Concern or Censorship?

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 22.53.08 PMWhile the Lao government has repeatedly expressed its concern about Sombath’s disappearance, it appears to also be censoring any mention of his name.

Following the fifth annual EU-Lao “Working Group on Human Rights and Governance” held on 19 May 2014, an EU press release stated:

The EU also raised a number of individual cases of concern, in particular the case of the disappearance of Mr Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil society activist. Mr Sombath’s disappearance is seen by the EU with grave concern and remains unexplained.

But while a Vientiane Times article released soon thereafter copies much of the EU statement exactly, it omits any mention of Sombath. Not surprisingly, the Vientiane Times also fails to report:

…the EU expressed concern regarding the limitation of freedom of expression, particularly the freedom of the media.

ການຝ່າຝຶນພັນທະສາກົນ

ICJ-Legal Memorandum on SBລັດຖ​ະບານ​ແຫ່ງ ສປປ ລາວ ຍັງ​ໄດ້​ປະຕິ​ເສດ​ຕໍ່​ສາ​ທາ​ລະນະ ​ໂດຍ​ບໍ່​ຍອມຮັບ​ການ​ຊ່ວຍ​ເຫຼືອ​ຈາກ​ຜູ້​ຊ່ຽວຊານ​ຕ່າງປະ​ເທດ​​ເພື່ອ​ນຳ​ໃຊ້​ເຕັກນິກ​ເພື່ອ​ໃຫ້​ພາບ​ຈາກ​ກ້ອງ​ວົງ​ຈອນ​ປິດ​ທີ່​ບັນທຶກ​ນາ​ທີ​ທີ່​ສົມບັດ ສົມ​ພອນ “ຫາຍ​ຕົວ​ໄປ” ​ໃຫ້​ຈະ​ແຈ້ງ​ຂື້ນ, ນອກຈາກ​ຂໍ້​ເທັດ​ຈິງ​ທີ່​ວ່າ​ໄດ້​ມີ​ການ​ຍອມຮັບ​ກ່ອນ​ໜ້າ​ນີ້​ວ່າ​ຂາດ​ເຕັກນິກ​ທີ່​ຈະ​​ເຮັດ​ໃຫ້​ພາບ​ບັນທຶກ​ຈາກ​ກ້ອງ​ວົງ​ຈອນ​ປິດ​ແຈ້ງ​ຂື້ນ​ເພື່ອ​ໃຫ້​ສາມາດ​ລະບຸບຸກຄົນ ​ແລະ ລົດ​ທີ່​ປາກົດ​ໃຫ້​ເຫັນ​ໃນ​ນັ້ນ​ຊັດ​ເຈນ. ການ​ປະຕິ​ເສດ​ດັ່ງກ່າວ​ຂອງ​ລັດຖະບານ​ແຫ່ງ​ ສປປ ລາວ ​ໃນ​ການ​ໃຫ້ການ​ຮ່ວມ​ມື​ກັບ​ຜູ້​ຊ່ຽວຊານ​​ໃນການ​ວິ​ເຄາະ​ຫຼັກ​ຖານ ອາດ​ຈະ​ຖືກ​ຕີ​ຄວາມ​ວ່າ​ເປັນ​ການຝ່າ​ຝືນ​ພັນທະກໍລະນີ​ພາຍ​ໃຕ້ ICCPR, CAT ​ແລະ ມາດຖານຂອງ​ອະນຸ​ສັນຍາ ​ແລະ ຖະ​ແຫຼ​ງການ.

ຄະນະ​ກຳມະການ​ນັກ​ນິຕິສາດ​ສາກົນ (International Commission of Jurists) ​ໃນ “Legal Memorandum on the case of Sombath Somphone.” ຂ່າວ​ທີ່​ກ່ຽວຂ້ອງ​ສາມາດ​ເບິ່ງ​ໄດ້​ຢູ່​ບ່ອນ​ນີ້.

ແດ່ ສົມບັດ… ຈາກ ບຣິດເຈັດ ຊີ

​ເຖິງ​ສົມບັດ,

ຈົດໝາຍ​ນີ້​ຂ້ອຍ​ຮ່າງ​ຂື້ນ​ຫຼາຍ​ຄັ້ງ​ໃນຄວາມ​ຄິດ​ຂອງ​ຂ້ອຍ. ມັນ​ເປັນ​ຈົດໝາຍ​ທີ່​ຂຽນ​ຍາກ, ຂ້ອຍ​ຢາກ​ບອກ​ເຈົ້າ​ດ້ວຍ​ໂຕຂ້ອຍ​ເອງ​ຖ້າ​ເປັນ​ໄປ​ໄດ້. ຂ້ອຍ​ບໍ່​ຈື່​ ວ່າ​ເຮົາ​ພົບ​ກັນ​ຄັ້ງ​ທຳ​ອິດ​ຕອນ​ໃດ,​​ ​ແຕ່​ຂ້ອຍ​ຈື່​ວ່າ​ເຮົາ​ນັ່ງ​ກິນ​ກາ​ເຟນຳ​ກັນ​ຫຼາຍ​ເທື່ອ​ຢູ່​ລະບຽງ​​ແຄມ​ທະ​ເລຢູ່​ທີ່​ພັກຂອງ​ຊຸຍ​ມິ​ງທີ່​​ເມືອງດິລີ (Dili) ​ເຊິ່ງ​ເປັນ​ບ່ອນ​ທີ່​ເຈົ້າ​ແລກປ່ຽນ​ພູມ​ປັນຍາ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ​ໃຫ້​ຂ້ອຍ​ຟັງ​. ​ເຈົ້າ​ເລົ່າ​ໃຫ້​ຟັງ​ກ່ຽວ​ກັບສູ​ນປາ​ແດກ (PADETC) ​ແລະ ວຽກ​ງານ​ທີ່​ເຈົ້າ​ໄດ້​ເຮັດ​ຜ່ານ​ມາ. ຮອຍ​ຍິ້ມທີ່​ສະຫງົບ​​ ​- ​​​ແບບຄລາສິກ ສົມບັດ​ໃນ​ມາດ​​ສຸຂຸມ- ສື່​ໃຫ້​ເຫັນ​ເຖິງ​ຄວາມ​ອ່ອນ​ໂຍນ​ ​ແຕ່​ເຕັມ​ປ່ຽມ​ດ້ວຍຄວາມ​​ໜັກ​ແໜ້ນ​​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ​ທີ່​ມີ​ຕໍ່​ມຸມ​ມອງ​ກ່ຽວ​ກັບ​ຊີວິດ. ​ຕອນ​ນັ້ນລົມ​ຈາກ​ທະ​ເລ​ໄດ້​ພັດ​​ເອົາຊາຍ​ມາ​ຕິດ​ຢູ່​ປາກ​ຂອງ​ພວກ​ເຮົາ ຈື່​ໄດ້ວ່າ​ຕອນ​ນັ້ນເຈົ້າກຳລັງ​ນັ່ງ​ຮ່າງ​ແນວ​ຄິດ​ກ່ຽວ​ກັບ​ຄວາມສຸກ: ຫຼັງຄາ​ຂອງ​ຄວາFour Pillarsມສຸກ​ຕ້ອງ​ຢູ່​ເທິງ​ເສົາ​ຂອງ​ຈິດ​ໃຈ, ​ເສດຖະກິດ, ວັດທະນະທຳ, ​ແລະ ສິ່ງ​ແວດ​ລ້ອມ ​ໂດຍ​ມີ​ພື້ນຖານ​ສະ​ໜັບສະ​ໜູນ​​​ແມ່ນ​ການ​ສຶກສາ, ​ແນວ​ຄິດ​ນີ້​ເຮັດ​ໃຫ້​ເຈົ້າ​ໄດ້​ອຸທິດ​ຊີວິດ​ທີ່​ເຫຼືອ​ໃຫ້​ກັບ​ເພື່ອ​ນຮ່ວມ​ຊາດ​ລາວ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ ​ເຊິ່ງ​ເຈົ້າກໍ​ໄດ້​ຮັບ​ໂອກາດ​ນັ້ນ. ​ເຈົ້າ​ເປັນຄົນ​ຂອງ​ແຜ່ນດິນ. ສິ່ງ​​ເຫຼົ່າ​ນີ້ ຊາວຕິ​ມໍ (Timorese) ສາມາດ​ຮັບ​ຮູ້​ໄດ້ທຸ​ກຄັ້ງ​ທີ່​ເຈົ້າ​ມາ​ຢາມ​ພວກ​ເຮົາ​ທີ່​ດິລີ (Dili). ຂ້ອຍ​ເປັນ​ລູກສິດ​ທີ່​​ໄດ້​ຮັບ​ສິດທິ​ພິ​​ເສດ ​ໂຊກ​ດີ​ທີ່​ຂ້ອຍ​ເປັນ​ຄົນ​ເປີດ​ຫູ ​​ແລະ ​ເປີດ​ໃຈ, ຂອບ​ໃຈ​ທີ່​ສຸດ.

ຫຼັງ​ຈາກ​ນັ້ນ ຂ້ອຍ​ໄດ້​​ເດີ​ນທາງ​ໄປ​ຢູ່​ປະ​ເທດ​ລາວ​ໜຶ່ງ​ເດືອນ ​ເພື່ອ​ສ້າງ​ສື່​ກ່ຽວ​ກັບ​ວຽກ​ງານ​ຂອງ​ສູນ​ປາ​ແດກ (PADETC) ​ເຊິ່ງ​ເປັນ​ໂອກາດ​ທີ່​ຂ້ອຍ​ໄດ້​​ເຂົ້າ​ໃຈ​ກ່ຽວ​ກັບປັດ​ສະຍາ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ​ເລິກ​ເຊິ່ງຂື້ນ. ​ເລື່ອງ​ພູມ​ປັນຍາ​ທ້ອງ​ຖິ່ນ ​ເຈົ້າ​ໄດ້​ສົ່ງ​ເສີມ​​​​ໃນ​ສິ່ງ​ທີ່​ຈະ​ຊ່ວຍ​ໃຫ້​ຊຸມ​ຊົນໜຶ່ງໆ ພັດທະນາ​ຕົນ​ເອງ​ໄປ​ສູ່​ຄວາມ​ຍືນ​ຍົງ. ຂ້ອຍ​​ເຫັນ​ໃບ​ໜ້າຍີ້ມ​ແຍ້ມ​ເຈົ້າ​ແຈ່ມ​ໃສ​ຢ່າງ​ພາກພູມ​ໃຈ​​ໃນ​ຕອນ​ທີ່​ເຈົ້າ​ແນະນຳ​​ໃຫ້​ຮູ້ຈັກ​ກັບພະນັກງານ​ຄົນ​ຮຸ້ນ​ໃໝ່ ​ແລະ ອາສາ​ສະໝັກ​ໄວ​ໜຸ່ມ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ. ພວກ​ເຂົາ​ແມ່ນ​ບັນດາ​ບຸກຄົນ​ທີ່​ເຈົ້າມີ​ຄວາມ​ຫວັງ​ວ່າ​ຈະ​ສາມາດ​ເຮັດ​ໃຫ້​ປະ​ເທດ​ລາວ​ເປັນ​ບ່ອນ​ທີ່​ໜ້າ​ຢູ່​ຫຼາຍ​ຂື້ນ.

​ແຕ່​ວ່າ​ມັນ​ບໍ່​ໄດ້​ເປັນ​ໄປ​ຕາມ​ທີ່​ເວົ້າ​ໄວ້​ສະ​ເໝີ​ໄປ. ຢູ່​ເຮືອນ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ​ຂ້ອຍ​ເຄີຍ​ນັ່ງ​ຢູ່​ໂອນ​ຊາ​ເກົ່າໆ ​ແລະ​ຫັນ​ໜ້າ​ໄປ​ຫາ​ແມ່​ນ້ຳຂອງ ພ້ອມ​ທັງ​ເບິ່ງ​​ເພື່ອນ​ບ້ານ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ​ກຳລັງ​ຫວ່ານ​ແຫ​ຈັບ​ປາ​ຢູ່​ທ່າມກາງ​ແສງ​ອາທິດ​ກຳລັງ​ຕົກ​ດິນ, ​ເຈົ້າ​​ເລົ່າ​ເຖິງ​ນ້ອງ​ທີ່​ເຈົ້າ​ເຄີຍ​ລ້ຽງດູ ​ແລະ​ຊ່ວຍ​ເຫຼືອ​ມາ. ​ເຈົ້າ​ເລົ່າ​ເຖິງຊີວິດ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ​ຕອນ​ຢູ່ອີສ​ເວສ​ເຊັນ​ເຕີ (East West Centre) ​ເຊິ່ງ​ເປັນ​ບ່ອນທີ່​ຂ້ອຍ​ເອງ ຄັ້ງ​ໜຶ່ງກໍ​ເຄີຍ​ໄປ​ຮຽນ​ຢູ່​ທີ່​ນັ້ນ​ຄື​ກັນ. ຢູ່​ສະ​ຖານ​ທີ່​ດັ່ງກ່າວ ​ທີ່​ເຈົ້າ​ໄດ້​ພົບ​ກັບ​ຊຸ​ຍມິ​ງ ​ແລະ ຕົກ​ຫຼຸມ​ຮັກ​ກັບ​ລາວ. ​ເມື່ອ​ໃດ​ກໍ​ຕາມ​ທີ່​ພວກ​ເຈົ້າ​ທັງ​ສອງ​ຢູ່​ນຳ​ກັນ ຂ້ອຍ​ມັກ​ຈະ​ເວົ້າ​ຢອກ​ເລື່ອງ​ຜົມຫງອກຂອງ​ພວກ​ເຈົ້າທັງ​ສອງ ​ແລະ ຢອກ​ກັນ​ໄປ​ມາ ​ແລະ ຊຸຍ​ມິ​ງສະ​ແດງ​ອອກ​ດ້ວຍ​ຄວາມ​ຮັກ​​. ​ຕອນ​ທີ່​ລູກ​ຊາຍ​ຂອງ​ຂ້ອຍ​ໄດ້​ພົບ​ກັບ​ພວກ​ເຈົ້າ​ສອງ​ຄົນ​ຢູ່​ທີ່ສວນ​ລາບຣາດໍ​ (Labrador Park) ທີ່​ສິງກະ​ໂປ, ລາວ​ເອີ້ນ​ເຈົ້າ​ວ່າ “ລຸງ ຊົມ​ບັດ (Uncle Zombat)” ​ແລະ ​ເມຍ​ຂອງ​ເຈົ້າ “ປ້າ​ວໍ​ເຕີ (auntie Water).” ພວກ​ເຮົາ ​ຕົບ​ທ້າຍ​ການ​ທ່ຽວ​ຂອງ​ເຮົາ​ດ້ວຍ​ກະ​ແລ້​ມ ທີ່​ເປັນ​ນ້ຳ​ແຂັງ​ແຫ້ງ​ນຸ້ມໆ​ແຕ່​ມີ​ສີສັນ ​ແລະ ພວກ​ເຮົາ​ກໍ​ສັນຍາ​ວ່າ​ຈະ​ມາ​ພົບ​ກັນ​ອີກ. ຄຳ​ສັນຍາ​ນັ້ນ​ຍັງ​ຄົງ​ຢູ່. ພວກ​ເຂົາ​ອະທິຖານ​ວ່າ​ລຸງ​ຊົມ​ບັດ (Zombat) ຈະ​ກັບ​ມາ​ບ້ານ ​ປ້າ​ວໍ​ເຕີ​ຈະ​ບໍ່​ໄດ້​ຮ້ອງ​ໄຫ້​ອີກ​ຕໍ່​ໄປ. ພວກ​ເຮົາ​ຮັກ​ເຈົ້າ, ສົມບັດ.

ດ້ວຍ​ຄວາມ​ນັບຖື​ຢ່າງ​ສູງ,

ບຣິດ​ເຈດ, ນໍ​ແມນ & ​ເວລ (Bridgette, Norman & Val)

 

He’s a Listener…

Castan CentreHe has also a very strong respect for indigenous practices and local wisdom. He always believes that you could not survive in farming if you did not know what to do.

Not like some agriculture specialists nowadays who walk straight into a developing country and say ‘We can teach you what to do.’

Sombath never did that. He always tried to learn and listen first, and that has always been the way he works with other people. He’s a listener. He doesn’t talk very much. He listens first.

Ng Shui Meng, in remarks given at Castan Event: Enforced Disappearances in Asia: the case of Sombath Somphone, held at the Monash University, Melbourne, Australia on 06 March 2014.

Dear Sombath…from Bridgette See

Dear Sombath,

This is a letter that has been written many times in my mind. It’s a hard letter to write – I would much prefer to say it to you in person. I cannot remember the first time we met, but I remember we bonded over too much coffee on the balcony of Shui Meng’ sea-facing abode in Dili. There, you shared your wisdom with me, telling me about PADETC and the work it had done. Your serene smile – that classic Sombath look of equanimity – captured the gentle but determined way you viewed life. As sea breeze brought salt to our lips, you sketched out your idea of happiness: the roof of happiness must stand upon the pillars of heart, econoFour Pillarsmy, culture, and environment while supported by the foundation of education. This drove you to devote decades of your life to your fellow Lao, despite the opportunities you had been offered. You are a man of the Earth. This, the Timorese could recognise whenever you visited us in Dili. I was a privileged disciple, whose ears and mind were, thankfully, open.

Later, the one month I spent in Laos – documenting PADETC’s work – was a chance to deeply understand your philosophy. Local knowledge, you exhorted, is what will help any community develop sustainably. I saw how your face lit up with pride when you introduced your young staff and youth volunteers. These are the ones whom you have envisioned would make Laos a better place.

But it wasn’t always work you talked about. On the old swing facing the Mekong River, as we watched your neighbour trawl for fish against the setting sun, you told me about the siblings you helped to bring up. You spoke of your days at the East West Centre – where I, too, had studied briefly. There, you had met your Shui Meng, and fallen in love. Whenever the two of you were together, I would be tickled by how you two – both grey in the head – would still tease one another incessantly. Shui Meng’s chidings were often infused with more love than she realised she was showing. When my son met the two of you at Labrador Park in Singapore, he called you “Uncle Zombat” and her, “Auntie Water”. We ended our excursion with ice-cream – dry ice swirled fancily about – and promised to meet again. That still stands. We pray that our Uncle Zombat comes home so that Auntie Water will no longer cry. We love you, Sombath.

Yours most sincerely,

Bridgette, Norman & Val

Chronology of Complacency

Question MarkIn the over 600 days since Sombath’s abduction, there have been virtually no results from the official investigation.

Almost immediately, authorities concluded they were not responsible.

Since that time, reports have consisted largely of irrelevant details, denials, and claims that efforts continue with the utmost seriousness and urgency.

A draft chronology of major events to date is available here. Updates will be added when they become available.

Concerned friends, colleagues and organisations from across the world continue to hope for more results, and less rhetoric.

 

Contravention of International Obligations

ICJ-Legal Memorandum on SBThe Government of Lao PDR has also publicly refused to accept the assistance of foreign experts to technically enhance the CCTV footage taken during the time Sombath Somphone “disappeared”, despite the fact that it had earlier admitted that it did not possess the technical capacity to enhance the footage so that the persons and vehicles shown there may be properly identified. This refusal by the Government of Lao PDR to cooperate with experts to look into evidence may be construed as an act impeding the investigation, in contravention of its obligations under the ICCPR, the CAT and the standards of the Convention and the Declaration.

International Commission of Jurists, in “Legal Memorandum on the case of Sombath Somphone.” A related press release can be seen here.