Posts Tagged ‘Laos’

Human rights laureates call for end to torture and disappearances in Asia

January 15, 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a press release of 18 December gave a short report of a meeting held on 12-14 December 2015, where 8 laureates of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, and human rights defenders from the Asian region participated in an international workshop on“Torture, Violence, and Enforced Disappearances in Asia” organized by Imparsial, IKOHI, and the May 18 Memorial Foundation, (Gwangju, South Korea). The speakers and the victims discussed the realities of human rights issues including torture and enforced disappearances and the implications for the justice institutions to address the problems: Read the rest of this entry »

Sombath Somphone: third anniversary of his disappearance in Laos

January 4, 2016

The first Newsletter of Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, recalls the case of Sombath Somphone, who is a founder of non-governmental organisations in the field of education and rural development He is one of the best-known defenders of social rights in Laos. For all his works and his actions he has received numerous international awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.

Since 15 December 2012, Sombat Sombone is missing. A CCTV footage shows his last moments before his disappearance. According to these images, a motorcycle policeman asks him to get off his vehicle before two men in a vehicle took him. Various international actors, including delegations from the European Parliament and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, went on-site during official visits and used these occasions to question authorities about the situation of Sombath Sompone. According to the feedbacks of these visits, no progress has been made in the investigation into his disappearance and no concrete answer was given to their questions. Thus, many calls were made both by civil society organisations and international institutions in order to have answers on the disappearance of Sombath Sompone and the ones of many others political opponents and other disappeared persons. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/happy-new-year-that-2016-may-be-a-better-year-for-human-rights-defenders/]

A year after the disappearance of Sombath Sompone, several Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued a statement encouraging the Laotian authorities to intensify their efforts in the investigation process into his disappearance. See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/laos-un-experts-on-two-year-old-disappearance-of-human-rights-defender-sombath-somphone/

ASEAN human rights defenders formulate demands ahead of People’s Forum later this month

April 1, 2015

ASEAN People's Forum

Casey Hynes reports on 26 March that human rights defenders are preparing to bring up strongly the case of their missing Laotian colleague Sombath Somphone at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum that convenes in Kuala Lumpur on 21-24 April 2015. Sombath was kidnapped in Vientiane, Laos, in 2013 [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/laos-un-experts-on-two-year-old-disappearance-of-human-rights-defender-sombath-somphone/].

The ACSC/APF allows civil society activists from all the ASEAN countries to voice their concerns about rights violations in their countries, and become empowered by the strength in numbers there. In countries such as Laos and Vietnam, dissent is often suppressed with jail time or enforced disappearances, which makes it extremely dangerous for activists to speak out. Jerald Joseph, chair of the APF’s Regional Steering Committee, said that by coming to the forum, activists who face risks in their home countries find a safer space to voice their concerns.

ACSC/APF organizers recently condemned the crackdown on protesters in Burma, where 100 people were arrested for speaking out against a new education law. They also pointed to a spate of political arrests in Malaysia and the murder of Indonesian farmer and lands rights activist Indra Pelani, who was allegedly shot to death by “security guards of a subsidiary company of Asia Pulp and Paper”.

There are numerous cases where human rights defenders have just disappeared. Somchai Neelapaijit in Thailand, Sombath Somphone in Laos, and Jonas Burgos in the Philippines—where are they?” said Mugiyanto, a member of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development.

The Laos government is notorious for restricting civil society activism, and for routinely committing human rights abuses. However, Laos is set to take over the ASEAN chairmanship in 2016, and Joseph said they’ll have to answer for some of their abuses when that happens. Already, civil society actors have been discussing the rights situation in Laos with activists and government officials there. “The conversation has started, and the pressure is up already,” he said in a phone interview.

Participating organizations sent a letter on behalf of the ACSC/APF to all the ASEAN member governments in January, highlighting their priorities for “reclaiming the ASEAN community for the people.”

The letter stated:

While ASEAN governments are heading towards developing the ASEAN Community’s Post-2015 Vision, the people of ASEAN continue to suffer from authoritarian and military regimes, increased militarisation, violence and armed conflicts, unlawful foreign interference, lack of fundamental freedoms and human rights violations, undemocratic processes, corruption and poor governance, development injustice, discrimination, inequality, and religious extremism and intolerance. …

The failure of ASEAN to meaningfully address the people’s issues is deeply rooted in the organisation’s continued adherence to a neo-liberal model that prioritizes corporate interests and elite groups, including state-owned enterprises, over the interests of the people. Our engagement with the ASEAN process is therefore anchored on a critique and rejection of deregulation, privatisation, government and corporate-led trade and investment policies that breed greater inequalities, accelerate marginalization and exploitation, and inhibit peace, democracy, development, and social progress in the region.

The authors identified four priorities for ASEAN governments to focus on: development justice; democratic processes, governance, and fundamental rights and freedoms; peace and security; and discrimination and inequality.

ASEAN rights activists demand change ahead of People’s Forum | Asian Correspondent.

5 NGOs win the Human Rights award of the French Republic 2014

March 7, 2015

While on the subject of awards for human rights, I see that I missed the announcement of the winners of the Human Rights award of the French Republic (Prix des Droits de l’homme de la République française) which was made on 9 December 2014. With apologies here it is:
Les lauréats - Crédits photo : MJ/DICOM/Caroline Montagné

Five NGOs each received 14 000 € to implement their projects which are in line with the two themes selected by the Jury that year: child exploitation and rights of women:

  1. Aurélie Socias, representing the French NGO Sengsavang (formerly called AFESIP Laos).
  2. Agnès Razafindramanga Leteurtre representing the NGO “Enfance et malnutrition” working in Madagascar.
  3. Patricia Beltran, for the NGO Enda El Alto, in Bolivia.
  4. Mokhtar Bassant for the Foundation Gozour (meaning roots) from Egypt.
  5. Harivola Rakotoarindrasata for the Focus Development Association from Madagascar.

5 special mentions as encouragement were also made:

  • The Anh Duong association in Vietnam
  • The Shakti Samuha association in Nepal
  • The association Women’s Empowerment Link in Kenya
  • The Fight Against Child Exploitation Foundation (FACE) in Thailand
  • The association Cepaz in Venezuela.

For more information especially on the work by these NGOs see the official press release (in French):Justice / Portail / Remise du Prix des Droits de l’homme de la République française.

For more information on this or other awards: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/prix-des-droits-de-lhomme-de-la-république-française

Laos: UN experts on two-year-old disappearance of human rights defender Sombath Somphone

December 24, 2014

Wouldn’t it be a truly nice Christmas gift if the Laos government would finally undertake a serious investigation into the disappearance of  human rights defender Sombath Somphone, who was last seen in December 2012. That is what a group of United Nations independent experts urged today, 23 December 2014:

It is high time for the authorities of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to voluntarily request international assistance with the aim of shedding light on Mr. Somphone’s fate and whereabouts, two years after his disappearance,” the experts said in a news release. “International law makes clear that the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has the duty to carry out an independent, thorough, credible and effective investigation,” they added. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/sombath-somphone/]

(The situation of human rights in Laos is due to be assessed next month through the Universal Period Review process, which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. Under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, the process provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve their human rights situation.)

Along with Mr. Kiai, the experts speaking out on Laos today include the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and the protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, David Kaye.

United Nations News Centre – Laos: UN experts appeal for help to probe two-year-old disappearance of rights defender.

NGOs call for United Nations to pressure Laos on human rights during UPR

December 8, 2014

On 3 December 2014 the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), and a coalition of other NGOs called for United Nations to urge the government of Laos to cease ongoing human rights violations and to restore fundamental human freedoms. They are also calling for the release of Sombath Somphone and other imprisoned Lao and Hmong political and religious dissidents.

In advance of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR)’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) scheduled for 20 January 2015 in Geneva, the Geneva-based UPR-Info invited diplomats to hear the concerns of civil society organizations at a UPR pre-session in Geneva. Twenty one representatives from the Geneva-based missions attended the pre-session.

We have deep concerns about violations of freedom of expression, enforced disappearances and religious freedom in Laos. Regretting that Lao PDR has not implemented recommendations it accepted at its first UPR in 2010, she urged States to raise concerns on these human rights abuses and presented concrete recommendations for human rights progress in Laos,” stated Thephsouvanh, speaking on behalf of the LMHR, which is also a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

NGOs Call for United Nations to Pressure Laos | Scoop News.

http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

EU asked to press Laos on human rights in today dialogue

May 19, 2014

Interesting to note that this piece found its way into the Tourism Section of the Thai newspaper Phuket Wan [“This is the first site on the island dedicated especially to tourism, property, restaurants and nightlife, and jobs”of 19 May 2014. “The European Union EU must make the strengthening of bilateral relations with Laos contingent upon the Lao governments ability to make tangible progress in addressing key human rights issues, FIDH and it member organisation, the Lao Movement for Human Rights, said .” The paper then summarizes the briefing paper titled ‘Laos: The government’s failure to reform and address serious human rights issues call for EU action‘, released ahead of the 5th Laos-EU Working Group on Human Rights and Governance, held in Brussels today. [Foremost issues: rampant land grabbing and restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion as well as a credible investigation re human rights defender Sombath Somphone.

via EU Asked to Push for Improved Human Rights in Laos – Phuket Wan

UN High Commissioner condemns disappearance of Billy in context of retaliation against environmentalist in South East Asia

May 6, 2014

The disappearance of Karen activist “Billy” has prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights UNHCHR to condemn the “pattern of killings and forced disappearances of environmental activists in Southeast Asia” and to urge authorities to conduct thorough and independent investigations. “We are concerned about the lack of progress with an investigation into the disappearance of a prominent human rights defender in Thailand,” UNHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement released on Friday 2 May. Read the rest of this entry »

Protecting ASEAN human rights defenders and the case of Sombath Somphone

April 30, 2014

This radio interview [http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/asia-pacific/whos-protecting-aseans-human-rights-defenders/1302596] is interesting because of its content but also because it found its way on the website of Terrorism Watch. If the implication is that forced disappearances are a form of state terrorism, the case of Sombath Somphone (discussed below) puts Laos in the docket:

A regional workshop in Bangkok has highlighted issues like enforced disappearances, legal support for families of the disappeared and peaceful assembly and association. High on the agenda is also protecting rights activists, within the ASEAN regional human rights system. Presenter: Sen Lam interviews Emmerlyne Gil, international legal advisor, International Commission of Jurists, Bangkok: Read the rest of this entry »

China responds regarding the return of refugees to North Korea

June 3, 2013

With regard to the defectors sent back from Laos via China to North Korea – on which I reported a few days ago – it is interesting to note the reaction by China which has expressed anger at the criticism by two UN High Commissioners (for human rights and refugee): “We hope that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN does not make irresponsible remarks based on unspecified news,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, but also appeared to distance itself from the repatriation by saying the refugees had passed through the country with “valid documents and visas”. “In the whole process, China has not received a request by any party to assist in the repatriation of these persons“.

via China rebukes UN agency over North Korean refugees – Yahoo!7.