Dear Uncle Sombath,
I think of you often and I feel like talking to you. But it’s not easy for me to really start writing to you. I don’t know where you are and I guess our postman will have difficulty getting this letter to your hands. But I am sure this letter will be safe in many hands of friendship and faith.
Your name came to my life since 10 years ago through many of my senior friends. I don’t really know who you are but I learn a lot from my senior friends, who learned a lot from you.
Since December 15, 2012, I got involved in youth active participation to raise awareness of forced disappearance situation and its impact. You are not just someone in another country, you have already become a friend, even we don’t know each other in person.
People may think I am so good for taking action to ensure you will never be forgotten. Actually, I am not giving anything. I gain more than I gave.
Interview with Ng Shui Meng by Keith Barney at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, on 05 March 2014.
Over 3,000 people from the ASEAN region gathered together from March 21–23 for the ASEAN Civil Society Conference and ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF). The conference in Yangon was the largest ACSC/APF event since its inception in 2005, as well as the largest of its kind in Myanmar’s recent history.
Entitled “Advancing ASEAN People’s Solidarity Toward Sustainable Peace, Development, Justice and Democratization,” the conference included plenaries and 35 workshops under four clusters: Peace, Development, Justice and Human Rights, and Democratization.
On 26 March 2014, the Australian Senate approved a motion calling on the Lao Government to:
…undertake an immediate and credible investigation of Mr Somphone’s disappearance, and willingly cooperate with the international community, including the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance.
The motion was introduced by Senator Christine Milne from Tasmania and Leader of the parliamentary caucus of the Green Party, and passed with the full support of all parties.
The full motion can be seen on the Parliament of Australia website, or in PDF format.
I hope you are well wherever you might be now. I hope that somehow the overwhelming outpouring of support, like those I am sure will be expressed in the letters that are being written by friends and supporters somehow reach you, and that the support strengthens your will to continue fighting.
Let me tell you that a lot of people not just from your beloved Laos, but all across Asia and the world are praying for your safe return. A lot of people have also expressed support for your loved ones who suffer the most from your absence, but who have come out of this ordeal, stronger.
The Asahi Shimbun: 25 March 2014
Hideki Wakabayashi, Secretary General, Amnesty International, Japan
On Dec. 15, 2012, in the Laotian capital of Vientiane, 62-year-old citizen activist Sombath Somphone was stopped by police at a checkpoint and taken away by unidentified abductors.
The kidnapping was recorded on video, but the Laotian authorities denied any involvement in the incident. Despite pleas from the international community, the authorities today still have not taken any concrete measures to solve the case, and there are even suspicions of a cover-up.
Members of Amnesty International Japan and Human Rights Watch protest at the Laos Embassy in Tokyo in December 2013. (Hideki Yakabayashi)
Sombath had worked on poverty issues in Laos and had been long involved in advising farmers and in environmental education. For this meritorious service, in 2005 he was the recipient of the Magsaysay Award, an honor that is called the Nobel Prize of Asia.
On Dec. 15, 2013, exactly one year after the kidnapping, Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of Laos, who was visiting Japan for the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit Meeting, held a top-level meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The notion that Asean can be a people-oriented community will be a farce as long as none of the Asean leaders speaks out on human-rights violations.
…Asean must take up the case of Sombath; its credibility is at stake.
From “Asean must bring silence in Sombath abduction to an end,” in The Nation, 25 February 2013.