‘The Hypocrisy of Asean’

SEA Globe-23 March 2015…the Somphone case is an excellent example of Asean’s failure to take a stance on human rights. Instead of criticising the Lao government for not investigating the disappearance, she said, Asean “hides” behind its policy of ‘non-intervention’ in national issues, even though it has previously intervened in internal matters.

…Calling this “the hypocrisy of Asean,” Naidu added that the regional body refuses to intervene on human rights but has no qualms about the region’s “capitalist elites” influencing the national economic policies of member states.

Wathshlah Naidu, in “An Uncomfortable Question,” by  David Hutt, in The Southeast Asian Globe.

Laos Tries But Fails to Make ASEAN NGOs Ignore Plight of Missing Activist

Radio Free Asia: 20 March 2015

Ng Shui Meng at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok, Dec. 11, 2023. RFA

Ng Shui Meng at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok, Dec. 11, 2023. RFA

Lao activists are crying foul at a stealthy, failed attempt by their government to delete the disappearance of the country’s most prominent civil society leader from the list of regional human rights issues to be discussed on the sidelines of the Association of  Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Malaysia next month.

The activists say a retired Lao government official served as a proxy for the authoritarian government in Vientiane and lobbied the ASEAN People’s Forum to erase the name of Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil rights leader who has been missing for more than two years, from a list of human rights and governance problems in Southeast Asia.

Sombath went missing on Dec. 15, 2012, when police stopped him in his vehicle at a checkpoint in the capital Vientiane. He was then transferred to another vehicle, according to police surveillance video, and has not been heard from since.

Rights groups suspect that Lao officials were involved in or aware of the abduction of Sombath, who received the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership—Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize—for his work in the fields of education and development.

Lao officials have yet to state a reason for his disappearance or make any progress in the case, which has become a major headache for the Vientiane government, drawing criticism from European and U.S. development partners and aid donors and attention from the United Nations. Continue reading

Lao government does not want to hear Sombath’s name

Radio Free Asia: 18 March 2015

Unofficial translation

S-somphoneThe Lao government does not want the Steering Committee of the ASEAN People’s Forum to include Sombath Somphone’s name in the CSO Statement for their meeting to be organised in Malaysia on April 21-24, 2015.

Mr. Maydom Chanthanasinh, a member of the APF committee from Laos, recommended to other members to remove Sombath from the statement, particularly the reference to enforced disappearance and human rights violations, according to a CSO staff.

The recommendation to remove Sombath’s name came from a meeting for CSO representatives held on March 10-11 in Vientiane. The meeting, to “exchange information between the state and CSOs,” was chaired by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Xaisy Somtivong.

According to one staff, towards the end of that meeting the Chair asked whether Sombath’s name should be removed from the APF statement. About 20 out of 100 persons present raised their hands in agreement, but the Chair concluded the resolution had passed.

ທາງການລາວບໍ່ຢາກໄດ້ຍິນຊື່ ທ.ສົມບັດ

ວິທະຍຸເອເຊຍເສຣີ: 18 ມີນາ 2015

S-somphoneທາງການ ລາວ ບໍ່ຢາກໃຫ້ ຄນະ ກັມມະການ ຮັບ ຜິດຊອບ ຈັດ ກອງ ປະຊຸມ ພາກ ປະຊາຊົນ ເອົາ ຊື່ ຂອງ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ ເຂົ້າໃນ ຖແລງການ ຂອງ ກອງ ປະຊຸມ ພາກ ປະຊາຊົນ ອາຊຽນ ຫລື APF ທີ່ ຈະ ຈັດຂຶ້ນ ຢູ່ ປະເທດ ມະເລເຊັຽ ແຕ່ ວັນທີ 21 ຫາ 24 ເມສາ 2015.

ທ່ານ ໄມດົມ ຈັນທະນາສິນ ຊຶ່ງ ເປັນນຶ່ງ ໃນ ຄນະ ກັມມະການ ຈັດ ກອງ ປະຊຸມ ພາກ ປະຊາຊົນ ອາຊຽນ ຝ່າຍ ລາວ ໄດ້ ສເນີ ຕໍ່ ສະມາຊິກ ຄນະ ກໍາມະການ ວ່າ ໃຫ້ເອົາ ຊື່ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ອອກຈາກ ຖແລງການ ໂດຍ ສະເພາະ ຈຸດທີ່ ເວົ້າເຖິງ ເຣື້ອງ ການ ບັງຄັບ ບຸກຄົນ ໃຫ້ ຫາຍສາບສູນ ແລະ ການ ຣະເມີດ ສິດທິ ມະນຸດ. ອີງຕາມ ການ ບອກເລົ່າ ຂອງ ເຈົ້າໜ້າທີ່ ອົງການ ຈັດຕັ້ງ ທາງ ສັງຄົມ ທ່ານນຶ່ງ.

ການສເນີ ໃຫ້ເອົາ ຊື່ ຂອງ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ອອກຈາກ ຖແລງການ ມີຂຶ້ນ ໃນ ກອງປະຊຸມ ວັນທີ 10-11 ມິນາ 2015 ຢູ່ ນະຄອນ ຫລວງ ວຽງຈັນ ທີ່ ມີຜູ້ ເຂົ້າຮ່ວມ ຕາງໜ້າ ອົງການ ຈັດຕັ້ງ ທາງ ສັງຄົມ ໂດຍການ ເປັນ ປະທານ ຂອງ ທ່ານ ໄຊສີ ສັນຕິວົງ ຣັຖມົນຕຣີ ກະຊວງ ພາຍໃນ ຫົວຂໍ້ ຊື່ວ່າ ເພື່ອ ແລກປ່ຽນ ຄວາມຮູ້ ຊຶ່ງກັນ ແລະກັນ ຣະຫວ່າງ ພາກຣັຖ ແລະ ອົງການ ຈັດຕັ້ງ ທາງ ສັງຄົມ.

ເຈົ້າໜ້າທີ່ ທ່ານ ນັ້ນ ຍັງ ກ່າວວ່າ, ໃນ ຕອນທ້າຍ ຂອງ ກອງ ປະຊຸມ ນັ້ນ ຄນະ ປະທານ ຈັດ ກອງ ປະຊຸມ ກໍໄດ້ ສເນີ ຂໍມະຕິ ວ່າຈະ ເຫັນດີ ສເນີ ໃຫ້ ເອົາຊື່ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ອອກຈາກ ຖແລງການ ພາກ ປະຊາຊົນ ອາຊຽນ ຫລືບໍ່. ຜົນ ປະກົດ ວ່າ ມີຜູ້ຍົກມື ເຫັນດີ ໃຫ້ ສເນີ ເອົາ ຊື່ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ອອກຈາກ ຖແລງການ ປະມານ 20 ຄົນ ໃນ ຈໍານວນ ຜູ້ ເຂົ້າຮ່ວມ ທັງໝົດ 100 ຄົນ, ແຕ່ ຄນະ ປະທານ ຈັດ ກອງປະຊຸມ ສລຸບວ່າ ເປັນ ມະຕິ ຂອງ ກອງ ປະຊຸມ ວ່າເຫັນດີ.

ສຳພາດທ່ານ / Interview with Phil Robertson

ວິທະຍຸເອເຊຍເສຣີ / Radio Free Asia: 17 March 2015

Phil Robertsonສຳພາດ ທ່ານ Phil Robertson ຮອງ ຜູ້ ອຳນວຍການ ອົງການ ສິດທິ ມະນຸດ ປະຈຳ ເອເຊັຽ ທີ່ ໄດ້ ກ່າວເຖິງ ການ ລ່ວງ ຣະເມີດ ສິດທິ ມະນຸດ ຢູ່ ສປປ ລາວ. ສຽງ

Interview with Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, who speaks  about human rights violations in Laos. Audio

Reclaiming the ASEAN Community for the People: ACSC/APF 2015 – CSO Statement

ACSC-APFStates and non-state actors continue to commit violations with impunity, including police brutality, torture and enforced disappearances, against civil society activists. For example, the lack of immediate and transparent investigation into the case of Sombath Somphone by ASEAN governments, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), or any other human rights mechanisms in the region. Human rights defenders continue to be persecuted under oppressive laws, including laws against activities as “injuring the national unity”, “propaganda against the State“, “abusing democratic freedoms” and sedition laws, which deny the people safe and constructive political space.

From the  CSO Statement for the 2015 ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum to be held 21-24 April in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Australia-Laos rights dialogue: More than just rhetoric needed

The Interpreter: 13 March 2015

For many Australians, Laos is a scenic, off-the-beaten path, holiday destination for adventurous travellers.

Lao Embassy-Bangkok-2013-01

Relatively few know that it’s also a repressive one-party state with a long record of restricting basic rights, and imprisoning or forcibly disappearing critics or citizens who dare to form groups or hold protests without government permission.

Last week, Australia had a chance to throw light on Laos’ darker side when on 5 March, Canberra hosted officials from Vientiane for the fourth bilateral human rights dialogue. The dialogue, held in Australia for the first time, is part of Canberra’s assistance to the Lao Government, intended to improve its human rights record. However, given the intensifying crackdown on fundamental rights, the Lao Government’s commitment to reform appears dubious at best.

To ensure that this dialogue doesn’t become an exercise in empty rhetoric, the Australian Government should work with its Lao counterparts to set concrete measurable benchmarks for reform, and publicly commit to them. Continue reading

The Lao PDR is a People’s Democratic State

The Lao PDR is a people’s democratic state. All powers belong to the people, and are exercised by the people and for the interests of the multi-ethnic people. The State protects the freedoms and democratic rights of the people. All acts of bureaucratism and harassment detrimental to the people’s honor, physical well-being, lives, consciences and property are prohibited.

From the Lao National Report submitted for the Universal Periodic Review held in Geneva on 20 January 2015.

Sombath did many things differently

SB-Magsaysay-08Sombath is quite a special man, he looks at the potential of how to share ideas, concepts.  He never says “this is my idea,” but “I saw this thing is useful for society–what is your idea?”

He is open, just stimulates thinking.  I was in media, a creative person, but in my mind I never thought of the social aspects, just broadcasting. But Sombath thought of alternative media for the country.

He is a creative person, Like sang san (ສ້າງສັນ) in the Lao language, it means creation, or to seek. He is thinking more rapidly, ahead of many people. Something like dreaming, but not only a dream, but doing real things. He is an open person. In meetings he never stops anyone from saying things.  He records and then shows this is your idea not mine.
Sombath did many things differently.

Draft translation from interviews done with many of Sombath’s colleagues. Original Lao transcripts currently unavailable.

Sombath Initiative calls for increased pressure during Australia-Lao human rights dialogue

Logo-Sombath InitiativeThe Sombath Initiative has issued a letter to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop calling for increased pressure on the Lao government to more seriously address the disappearance of Sombath Somphone and related issues during this week’s Australia-Lao human rights dialogue.

Publicly launched in December, 2014, The Sombath Initiative seeks to resolve the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, and to carry forward his ideas and ideals. Lee Rhiannon, the Senator for New South Wales, serves on its Advisory Board.

The letter urges the dialogue be used to raise questions for which there have yet to be satisfactory responses. These include why there have been no updates on the investigation into Sombath’s disappearance for over 18 months, even though Lao authorities insist they are actively pursuing the case.

During the recent United Nations Universal Periodic Review for Laos in Geneva, Australia called on Laos to “Conduct an urgent and credible police investigation into Mr Sombath’s disappearance and communicate the findings, including to address any suspicions of government involvement in his abduction.”

The letter also asks why the Lao government, which aggressively solicits international aid, including significant contributions from Australia, is steadfastly refusing assistance for this investigation.

The full letter is available here.