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.
Radio Australia: (07 March 2014)
The wife of abducted Lao rights advocate Sombath Somphone has called on Australia to help maintain the pressure on Laos to do more to resolve the case.
Since Mr Sombath disappeared 15 months ago, Ng Shui Meng has campaigned tirelessly to find out what happened.
Her husband’s disappearance from a police post in central Vientiane generated an international outcry by donor governments, rights groups and NGOs for his safe return.
The Lao government says it is continujng to pursue the case, but little progress has been reported.
Ng Shui Meng has also appealed for anyone in Laos with information to come forward.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Ng Shui Meng, wife of Sombath Somphone, retired academic and former UNICEF representative to East Timor
NG: The reason why I’ve accepted to speak on Sombath is that over the last 15 months, there were a lot of reports on Sombath, some of them were not very accurate in depicting the kind of person he is or the kind of work he has done. So I want to put right what Sombath’s work is and the kind of person he is basically to clarify things to the public out there. As to going back to Laos, I have not done anything wrong and assume the government would understand that my speaking about Sombath’s disappearance is basically about a fact. He has disappeared, the government has acknowledged that he has disappeared and the government has also promised to conduct an investigation around his disappearance and to try and find him. Continue reading
New Matilda: 11 September 2013
By Kearrin Sims and James Arvanitakis
If Australia wants to show leadership within Asia, drawing attention to the disappearance of activist Sombath Somphone is a good place to start, write Kearrin Sims and James Arvanitakis
In February 2013, there was much fanfare when Laos became the 158th member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This was a big step for the country, and the free trade model of economic development was again celebrated as providing a pathway to membership in the global community, improved living standards and a general decline in poverty. However, amidst these celebrations many both within and outside the country were pre-occupied with the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, an internationally recognised Laotian community rights activist. Just who Sombath was and why his disappearance is so important, both as an individual and as a representative of his country, goes to the core of the failings of neoliberalism as a model for development. It highlights that without a conscious effort to improve human rights and equality, economic development will make some very rich while leaving the majority of the population behind. This is not a model for long-term stability. Continue reading
ABC Radio Australia: 23 July 2013 (Please click link for audio version)
More than 40 scholars from Australia’s leading universities have banded together to call on Canberra to take a tougher stand with authorities in Laos over the disappearance of the country’s best known community leader.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Keith Barney, Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy.
BARNEY: No there is no new information, the families and those closest to the case indicate that there’s no new details with the investigation. Sombath’s family have called the police investigation superficial, and the Lao government has refused international offers of technical assistance with the investigation, for example with examining the original camera footage. So there does not seem to be the political will within Laos to seriously investigate the abduction.
LAM: And Keith Barney you and of course with your colleagues, you’re all calling on the Australian government to do more. What exactly do you expect of Canberra?
BARNEY: Well in relation to our concerned scholars letter, we received a reply from Senator Carr on June 21st and Bob Carr responded to questions raised by Senator Lee Rhiannon in the June senate estimate hearing, and in his letter Carr explained that he had personally raised Sombath’s case with his Lao counterparts, particularly the Lao Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister. And he mentioned the human rights dialogues with Laos that Australia engages in the latest being in April 2012. However in response to our request for a more formal public statement by the Australian government, in his letter Carr referred back to the senate estimate transcripts and in the transcripts it was stated that the request to issue a formal statement at the highest level would be taken on notice. So it seems as though the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is being a bit circular in their response to date to our letter. Continue reading
The Age: 22 July 2013 Marika Dobin
Footage of the scene of activist Sombath Somphone’s abduction in December.
He was considered Laos’ most famous community leader before his apparent abduction by the side of a busy Vientiane road was caught on film seven months ago.
Bootlegged CCTV footage appears to show sustainability activist Sombath Somphone being dragged away by several men when he stopped for what authorities claim was a routine traffic check.
Sombath, 61, has not been seen or heard of since but Amnesty International has claimed it may have been an ”enforced disappearance” by authorities.
Global leaders, including Hillary Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and United States Secretary of State John Kerry, have called for Laos to either release Sombath or launch an official investigation.
Now a group of scholars from Australia’s leading universities are calling on the Rudd government to get tough with its Lao counterpart over the human rights issue. Forty-two academics from institutions such as ANU, the University of Sydney, Macquarie University and University of Queensland wrote to Foreign Minster Bob Carr last month asking him to take a stronger stance. Continue reading
ສະມາຊິກສະພາ ທ່ານ ຮອນ ບອບ ຄາຣ໌ (Hon Bob Carr)
ແຄນເບີຣາ ACT 2600
ວັນທີ 4 ມິຖຸນາ 2013
ເລື່ອງ: ການຫາຍຕົວຂອງປະຊາຊົນຄົນລາວ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ
ທີ່ນະຄອນຫຼວງວຽງຈັນ ມື່ອວັນ 15 ທັນວາ 2012
ພວກຂ້າພະເຈົ້າໄດ້ລົງນາມໃນຖານະຄົນອົດສະຕາລີ ທັງເປັນນັກວິຊາການ ແລະ ນັກຄົ້ນຄວ້າຂອງປະເທດອົດສະຕາລີ ເພື່ອສະແດງຄວາມເປັນຫ່ວງເປັນໄຍກ່ຽວກັບເຫດການການລັກພາຕົວ ແລະ ການຫາຍຕົວໄປຂອງ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນຜູ້ນຳພານັກພັດທະນາສັງຄົມ ເມື່ອວັນທີ 15 ທັນວາ 2012 ທີ່ນະຄອນຫຼວງວຽງຈັນ, ປະເທດສປປ ລາວ ເຊິ່ງຈົນຮອດປະຈຸບັນໄດ້ຜ່ານໄປເປັນເວລາ 170 ວັນແລ້ວ.
ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ ເປັນທີ່ຮັບຮູ້ໃນລະດັບສາກົນໃນຖານະເປັນຜູ້ທີ່ຕັ້ງໜ້າເຮັດວຽກເພື່ອສົ່ງເສີມຄວາມຍືນຍົງ ແລະ ການພັດທະນາໃຫ້ມີຄວາມສົມດຸນ ໂດຍມີຜົນງານປາກົດໃຫ້ເຫັນຜ່ານບົດບາດການເປັນຜູ້ນຳອົງການປາແດກ (ສູນອົບຮົມຮ່ວມພັດທະນາ). ສົມບັດ ເປັນໜຶ່ງໃນບຸກຄົນທີ່ມີຄວາມໂດດເດັ່ນໃນລະດັບປະເທດ, ພາກພື້ນ, ແລະ ໃນເວທີໂລກ ແລະ ທັງຍັງເປັນແຮງບັນດານໃຈສຳລັບຄົນໄວໜຸ່ມຫຼາຍໆ ຄົນ. ຈາກການທຸ້ມເຫື່ອເທແຮງ ຊ່ວຍເຫຼືອຄົນລາວໃຫ້ຫຼຸດພົ້ນຈາກຄວາມທຸກຍາກ ໄດ້ເຮັດໃຫ້ສົມບັດໄດ້ຮັບການຍົກຍ້ອງ ໄດ້ຮັບລາງວັນທີ່ມີກຽດສະຫງ່າ ກໍຄື ລາງວັນ ຣາມອນ ແມັກໄຊໄຊ ໃນປີ 2005 ສາຂາຜູ້ນຳພາຊຸມຊົນ ເຊິ່ງເປັນລາງວັນທຽບເທົ່າກັບລາງວັນໂນເບລໄພຣສ໌ ຂອງທະວີບອາຊີ. ໃນການຮັບລາງວັນດັ່ງກ່າວ ລາວຖືກຍົກຍ້ອງໃນຖານະທີ່ “ເປັນຜູ້ມີຄວາມຕັ້ງໜ້າຢ່າງມີຄວາມຫວັງເພື່ອສົ່ງເສີມການພັດທະນາແບບຍືນຍົງໃນປະເທດລາວໂດຍການຈັດຝຶກອົບຮົມ ແລະ ກະຕຸ້ນໃຫ້ໄວໜຸ່ມຝຶກຝົນຕົນເອງໃຫ້ມີທັກສະຂອງການເປັນຜູ້ນຳພາທີ່ດີ” Continue reading
Over 40 scholars and researchers have called on Bob Carr, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, to take stronger action. While acknowledging efforts to date, the letter states “As concerned citizens and engaged scholars…we have seen the limits of a quiet approach, and now appeal to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to take a more assertive stand on Sombath Somphone’s disappearance…”
Specifically, the signatories call on the Australian government to:
- Make a public statement about Sombath Somphone’s disappearance, calling on the Lao government to do everything in its power to account for his disappearance without further delay;
- Place the plight of Sombath Somphone at the front end of all Australian trade, investment, and donor discussions with the Lao PDR, until Mr. Somphone is located and released to his family;
- Request the Lao authorities to publicly reaffirm the legality and legitimacy of the work being done by Lao civil society in favour of sustainable development and social justice, in order to counter the serious intimidation which has been provoked by Sombath Somphone’s disappearance;
- Continue to impress upon the Lao authorities the need to meet their obligations under International Human Rights Law, and to uphold the rule of law within Laos as affirmed under the Constitution of the Lao PDR, amended in 2003.
The full appeal can be read here.