รัฐบาลลาวต้องยุติการบิดเบือนในการสอบสวนคดีต่อนายสมบัด

2014-09-18-14.56.39

From left to right: Kanya Khammoungkhoun, Deputy-Director of ASEAN Politcal and Security Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR; U Shwe Maung, Chair of APHR Myanmar Caucus; Mr. Phoukhong Sisoulath, Representative of Laos PDR to AICHR; Charles Santiago, Chair of APHR Malaysia Caucus

กรุงเทพฯ – รัฐบาลลาวควรแลกเปลี่ยนข้อมูลทั้งหมดที่มีอยู่จากการสอบสวนคดีการลักพาตัวนายสมบัด สมพอนกับครอบครัวของเขาและหน่วยงานอิสระ ต้องยุติการเล่นเกมบิดเบือนโดยอ้างหลักอธิปไตยของชาติเป็นข้อแก้ตัว และไม่ยอมปรึกษาหารืออย่างจริงจังในด้านการสอบสวนคดีคนหายคดีนี้ สมาชิกรัฐสภาแห่งเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้กล่าวในวันนี้

“ทางการลาวได้ตั้งกำแพงของความเงียบเพื่อปิดกั้นการสอบสวน จนถึงขนาดที่อาจกล่าวได้ว่าในช่วงที่ผ่านมายังไม่มีการสอบสวนเกิดขึ้นเลย และความดื้อดึงเช่นนี้เป็นส่วนหนึ่งของความพยายามในการกลบเกลื่อนบทบาทของเจ้าหน้าที่ของรัฐที่เกี่ยวข้องกับการลักพาตัวครั้งนี้” นายชาร์ล ซานติเอโก (Charles Santiago) สส.มาเลเซียและรองประธานองค์การสมาชิกรัฐสภาอาเซียนเพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชนกล่าว

“เราถือว่าคุณสมบัดเป็นพลเมืองของอาเซียน ไม่ใช่เฉพาะของลาว เราจึงมีสิทธิและหน้าที่ในการค้นหาว่าเกิดอะไรขึ้นกับเขา แต่การเล่นเกมถ่วงเวลา การปฏิเสธไม่รับความช่วยเหลือ การให้ข้อมูลเท็จและการแสดงท่าทีไม่เป็นมิตรในบางครั้งของทางการลาวเมื่อถูกสอบถามข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับการสอบสวน เป็นเรื่องที่ทำให้เกิดความน่าเบื่อหน่าย ไม่เพียงเฉพาะในสปป.ลาว แต่เกิดขึ้นกับประเทศสมาชิกอาเซียนทั้งหมด” Continue reading

Lao government’s deceptive game on Sombath investigation must end

2014-09-18-14.56.39

From left to right: Kanya Khammoungkhoun, Deputy-Director of ASEAN Politcal and Security Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR; U Shwe Maung, Chair of APHR Myanmar Caucus; Mr. Phoukhong Sisoulath, Representative of Laos PDR to AICHR; Charles Santiago, Chair of APHR Malaysia Caucus

BANGKOK — The Lao government should share all information on the investigation into the abduction of Sombath Somphone with family members and independent parties, ending its deceptive game of hiding behind national sovereignty to excuse it from engaging in a sincere conversation regarding the investigation into his disappearance, Southeast Asian lawmakers said today.

“The Lao authorities have erected a brick wall of silence on this investigation, so much so that the only intelligent conclusion is that there is in fact no investigation taking place at all and that the obstinacy is part of a cover up for state officials implicated in his abduction,” said Mr. Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and Vice-President of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

“We regard Sombath as a citizen of ASEAN, not just of Laos, and therefore have the right and duty to help find out what has happened to him. The blatant game playing, refusal of assistance and deceptive and at times belligerent answers provided by the Lao authorities when asked for information on the investigation is growing tiresome and reflects badly not just on Lao PDR, but on all of ASEAN.” Continue reading

Human rights and donor aid…

It is unlikely any single event could attract more international scrutiny of Laos’ appalling human rights record than the Sombath Somphone case did in late 2012 and 2013. Yet, the ritual announcements of donor aid have continued, including a recent top-up of US$3.9 million from the US, EU, UNDP and France for the Legal Sector Master Plan and its goal of instituting a rule of law state in Laos by 2020. In this game, Lao leaders uphold their side of the bargain by maintaining the government’s commitment to goals negotiated as part of the annual Round Table Process between the government and donors, such as pursuing “off­track areas of the MDGs” and strengthening the rule of law. As long as egregious incidents like Sombath’s enforced disappearance fail to impact upon this bargain, such commitments will continue to operate as mechanisms of governance that reinforce the status quo, rather than as principles guiding better governance.

Simon Creak, in “Laos in 2013: International Controversies, Economic Concerns and the Post-socialist Rhetoric of Rule,” Southeast Asian Affairs, 2014

Laos stands out…

Sombath-magsaysay-smallLaos stands out in contrast to neighbours like Myanmar, which despite its long-time rule by the military managed to develop an independent civil society, according to John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director of the Washington-based Human Rights Watch.

“If a human rights defender like Aung Sang Suu Kyi were to stand up in Laos and speak out against authoritarian rule, she would be immediately arrested. And unlike Aung Sang Suu Kyi, having the luxury of living under house arrest, you would just be taken off to prison and never seen again,” he said.

“Laos NGO restrictions threaten development, say non-profit groups,” South China Morning Post, 17 September 2014

Disappeared in Laos

Overland Journal: Spring 2014

The arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.

– Article 2, The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

The last time Ng Shui Meng saw her husband, Sombath Somphone, alive was early in the evening of Saturday, 15 December 2012.

Sombath was driving his old jeep home. Shui Meng, who was travelling in her own vehicle in front of his, noticed him being stopped at a police post on Thadeua Road, a main thoroughfare in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Having your car stopped by the police is not uncommon in Laos. Usually it involves a simple identification check. Sometimes, police attempt to shake down drivers for a small bribe to supplement their meagre wages. As such, Shui Meng thought nothing of it and drove on home, expecting Sombath to join her later.

When her husband didn’t arrive for dinner she began to worry. She searched the vicinity of the police post where he was last seen and also visited Vientiane’s hospitals on the assumption he might have had an accident. She called his phone but was diverted to his message bank.

A fluent Lao speaker, Shui Meng reported Sombath missing to police the next day. She and Sombath’s family also rechecked the city’s hospitals and retraced the previous night’s events along Thadeua Road. It was then they noticed the Chinese-funded CCTV cameras mounted at various points along the road, one of which overlooked the police post where Sombath was last seen. Continue reading

Materially Rich and Spiritually Poor…

Let’s look at our model of development as it exists today. The development model that is widely practiced today is not very sustainable. So many things do not fit, thus so many “failures” just like in our “schooling”. For example, the world is so rich and yet there is widespread poverty. Unprecedented advances have been made in agriculture and aquaculture, yet more people go to bed hungry each day than ever before. Some nations have become so powerful, but the world has become ever more insecure. One can be so rich in materials but yet so poor emotionally and spiritually. And the list goes on.Bust

Sombath, in “The Interdependencies Between Education and Sustainable Development,” presented at the 10th Asia-Pacific Programme of Educational Innovation for Development (APEID) in Bangkok, Thailand, December, 2008