Sombath Somphone was last seen in Vientiane on the evening of Saturday 15th December when he was driving home in his jeep. His family and friends immediately contacted the police, visited hospitals, and informed embassies, but nobody knew where Sombath had gone.
Two days later, CCTV footage became available that showed Sombath being stopped by police and then abducted. The video can be seen here.
Sombath is a friend, colleague and a visionary who has spent his life working for his people and country. This website hopes to facilitate his return to his family and work.
ມີຄົນພົບເຫັນ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ ຄັ້ງສຸດທ້າຍໃນ ນະຄອນຫລວງວຽງຈັນ ໃນຕອນແລງ ຂອງວັນເສົາ ທີ ທັນວາ ເມື່ອລາວກຳລັງຂັບລົດຈິດຂອງລາວກັບບ້ານທັນທີຫລັງຈາກນັ້ນ ຄອບຄົວ ແລະ ເພື່ອນມິດສະຫາຍຂອງລາວໄດ້ພະຍາຍາມຕິດຕໍ່ຫາຕຳຫລວດໄປຊອກຫາທີ່ ໂຮງຫມໍ ແລະ ແຈ້ງສະຖານທູດຕ່າງໆ ແຕ່ກໍ່ບໍ່ມີໃຜຮູ້ວ່າ ສົມບັດ ຫາຍໄປໃສ.
ສອງມື້ຕໍ່ມາ ໄດ້ມີພາບຖ່າຍວິດີໂອກ້ອງວົງຈອນປິດຈາລະຈອນ ໄດ້ສະແດງໃຫ້ເຫັນວ່າ ສົມບັດ ກຳລັງຖືກຢຸດກວດໂດຍຕຳຫລວດ ແລະ ຫລັງຈາກນັ້ນກໍ່ຖືກລັກພາຕົວໄປພາບຖ່າຍ ວິດີໂອດັ່ງກ່າວ ສາມາດຊົມໄດ້ທີ່ນີ້.
ສົມບັດເປັນໝູ່,ເປັນເພື່ອນຮ່ວມງານ ແລະ ເປັນຜູ້ທີ່ມີວິໃສທັດ ຊຶ່ງລາວໄດ້ໃຊ້ຊີວິດເຮັດວຽກ ເພື່ອປະຊາຊົນ ແລະ ປະເທດຊາດ. ເວບໄຊ້ນີ້ຫວັງວ່າຈະຊ່ວຍເອື້ອຍອຳນວຍໃຫ້ລາວກັບມາ ຫາຄອບຄົວ ແລະ ວຽກງານຂອງລາວ.
The Guardian: 11 March 2014
Watch the interview with Sombath’s wife at the Guardian website
Sombath Somphone, a Laotian development worker, was last seen on 15 December, 2012, being bundled into a car at a police checkpoint in Vientiane. He has not been heard from since.
Global campaigns, family pleas and government investigations have found no hint of why Somphone disappeared. Advocacy groups believe he was the victim of an enforced disappearance – that he was detained by the government or government agents, who then deny the action and keep the detainee hidden.
Somphone’s position as a civil society leader working in the field of agricultural development has been raised as a possible factor in his disappearance, but his wife, Singaporean national and former Unicef worker Shui Meng Ng, dismisses any suggestion he worked against the government.
Shui Meng has recently completed a speaking tour of Australian universities trying to dispel inaccuracies which she told Guardian Australia may be endangering Somphone – if he is still being held somewhere.
“There were allegations about him taking a very prominent opposition position to the development agenda of the Laos government,” she told Guardian Australia.
“There were also some allegations that Sombath is not even Laotian, that he’s actually carrying an American passport. I felt it was important to make public and correct many of those misinformations about Sombath, who he is, as well as the type of work he’s doing and his vision for Laos.” Continue reading
This video is one of a series from an interview by Ore Huiying with Sombath in August, 2010.
Radio Australia: (07 March 2014)
The wife of abducted Lao rights advocate Sombath Somphone has called on Australia to help maintain the pressure on Laos to do more to resolve the case.
Since Mr Sombath disappeared 15 months ago, Ng Shui Meng has campaigned tirelessly to find out what happened.
Her husband’s disappearance from a police post in central Vientiane generated an international outcry by donor governments, rights groups and NGOs for his safe return.
The Lao government says it is continujng to pursue the case, but little progress has been reported.
Ng Shui Meng has also appealed for anyone in Laos with information to come forward.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Ng Shui Meng, wife of Sombath Somphone, retired academic and former UNICEF representative to East Timor
NG: The reason why I’ve accepted to speak on Sombath is that over the last 15 months, there were a lot of reports on Sombath, some of them were not very accurate in depicting the kind of person he is or the kind of work he has done. So I want to put right what Sombath’s work is and the kind of person he is basically to clarify things to the public out there. As to going back to Laos, I have not done anything wrong and assume the government would understand that my speaking about Sombath’s disappearance is basically about a fact. He has disappeared, the government has acknowledged that he has disappeared and the government has also promised to conduct an investigation around his disappearance and to try and find him. Continue reading
Asian Human Rights Commission: 06 March 2014
Academics of the Australian National University on Thursday submitted a letter to the diplomatic mission of Thailand in Canberra marking the tenth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit.
File photograph of Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit
The 23 scholars said they lamented that nobody had been held responsible for Somchai’s abduction on 12 March 2004 and presumed killing, even though five police were accused of the crime, and that to date his remains had not been recovered.
“We are especially concerned by indications that the DSI wants to close the investigation, since it will make the prospects that Mr Somchai’s family will ever obtain justice even less likely,” they said, referring to the Department of Special Investigation, under the justice ministry.
The group urged the Thai justice minister that his government continue to work on the case until the perpetrators were identified and prosecuted. Continue reading
Jakarta Post: 04 March 2014
Emerlynne Gil, Bangkok
When the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) meets in Jakarta this week, its urgent priority must be improving how it communicates and engages with civil society in Southeast Asia and responds to human rights issues.
ASEAN civil society, representing more than 500 million people from the region, has signaled its eagerness to harness the potential of the AICHR. But the Commission has been widely criticized as being “toothless” and lacking a clear mandate since its creation in 2009.
Human rights issues among its member states need to be prioritized and addressed.
While some member states, including Indonesia and the Philippines have shown a degree of willingness to address them, others have not been so forthcoming. Continue reading
The first time I saw your wife was at a friend’s gathering and the second was in a meeting. On both occasions, I was in awe of her. As she spoke, I sensed her strength and quiet confidence. I felt emotional hearing her speak, but I reproached myself. I thought then (and still feel) that I didn’t have the right to share her pain. I would never really understand and appreciate what she and those who personally knew you were going through.
I had reproached myself the same way when I cried while listening to a song about victims of enforced disappearance. We were then preparing for an action at our own department of foreign affairs in the Philippines and I helped translate this song composed and sung by a Filipino folk activist singer. I also told myself then that the pain I felt was nowhere near what the families and friends of victims felt.
But there is one thing I do know and understand: that abduction and enforced disappearance are cowardly acts. Their perpetrators have no principles and values; nothing on which they stand to face legitimate criticism and dissent. Nothing, but brute force which should have no place in a decent, civilized world. But they do exist and thrive.
I oftentimes doubt my small acts of protest; will they amount to anything? But unlike the cowards, human rights advocates and defenders are motivated and energized by humanity/humanness; that these principles shall prevail. Expressed in small acts of defiance against the inhumanity of enforced disappearance, I try to hold on to this fervent prayer inside me that you will be reunited with your family and community that you have loved and served.
Interview with Ng Shui Meng recorded at Amnesty International Australia‘s office on 27 February 2014