Posts Tagged ‘Sombath Somphone’

Huge number of NGOs call on Laos to investigate Sombath’s disappearance one year on

December 13, 2013

62 regional and international organizations expressed their outrage over the Lao Government’s ongoing failure to shed light on the enforced disappearance of prominent human rights defender Sombath Somphone. Sunday 15 December 2013 will mark the one-year anniversary of Sombath’s disappearance. Sombath was last seen on the evening of December 15, 2012 in Vientiane. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed that police stopped Sombath’s car at a police post. Within minutes after being stopped, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away. Analysis of the CCTV footage shows that Sombath was taken away in the presence of police officers. This fact supports a finding of government complicity. Despite the Lao Government’s pledge to “thoroughly and seriously” investigate Sombath’s disappearance, the authorities’ probe has been inadequate and unproductive and there has been no progress in the investigation.

Sombath’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. To this day, the whereabouts of nine people, two women, Kingkeo and Somchit, as well as seven men, SoubinhSouaneSinpasongKhamsoneNou,Somkhit, and Sourigna, arbitrarily detained by Lao security forces in November 2009 in various locations across the country remain unknown. The nine had planned peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy and respect of human rights. Also unknown are the whereabouts of Somphone Khantisouk, the owner of an ecotourism guesthouse and an outspoken critic of Chinese-sponsored agricultural projects that were damaging the environment in the northern province of Luang Namtha. He disappeared after uniformed men abducted him in January 2007. Signed by: Read the rest of this entry »

LAOS: disappearance of human rights defender Sombath Somphone

December 20, 2012

Today, 20 December, Front Line Defenders Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports that on 15 December 2012, human rights defender Mr Sombath Somphone disappeared after last being seen driving away from his office. Since then, his whereabouts have been unknown, although sources have reported having seen video footage of the human rights defender in the custody of the police. Sombath Somphone is the founder and executive director of the Participatory Development Training Centre (PADETC), which trains young people in order to promote sustainable development. For his community development work he was awarded one of Asia’s most prestigious civil awards, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, in 2005.

Sombath Somphone left the offices of PADETC in Vientiane at around 5pm on 15 December. When he failed to come home that night, his wife searched for him in the city’s hospitals before eventually reporting him missing with the police. On 18 December, an official from the government press office reportedly commented on the phone that there was not yet enough evidence to draw any conclusions about the case. Family members of Sombath Somphone have lodged a complaint with the police who deny all knowledge of the case.

An anonymous colleague of the human rights defender has, however, reported that on 17 December, relatives of Sombath Somphone were shown CCTV footage of his car being stopped by police officers around 6pm in the vicinity of Vatnak village in Sisattanak district, Vientiane The footage then reportedly showed the human rights defender being led to the Sisattanak district police station in Vientiane, and some time later showed Sombath Somphone being led out of the office and taken away in a white pick-up truck.

On 20 December, the Laos Foreign Ministry came up with the statement stating “the authorities are not in a position to say exactly what has actually happened, why Sombath Somphone has gone missing, or who might have been involved in the incident”. The Ministry alleges that it might be possible that the human rights defender was kidnapped due to personal or business conflict.

Sombath Somphone founded PADETC in 1996, and since the organisation has become a prominent player in Lao civil society. The organisation works in numerous fields to promote sustainable development through the education of young people in particular. Although the organisation’s work is not political in nature, it is alleged that Sombath Somphone may have been targeted by government authorities due to his opposition to state development projects with harmful social or environmental consequences.  Front Line Defenders is concerned by the allegations of enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, in the light of the important work he has carried out defending human rights in Laos and promoting sustainable development through developing the capacities and leadership skills of young people.