Where is Sombath? ສົມບັດຢູ່ໃສ?

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Sombath SomphoneSombath Somphone was last seen in Vientiane on the evening of Saturday, 15 December 2012 when he was driving home in his jeep.

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 15 ທັນວາ 2012 ເມື່ອລາວ ກຳລັງຂັບລົດຈິດຂອງລາວກັບບ້ານ.

ສອງມື້ຕໍ່ມາ ໄດ້ມີພາບຖ່າຍວິດີໂອກ້ອງວົງຈອນປິດຈາລະຈອນ ໄດ້ສະແດງໃຫ້ເຫັນວ່າ ສົມບັດ ກຳລັງຖືກຢຸດກວດໂດຍຕຳຫລວດ ແລະ ຫລັງຈາກນັ້ນກໍ່ຖືກລັກພາຕົວໄປພາບຖ່າຍ ວິດີໂອດັ່ງກ່າວ ສາມາດຊົມໄດ້ທີ່ນີ້.

ສົມບັດເປັນໝູ່, ເປັນເພື່ອນຮ່ວມງານ ແລະ ເປັນຜູ້ທີ່ມີວິໃສທັດ ຊຶ່ງລາວໄດ້ໃຊ້ຊີວິດເຮັດວຽກ ເພື່ອປະຊາຊົນ ແລະ ປະເທດຊາດ. ເວບໄຊ້ນີ້ຫວັງວ່າຈະຊ່ວຍເອື້ອຍອຳນວຍໃຫ້ລາວກັບມາ ຫາຄອບຄົວ ແລະ ວຽກງານຂອງລາວ.

Dear Sombath…from Agnieszka Kroskowska

Dear Sombath,

As I prepare to leave Laos after 6.5 years of living and working here, I cannot help but reflect on my time here, my first days and weeks here. One of the very clear memories I have – as though it happened just yesterday, was my first meeting with you. This is atypical for me because I very rarely remember the first time I meet someone; more shy than people perhaps realize while sincerely in the moment, I usually am just trying to get through the moment, so I in the end draw a blank. But you and a few others I can basically count on one hand, were different. Interestingly – I also remember the first time I saw Shui Meng – you were together, sitting a couple of rows in front of me during one of those Monument Books presentation evenings. She stood up and voiced her opinion during the habitual Q&A session that follows all presentations. I just remember saying to my friend Wow – now that is a strong woman; I would definitely not want to mess with her; good for Sombath for having the confidence to be with a woman like that! Says even more about him as a man. Continue reading

Singapore taking the lead in pressuring Laos to expedite investigation into disappearance of Sombath Somphone

Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights: 18 April 2014

LOGO_APHRBANGKOK – ASEAN Parliamentarians today praised Singapore for its consistent efforts to urge the Lao government to expedite its inquiry into the disappearance of civil society actor Sombath Somphone and urged other ASEAN nations to take a firm, united stand against the shortcomings of the Lao authorities’ investigation to date.

The Singapore government this week reiterated its concern regarding the stalled investigation into Sombath’s whereabouts after he was disappeared from a street in Vientiane in December 2012.

In written remarks to the Singapore Parliament, Singaporean Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said his government had made its misgivings known to the Lao government and that it has also offered assistance to Sombath’s wife, Dr. Ng Shui Meng, a Singaporean citizen resident in Vientiane.

“[The Singapore government has] consistently raised our concern to the Lao PDR government over Mr Sombath’s disappearance at the highest levels, including with the Lao PDR President, Prime Minister, President of the National Assembly and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs,” K Shanmugam said.

“We have urged the Lao PDR government to expedite their investigations and to resolve this case as quickly as possible.” Continue reading

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

Dear Sombath…from Lois Foehringer

Dear Sombath,

Sabaidee!

I think of you every time I chop onions. This is the way it has always been. The association between you and onions reckons back to the countless weekend evenings spent preparing meals in our kitchen in Vientiane. The task of chopping onions was yours by default because the pungency of the onion juice never bothered you like it did the rest of us. You did this task cheerfully just as you approach every other task that I have seen you undertake. So it is that when I chop onions, as my eyes burn and tears stream down my face, I cannot help but whisper under my breath, “Sombath, where are you?” Of course, that question is so much more poignant now when there is such deep and disturbing uncertainty about your whereabouts. Continue reading

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

The Oregonian: 16 April 2014

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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

ASEAN must act on human rights

The enforced disappearances of Sombath Somphone, Jonas Burgos and Somchai and dozens of Southeast Asian activists highlight ASEAN’s insincerity in protecting the human rights of its peoples. Its failure to meaningfully respond to these cases is immoral and unjust, especially to the families of the victims. For the nth time, we strongly urge ASEAN to instruct its representatives in the regional human rights body, AICHR, to investigate these cases and formulate recommendations that will punish the perpetrators and eliminate cases of enforced disappearances. The true test of the legitimacy of AICHR and ASEAN’s commitment to human rights is when they finally act on these cases and help in the elimination of rights abuses in the region.

From Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy (SAPA) statement made at Asian People’s Forum in Yangon. 24 March 2014

Dear Sombath…from Lisa ter Woort

Dear Sombath,

I’ve just completed a trip to southern Lao PDR with my 13 year old twin daughters Rachel and Carly. I wanted to show my girls the country, and the people that have made such a lasting impression on me both personally and professionally. I had hoped to see you.

Its already been 17 odd years since I first arrived to Vientiane to work with CUSO on development issues in Lao. I remember, with absolute clarity, the first week in my role as country representive to CUSO Lao PDR. With Charlie Pahlman as my mentor, I was provided with an extensive overview of the organizations and individuals who would become the network I came to rely on in our work to make a difference in Lao.

I met you that first week in the whirlwind of meetings. We drove around the dust covered streets in that yellow volkswagon bug. Charlie was driving somewhat erratically, as he always liked to make effusive points using both hands!  So many passionate people, both from Lao and around the world, many who would contribute to and influence my work in Lao. It was a fabulous time, united in the belief that we were making a difference through the work we undertook together.

Continue reading