Disappearance of Lao Rights Defender Od Sayavong – another Sombath Somphone?

October 17, 2019

Lao democracy advocate Od Sayavong reads a statement at a protest in Bangkok, Thailand, June 16, 2019.

Lao democracy advocate Od Sayavong reads a statement at a protest in Bangkok, Thailand, June 16, 2019.
Roseanne Gerin of Radio Free Asia reported on 2 October 2019 that UN Rights experts had expressed concern over disappearance of Lao human rights defender Od Sayavong, who went missing in Thailand months after meeting with a U.N. special rapporteur. Three special rapporteurs and four members of the U.N.’s Working Groups on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, part of a body of independent human rights experts under the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, urged Bangkok to clarify the steps it has taken to locate Od and ensure the safety of other vulnerable Lao human rights defenders in the capital, according to a news release.

Od, 34, who had been recognized as a refugee by the U.N. refugee agency and openly criticized his country’s government online and in public protests, was last seen at his home in Bangkok on Aug. 26. A week later a colleague reported his disappearance to the Thai police, but authorities have not provided information about his whereabouts, the news release said.

If an enforced disappearance occurred in part as a reprisal for Od’s engagement with the U.N. system, it would be a violation of his human rights, requiring immediate action,” said Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, met with Od and other Lao human rights defenders in Bangkok in mid-March prior to a visit to Laos.in the printed news release. “Everyone should have unhindered access to and communication with the U.N. in the field of human rights.

Michel Forst, U.N. special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, called Od a “vocal advocate on human rights, corruption, and environmental issues in the Lao PDR, a country with a track record of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances.”

In a 6 September statement, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and its member organization Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) called on Thai authorities to immediately investigate the activist’s disappearance.

He also had called for the release of three Lao workers sentenced to lengthy jail terms in April 2017 for criticizing their government while working in Thailand, and for a U.N. investigation into the disappearance of rural development expert Sombath Somphone in December 2012. Prior to his abduction a police checkpoint in the Lao capital Vientiane, Sombath criticized government-negotiated land deals that had left thousands of rural Lao villagers homeless with inadequate compensation for their losses. The Lao government has failed to make headway on resolving Sombath’s case, despite repeated commitments that it will do so. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/04/sombath-somphone-third-anniversary-of-his-disappearance-in-laos/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/us-rights-experts-express-concern-10022019161459.html

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