The people who have the money tend to determine which consultants to hire. If they don’t report in a certain way, they get fired. The two are working together, the government and the private sector. The public is on the receiving end.
Remarks by Sombath at a panel discussion held at the FCCT in Bangkok, Thailand, 10 November 2008.
The Report of the 11th High Level Round Table Meeting, averred that: “With regard to the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, The Government of Lao PDR has concerns more than any nation,” and that it would continue the investigation and “…bring those involved into the justice.” (Emphasis added)
Yet when donors from other nations raised the lack of progress at this year’s Round Table, it was suggested that “…development partners turn their attention to Laos’ ‘more pending and important issues’ which were more pressing than the Sombath case.”
If assurances given at one Round Table are not important at the next such meeting, of what utility is the Round Table process?
A 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines.
Donor countries to Laos have pressed the government of Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong on the whereabouts of the country’s most prominent civil society leader who disappeared nearly two years ago.
European and U.S. development partners mentioned the case of Sombath Somphone at a roundtable meeting with members of the Lao government last week in the capital Vientiane, during which they discussed the country’s progress and challenges in implementing various development goals.
The civil society leader went missing on Dec. 15, 2012, when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint in the capital. He was then transferred to another vehicle, according to police surveillance video, and has not been heard from since.
“Sombath’s case has been raised by several development partners such as the European Union … [and] the United States,” said a foreign representative at the meeting, speaking to RFA’s Lao Service on condition of anonymity. Continue reading →
At last year’s RTM we raised the issue of the unexplained disappearance of Mr Sombath Somphone. We were re-assured by the government that it had taken all steps to continue the investigation and to bring the perpetrators to justice. One year later (and almost two years after the disappearance occurred), we note with grave concern that no progress has been made and Mr Sombath has still not returned to his family. Once again, we urge the government to resolve this case urgently.
…we encourage the Lao government to consider shifting to a growth model that is more quality-based and in line with a sustainable management of natural resources, reducing the negative effects of climate change and ensuring food security. “Green growth” does have enormous potential in Laos if the right incentives and regularly frameworks are put in place. This would also support social inclusion including for the growing number of young people that enter the labour market.
…a more sustainable model of growth…better management of natural resources…more social inclusion, particularly for young people… Who had been advocating these things for years before being disappeared?
On 14 November, Lao government officials and international donors gather in Vientiane for the 2014 Round Table Implementation Meeting. The event is designed for participants to review implementation of the country’s 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (2011-2015) as well as other issues discussed during the 11th High-Level Round Table Meeting in November 2013. Today’s meeting also provides an opportunity for the Lao government and international donors to share information and ideas regarding development policies and strategies.
In recent years, official development assistance (ODA) to Laos has steadily increased. ODA rose by 23% from US$630 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year to US$777 million in 2012-13. Regrettably, the commitment shown by foreign donors to improving the lives of the Lao people has not been matched by a similar willingness by the Lao government to promote and protect its people’s fundamental rights, FIDH and LMHR said in the letter.
“In Laos, a foreign aid bonanza has not translated into greater respect for human rights. The time has finally come for international donors to use their leverage and push the government to live up to its human rights commitments and obligations,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. Continue reading →
I am serious… I really want to know… If somebody in your family disappeared, how would you feel? How would you feel if you were just living your life, somebody took a member of your family, and you didn’t know the reason? And then everybody became afraid of him, even though they didn’t know heads or tails about why?
It is almost two years since Uncle Sombath disappeared, but there is still no news or information. On top of that, nobody dares to even mention his name. Even vendors still don’t dare to say the name Sombath Somphone.
Vor knapp zwei Jahren verschwand Sombath Somphone in seiner Heimat Laos spurlos. Die Geschichte des Enwicklungspädagogen erzählt viel über Möglichkeiten und Grenzen zivilgesellschaftlichen Engagements in dem kleinen südostasiatischen Land. N. N.*
Seit 15. Dezember 2012 fehlt von Sombath Somphone jede Spur. Der Winter ist in Vientiane eine willkommene, wenn auch nur kurze Erholung von Hitze und Regen. Zwischen November und Jänner wird es in der Hauptstadt der Demokratischen Volksrepublik Laos für ein paar Wochen angenehm frisch. Der Abend des 15. Dezember ist ein solcher lauer Winterabend. Sombath Somphone – Agrarexperte und Pädagoge – setzt sich in seinen Jeep und macht sich auf den Weg nach Hause. Entlang der Thadeua Road leuchten die neuen Botschaften, Büros, Restaurants und Geschäfte der Stadt in schimmerndem Orange. Sombath kennt Vientiane noch aus ganz anderen Zeiten.
Nach dem Ende des Vietnamkriegs 1975 übernehmen die KommunistInnen die Macht in Laos. In den biederen ersten Jahren ihrer Herrschaft verschwindet die Farbe aus der damals noch verschlafenen Kleinstadt Vientiane. Bunte Kleidung und Make-up sind als Ausdruck westlicher Dekadenz verpönt. Die EinzelhändlerInnen im Stadtkern schließen ihre Läden. Ein Fünftel der Bevölkerung flieht vor wirtschaftlicher Not und politischen Repressionen ins Ausland. Der Mekong wird zum eisernen Vorhang Asiens. Ausgerechnet zu dieser Zeit kehrt Sombath aus den USA in seine Heimat zurück. Er hatte Anfang der 1970er Jahre im damals noch königlichen Laos ein Stipendium zum Studium der Erziehungs- und Agrarwissenschaften an der Universität in Hawaii erhalten. Nach seinem Abschluss hat Sombath gute Aussichten, als politischer Flüchtling in den USA bleiben zu dürfen. Dennoch entscheidet er sich 1978 für die Rückkehr in sein kriegszerstörtes Heimatland. Sombath fühlt sich verpflichtet, sein erlerntes Wissen einzubringen, um beim Wiederaufbau zu helfen, gerade weil die wenigen gebildeten Leute Laos in Strömen verlassen. Sombath schwimmt gegen den Strom. Continue reading →