Keynote Speech by Shui Meng Ng at the 10th Asia-Europe People’s Forum
Milan, Italy, 10-12 October 2014
“Towards a Just and Inclusive Asia and Europe-Building States of Citizens for Citizens”
Two years ago, at the 9th AEPF, my husband, Sombath Somphone, as the Co-Chair of the National Organizing Committee, gave the keynote speech at the opening session of the Forum in Vientiane, Laos. He was at the time both happy and excited that after months of intensive preparation, the AEPF9 was officially declared open by no less than Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister. More than 1,000 people representing civil society groups and organizations from across Asia and Europe participated. As a Lao, Sombath was proud that his country could play host to such a major civil society forum.
Over the next few days between October 16-19, the forum participants passionately discussed, debated, shared, and exchanged lessons on common challenges and issues of poverty, social polarization, inequalities, indebtedness, and unemployment faced by ordinary folks in the countries of Asia and Europe. The energy level was high, and the panel discussions were animated, inclusive, and constructive. The participants eagerly presented their ideas and experiences, and worked hard to present the “People’s Vision” of shared hopes and aspirations which became incorporated as the final statement from the AEPF9 to the leaders of the ASEM countries for their deliberation and consideration for action in the follow-up ASEM Meeting.
By all estimation, and publicly acknowledged by the International Organizing Committee, the AEPF9 was considered one of the most successful People’s Forum ever. Then on 15 December 2012, two months after the close of AEPF9, Sombath Somphone was disappeared. He was last seen stopped at a police post in Vientiane and taken away by a white truck. The entire sequence of Sombath’s abduction was recorded by the state-installed traffic-control camera, and the footages of the abduction have since been shared on You-tube. Continue reading