, one of the most respected civil society figures in Laos, on the one-year anniversary of his disappearance.

Sombath has been missing since Dec. 15, 2012, when he was stopped in his vehicle at a police checkpoint in the Lao capital Vientiane. He was then transferred into another vehicle, according to surveillance video. No one has seen him since.

Lao officials say they are investigating the case but have offered little information on Sombath’s whereabouts, prompting human rights groups to suspect that he may have been abducted by government-linked groups.

Six international rights groups said in a joint statement last week that Laos’s failure to conduct a “serious” investigation into the disappearance had “heightened concerns” about government involvement in the case. Continue reading “Kerry Warns Laos Over Missing Civil Society Leader's Case”