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.
“This culture of impunity must be stopped and I’m saying this on behalf of the hundreds of others who have suffered a similar fate.”
Angkhana Neelapaijit, speaking at the FCCT on 04 March 2014 about the enforced disappearance of her spouse, Somchai Neelapaijit.
“Angkhana still waiting for justice” Bangkok Post, 06 March 2014
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.