Two years on, Laos activist still missing

Al Jazeera: 12 December 2014

Many suspect it was Sombath Somphone’s work empowering communities across Laos that led to his enforced disappearance.

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Sombath Somphone won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005 [AP]

In August 2005, in front of an audience in Manila, Lao development worker Sombath Somphone received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership.

Known as Asia’s Nobel Prize, it showed that Sombath’s work was appreciated not just by the people of Laos but across the region.

The award recognised Sombath’s “hopeful efforts to promote sustainable development in Laos by training and motivating its young people to become a generation of leaders”.

But much of that hope has now been lost. Rather than mentoring a new generation of Lao community leaders, Sombath is missing – a victim of enforced disappearance – and Lao civil society is fractured and fearful.

An enforced disappearance takes place when a person is arrested, detained or abducted by the state or agents acting for the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their fate or whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.

And this serious human rights violation, recognised as an international crime since the aftermath of World War II, is ongoing as long as Sombath’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

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ถ้าโลกนี้ไม่มีการอุ้มหาย: การแสดงพลังของคนรุ่นใหม่ ผ่านวาระ 2 ปีการหายตัวไปของอ้ายสมบัด

Thai PBS: 12 ธันวาคม 2557

ถ้าโลกนี้ไม่มีการอุ้มหาย: การแสดงพลังของคนรุ่นใหม่ ผ่านวาระ 2 ปีการหายตัวไปของอ้ายสมบัด

สองปีแล้ว ‘สมบัด สมพอน’ ก็ยังไม่กลับมา สมควรแก่เวลาที่คนรุ่นใหม่จะร่วมกันสร้างสังคมที่ใฝ่ฝัน, สังคมแห่งสันติภาพ?

นี่คือบทสัมภาษณ์คนรุ่นใหม่กลุ่ม Sombath Somphone and Beyond Project

12 ธันวาคม 2557, บันทึกไว้ด้วยจิตคารวะ

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Two years marked at FCCT in Bangkok

FCCT-2014-12-11To mark two years since the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a press conference was held at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Thailand on December 11th.

The event also included the  launch of the Sombath Initiative, as well as the release of the International Commission of Jurists’ Missed Opportunities: Recommendations for Investigating the Disappearance of Sombath Somphone.”

Video of the event is available here. Remarks were given by: 1) Angkhana Neelapaijit from the Justice for Peace Foundation, 2) Sam Zarifi from ICJ, 3) Matilda Bogner from OHCHR, and 4) Ng Shui Meng. (11 December 2014)

Wife of Missing Lao Civil Society Leader Vows to Keep Pushing For Answers

Radio Free Asia: 12 December 2014

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Ng Shui-Meng, wife of Sombath Somphone, talks about her husband’s disappearance at a press conference in Bangkok, Dec. 11, 2014.

The wife of a missing prominent civil society leader in Laos vowed to continue pushing the authorities for answers over the disappearance of her husband, who vanished under mysterious circumstances in the capital Vientiane two years ago. Ng Shui-Meng, the wife of Sombath Somphone, said she would continue to highlight her husband’s case “until the end of my life.” “I will not give up asking, looking for and requesting the Lao government, officials and police to please give our family sympathy and give us answers soon, because after Sombath’s disappearance, we felt pain and our lives became difficult,” she said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Thursday. “However, I am committed to looking for Sombath until the end of my life if I don’t get the answers.” Continue reading

En Asie du Sud-Est, la liste des militants “disparus” s’allonge

RTL Info: 12 Décembre 2014 SM-FCCT-02
Deux ans après la disparition de Sombath Somphone, célèbre militant laotien, sa femme se désespère de savoir ses ravisseurs toujours impunis. Un cas loin d’être isolé en Asie du Sud-Est, où l’enlèvement est fréquemment utilisé pour imposer le silence aux contestataires.

“Faire disparaître quelqu’un est un crime particulièrement cruel. C’est très difficile de vivre avec cette inconnue”, explique à l’AFP lors d’un passage à Bangkok Ng Shui-Meng, Singaporienne à la voix douce, et qui vit au Laos depuis 30 ans.

Sous ce régime communiste autoritaire qui s’ouvre timidement ces dernières années, la disparition, le 15 décembre 2012, du fondateur de l’ONG Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC) a profondément choqué la société civile.

Mais aussi la communauté internationale: des personnalités telles que le secrétaire d’Etat américain John Kerry, le sud-Africain Desmond Tutu ou Hillary Clinton ont réclamé une enquête. Car dans le cas de Sombath, l’enlèvement fait peu de doutes.

Des images prises par des caméras de vidéosurveillance le montrent en effet s’éloignant d’un poste de police avec deux individus non identifiés dans les rues de la capitale Ventiane.

Depuis ce jour, son nom est venu s’ajouter à une liste déjà longue de “disparus” de la région. Continue reading

Dear Sombath…from Amnesty International

Amnesty InternationalAmnesty International: 12 December 2012

Ref: ASA 26/002/2014

Sombath Somphone

UNKNOWN ADDRESS

Dear Sombath,

Two years after you disappeared on the evening of 15 December 2012, we, directors from across the global Amnesty International movement, write to express our deepest hopes for your safe return.

We have all seen the CCTV footage of your disappearance outside a police post on Thadeua Road in Vientiane. This evidence strongly indicates involvement of agents of the Lao state, whether through direct perpetration, or through support or complicity.

Yet for two years, the Lao government has denied arresting you and denies any responsibility for your disappearance. They have failed to conduct a prompt, thorough, competent and impartial investigation. They have refused other countries’ offers of external assistance, including analysis of the original CCTV footage.

We are deeply disappointed that the Lao authorities have not lived up to their human rights obligations. Laos signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED) in September 2008. It has not yet ratified the Convention, but it is expected to act according to the letter and spirit of its provisions. Laos is also a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides that governments must provide an ‘effective remedy’ for violations of rights guaranteed by the Covenant, including the rights to liberty and security of person. Continue reading

Into thin air: Southeast Asia’s growing ranks of disappeared

The Daily Mail: 12 December 2014

Two years after Sombath Somphone vanished, the Laotian activist’s wife says his abductors enjoy impunity –- an ugly reality across a region where powerful business interests and murky state actors stand accused of routinely “disappearing” opponents.

Sombath disappeared from the streets of the capital of Laos, Vientiane, after he was pulled over at a police checkpoint.

The disappearances continue in the region: from a Cambodian teenager last seen covered in blood during a labour protest, to an ethnic minority activist who vanished in Thailand after confronting national park officials.

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Ng Shui-Meng, the wife of missing Laotian activist Sombath Somphone, says his abductors enjoy impunity ¿ an ugly reality across a region where powerful business interests and murky state actors stand accused of routinely “disappearing” opponents ©Christophe Archambault (AFP)

The case of Sombath — an award-winning champion of sustainable development but one who avoided direct confrontation — horrified civil society in Laos, a one-party communist state slowing emerging from decades of isolation.

His disappearance on December 15, 2012 stood out partly because the evidence pointing to abduction was so compelling — and also because a stream of international figures called for his safe return including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Desmond Tutu.

“The crime of disappearance is particularly cruel,” Sombath’s wife Ng Shui-Meng, a soft-spoken Singaporean who lived in Laos with him, told AFP in Bangkok.

“It’s very difficult to live with the unknown.” Continue reading

ອຶງຊຸຍເມັງບໍ່ລົດລະນຳຫາ ສາມີ

ວິທະຍຸເອເຊຍເສຣີ: 12 ທັນວາ 2014

FCCT-2014-12-11

ອຶງຊຸຍເມັງ(ຜູ້ທີສອງຈາກຂວາມື)ໃນກອງປະຊຸມ ຖແລງຂ່າວ ສື່ມວນຊົນ ຢູ່ບາງກອກ ປະເທດໄທ ວັນທີ 11 ທັນວາ

ຍານາງ ອຶງຊຸຍເມັງ ພັລຍາ ຂອງ ທ່ານ ສົມບົດ ສົມພອນ ນັກ ພັທນາ ຊຸມຊົນ ໃນລາວ ກ່າວ ໃນວັນ ຖແລງຂ່າວ ຕໍ່ ສື່ມວນຊົນ ຢູ່ ບາງກອກ ປະເທດໄທ ວັນທີ 11 ທັນວາ ວ່າ ຍານາງ ຈະເຮັດ ທຸກວິທີ ທາງ ເພື່ອ ສືບທາວຫາ ສາມີ ທີ່ ຖືກລັກພາ ຕົວໄປ ເກືອບ 2 ປີ ແລ້ວ. ຍານາງ ກ່າວວ່າ:

“ຂ້ອຍມີ ຄຳໝັ້ນ ສັນຍາ ຕໍ່ໂຕເອງ ແລະ ຕໍ່ຄອບຄົວ ຂອງ ສົມບັດ ຂ້ອຍ ຊິຊອກ ຈົນຮອດມື້ ຕາຍ ຖ້າວ່າບໍ່ໄດ້ ຄຳຕອບ ຂ້ອຍກໍຍັງ ຊອກຢູ່ ຈົນຮອດ ບໍ່ມີຊີວິດ ເລີຍ, ຂ້ອຍກໍຍັງ ບໍ່ຮູ້ ຕ້ອງຖ້າດົນ ປານໃດ ແຕ່ວ່າຂ້ອຍ ກ່າບໍ່ໄດ້ ສິ້ນສຸດ ການຖາມ ແລະ ການຮ້ອງຂໍ ຣັຖບາລ ລາວ”.

ກ່ອນວັນ ຄົບຮອບ 2 ປີ ວັນທີ 15 ທັນວາ ທີ່ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ ຖືກລັກ ພາໂຕໄປ ນັ້ນ ຍານາງ ອຶງ ຊຸຍເມັງ ກໍໄດ້ໄປ ຮ່ວມການ ສົນທະນາ ກັບ ອົງກອນ ສິດທິ ມະນຸດ ສາກົນ ທີ່ ສຳນັກງານ ສະມາຄົມ ນັກຂ່າວ ຕ່າງ ປະເທດ ບາງກອກ ປະເທດໄທ. ຍານາງ ກ່າວຂອບໃຈ ບັນດາ ອົງກອນ ສາກົນ ແລະ ປະຊາຊົນ ທີ່ເຫັນໃຈ, ຜູ້ທີ່ໃຫ້ ກຳລັງໃຈ ແກ່ ຄອບຄົວ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ມາຕລອດ ໃນການ ຮ້ອງຮຽນ ໃຫ້ ທາງການ ລາວ ສືບສວນ ຊອກຫາ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ. ຍານາງ ອຶງ ຊຸຍເມັງ ວ່າຍັງມີ ຄວາມຫວັງ ທີ່ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ຍັງມີ ຊີວິດ ຢູ່ບ່ອນໃດ ບ່ອນນຶ່ງ ແລະ ມື້ໃດ ມື້ນຶ່ງ ທ່ານ ຕ້ອງກັບຄືນ ບ້ານເຮືອນ ດ້ວຍຄວາມ ປອດພັຍ.

ຕາມ ຮູບພາບ ວີດີໂອ ນັ້ນ ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ ຖືກ ນຳໂຕໄປ ຢູ່ຕໍ່ໜ້າ ປ້ອມ ຕຳຣວດ ຫລັກ 3 ຖນົນ ທ່າເດື່ອ ນະຄອນ ຫລວງ ວຽງຈັນ. ທາງການ ລາວ ກໍວ່າໄດ້ ສືບສວນ ແລ້ວ ແຕ່ ທາງຄອບຄົວ ແລະ ອົງການ ສາກົນ ຕ່າງໆ ເຫັນວ່າ ບໍ່ເປັນທີ່ ແຈ້ງຂາວ ພໍ, ແລະ ຄວນເປັນ ຄວາມ ຮັບຜິດຊອບ ຂອງ ເຈົ້າໜ້າທີ່ ລາວ, ແຕ່ ທາງການລາວ ກໍກັບ ປະຕິເສດ ຕລອດມາ ວ່າ ບໍ່ໄດ້ມີ ສ່ວນພົວພັນ ນຳການ ຫາຍສາບສູນ ນັ້ນ ແຕ່ຢ່າງໃດ.

ຂ່າວ ກ່ຽວກັນ: ອຶງຊຸຍເມັງຍຶດໝັ້ນຊອກຫາ ຄຳຕອບ

Missing Lao activist not forgotten

Bangkok Post: 11 December 2014

The number of days since Sombath Somphone went missing are marked on a website created especially for him, but they also are a painful reminder to his wife and his supporters of his disappearance more than two years ago.

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A banner on a website created for Sombath Somphone shows his friends joining calls to find the missing Lao activist. (Photo from http://www.sombath.org)

The supporters met on Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand to remind the world that efforts to find the missing Lao activist will never end. “It is important for me to know that Sombath’s disappearance is not forgotten,” his singaporean wife Ng Shui-Meng said.

The website, www.sombath.org, keeps track of the time – 726 days have passed since he disappeared on Dec 15, 2013, while driving home from his office at the Participatory Development Training Centre in Vientiane. CCTV footage shows him being taken away by Lao police on that evening.

“Today marks the 726th day … that Sombath was taken from me and my family. Even after 726 days, the shock, the pain, the anguish have not lessened,” she said. Continue reading