Investigation Update: Yet more Backtracking

sombath-somphone-response-to-senate-20140616-1-1In a 21 May 2014 letter to the Honorable John Hogg, President of the Australian Senate, and in response to a motion passed by the Australian Senate, Phoumma Khammanichanh, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, states:

…since the incident unfolded the authorities concerned have conducted a series of thorough investigation and collected some information that may be relevant to the missing Mr. Sombath Somphone. …At present, the authorities concerned are continuing to seriously carry on the investigation. (Emphasis added)

The letter also asserts:

The CCTV footage obtained from the police and widely posted on the internet by Mr. Sombath’s wife, as a matter of fact, did not give any clear picture of who or what is what therein. Consequently, no one could confirm what really happened for all the persons and vehicles seen in the footage were unclear at all. Particularly Mr. Sombath himself could not be precisely identified. Therefore, many people can not but keep wondering if Mr. Sombath did actually disappear in the place captured by the CCTV. (Emphasis added)

This is not, however, what was reported to a group of Asean Parliamentarians during their visit to Vientiane on 16 January 2013.

We noted discrepancies in our hosts’ accounts of the circumstances of the abduction. Most of the officials we met said that there was no evidence that Sombath got into the pickup truck that appeared in the CCTV footage after his jeep was stopped. Yet Mr. Sakayane Sisouvong, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Sombath voluntarily boarded that vehicle. (Emphasis added) 

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​ໂລກ​ນີ້​ຕ້ອງ​ຍຶດຖືຕາມຖະແຫຼງການສາກົນ ວ່າດ້ວຍ ສິດທິມະນຸດ (UDHR: Universal Declaration of Human Rights), ທີ່​ວ່າ​ສິດທິ​ມະນຸດ​ບໍ່​​ແມ່ນ​ສິ່ງ​ທີ່​ຢູ່​ພາຍ​ໃຕ້​ການ​ອະນຸມັດ​ຂອງ​ລັດຖະບານ … ສິດທິ​ມະນຸດ​​ເປັນ​ເລື່ອງ​ສາກົນ…ພວກ​ເຮົາ​ຕ້ອງ​ຊ່ວຍ​ກັນ​ກົດ​ດັນ​ປະ​ເທດ​ລາວ​ໃຫ້​ຊ່ວຍ​ຊອກ​ຫາ ສົມບັດ ສົມ​ພອນ ​ແລະ ພາລາ​ວກັບ​ມາ​ຢ່າງ​ປອດ​ໄພ … ສິ່ງ​ເຫຼົ່າ​ນີ້​ຈະ​ເປັນ​ຈຸດ​ເລີ່​ມໃນ​ການ​ເປີດ​ປະ​ເດັນ​ກ່ຽວ​ກັບ​ສິດທິຂອງ​ປະຊາຊົນ​ໃນ​ເຂດ​ພາກພື້ນ​ນີ້, ​ແຕ່​ພວກ​ເຮົາ​ບໍ່​ຄວນ​ລ່າ​ຊ້າ​ໄປ​ກວ່າ​ນີ້​ອີກ​ແລ້ວ.

ສິດທິ​ມະນຸດ​ສາກົນ​​​ແມ່ນ​ສິ່ງ​ທີ່ຄົນ​ທຸກ​ຄົນ​ໃນ​ໂລກ​ໃບ​​ນີ້​ລ້ວນ​ເປັນ​ເຈົ້າ​ຂອງ ​ແລະ ລັດຖະບານ​ຈະ​ຕ້ອງ​ຢຸດ​ທຳທ່າ​ສະ​ແດງ​ວ່າ​ສິ່ງ​ນີ້​​ແມ່ນ​ຢູ່​ໃນ​ອຳນາດ​ຂອງ​ພວກ​ເຂົາ​ ​ເພື່ອ​ເປັນ​ຂໍ້​ຍົກ​ເວັ້ນ​ໃຫ້​​ແກ່​ພວກ​ເຂົາ. ສິດທິ​ມະນຸດ​ບໍ່​ແມ່ນ​ສິ່ງ​ປະກອບ​ເພີ້​ມຕື່ມ ຫຼື ​ເປັນ​ສິ່ງ​ທີ່​ຕ້ອງ​ເຮັດ​ຫຼັງ​ຈາກ​ບັນຫາ​ອື່ນໆ ຖືກ​ແກ້​ໄຂ​ແລ້ວ; ມັນ​ແມ່ນ​​ຮາກ​ຖານ​ຂອງ​ການ​ເຕີບ​ໃຫຍ່ ​ແລະ ການວັດ​ແທກ​ການ​ປະພຶດ​ຕົວ​ຕໍ່​ກັນ​ແລະກັນ ​ແລະ ຕໍ່​ຕົວ​ເຮົາ​ເອງ. ​

Jack Healey, ​ຈາກ Huffington Post

Human Rights are not an Add-on

The world must hold the line of the UDHR, that human rights are not subject to government approval… Human rights are universal. …We must press Laos to help locate Sombath Somphone and to return him to safety. …These would be but beginnings in addressing the rights of the peoples in the region, but we must not delay any longer.

Universal human rights are just that, they belong to all the planet’s people and governments should stop pretending that it is in their authority to create exceptions to them. Human rights are not an add-on, or something to do after every other problem is solved; they are the ground from which to grow and measure our treatment of each other and our own selves.

Jack Healey, in the Huffington Post


SB-MOHe would be up early in the morning tending to our vegetables and he was very proud of our garden. I think that he got that from his mother. His mother is a fantastic gardener. Even in her old age she has a yard full of fruit trees and vegetables and he still goes to her for gardening advice. He spent a lot of time gardening in the last 6-7 months leading up to his abduction.

Ng Shui Meng, from an interview conducted by Kearrin Sims in April, 2014. Sombath’s mother passed away in June.


Soldarity for Sombath in Manila

photo2‘Let Us Not Forget’ Advocacy Launched

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines’ Office of Women and Gender Concerns, together with Focus on the Global South, launched a ‘Let Us Not Forget’ campaign through a solidarity mass at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on June 30. The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances participated in the event.

From hereon, the groups will conduct a ritual for remembering every first Saturday of the month to ensure that the campaign for the safe return of Sombath Somphone of Laos and other desaparecidos of Asia continues.

In the mass, officiating Catholic priest of the UST, Father Quirico, reminded those who were gathered that “forgetting about human dignity is a social sin” that serves as “root of evil doings” such as forcibly abducting and disappearing people.


A Consummate Failure

LOGO_APHRAsean Parliamentarians for Human Rights has submitted a report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to be used in the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in early 2105. Excerpts include:

The members of APHR would like to express their deep dismay at the lack of political will to conduct a serious investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone.

… The Lao investigation has so far been a consummate failure.  APHR questions the sincerity of the current investigation and calls for the government of the Lao PDR to give full support as necessary and as requested for the establishment of an international and/or regional investigation into Sombath’s disappearance;

…APHR calls on the Lao Government to provide meaningful, detailed information about the progress of the investigations to Sombath’s family, lawyers and others with a legitimate interest, including the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the UN Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearance.

… APHR calls on UN member states to vote against Lao PDR’s bid to sit on the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 pending its acceptance and implementation of the above recommendations;

The full statement can be seen here. Similar reports have also been submitted by;

Let the Young People Work on It

sombath_fishing_skillsThe most effective way of bringing about holistic education is the participation of young people in designing the future of our education and pattern of development. Young people themselves are more open-minded to new ideas and behaviors and should take ownership in designing their own future. We, adults, are not their future. We, adults, have broken the world. And we do not know how to fix it. So let the young people work on it. We can use our wisdom, not greed, and compassion to guide and mentor them.

Sombath, in “Interconnectedness for Happiness Together,” Asian Public Intellectuals Newsletter, March-August 2012.