Letter: Status of investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone

February 13, 2013

Minister of The Prime Minister’s Office President of The National Assembly Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister of Public Security Vientiane, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic   CC: ASEAN Secretary General ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights EU Subcommittee on Human Rights   Re: Status of investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone   Dear Madams and Sirs:   We write to you once again with deepening urgency. It has now been almost two months since Mr. Sombath Somphone, founder and former Director of PADETC, was abducted from in front of a police post in Vientiane.  Since that time, the Lao Government has claimed that authorities are seriously investigating the matter to arrive at the truth.   We note with great regret that to date, the Lao Government has provided virtually no meaningful updates about the investigation. On the contrary, reports from Vientiane indicate that false and slanderous rumours are being spread about why Mr. Sombath may have disappeared. Sombath Somphone is deeply respected both nationally and internationally for his integrity, honesty and service to his country. Suggestions of personal or business conflicts should be substantiated with credible evidence, or retracted and rejected. Such minimal standards of legal process are surely Mr Sombath’s due as a Lao citizen.   Mr. Sombath’s abduction and the lack of progress of the official investigation has received tremendous international attention and is tarnishing the reputation of the Lao PDR, placing the country’s international profile in serious jeopardy.  As noted by the Lao Ambassador in Geneva, the Lao PDR is State party to seven core UN Human Rights Conventions and two Optional Protocols, and signatory to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. A résolution adopted by the European Parliament on February 7 calls on Lao Authorities to “undertake prompt, transparent and thorough investigations, in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law, and to ensure the immediate and safe return of Sombath Somphone to his family;”   We once again urge the Lao Government to act in good faith, expedite its investigation into Mr. Sombath’s abduction, and provide his family with meaningful updates on the progress of the investigation.   Swift actions by the Lao Government on this matter and the safe return of Mr. Sombath will surely bring credit to the country.   Respectfully,   Alec Bamford, Thailand All India Forum of Forest Movements, India AKSI, Indonesia Andrew Bartlett, United Kingdom Andrew Nette, Australia Angela Savage, Australia Anne-Sophie Gindroz, Indonesia Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Thailand Bank Information Centre, USA Bert Cacayan, Terres des homes Germany, Philippines Brett M. Ballard, USA Brian Angelo Lim, Singapore Bruce Shoemaker, USA Dr. Carl Middleton, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth, Sri Lanka Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia  Centre for Sustainable Development (CENESTA), Iran Chanida Bamford, Thailand Chris Greacen, USA Chris Lang, Indonesia Cheng Shuling, China Dani Setiawan, Anti Debt Coalition (KAU), Indonesia Don Macleod, United Kingdom Ellen Agger, Canada Emma Glesen, New Zealand Femy Pinto, Philippines FIAN International, Germany Finnish NGO Platform KEPA, Finland Focus on the Global South, Thailand, India and Philippines Forest Peoples Programme, United Kingdom  Fresh Eyes–People to People Travel, United Kingdom Gary Lee, Australia Global Witness, United Kingdom Grainne Ryder, Canada Herman Kumara Wijethunge, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) Sri Lanka Hozue Hatae, Friends of the Earth Japan, Japan International Accountability Project, USA International Rivers, USA Jacquelyn Chagnon, USA Jenina Joy Chavez, Philippines Jeremy Ironside, New Zealand Jim Enright, Mangrove Action Project, Asia Regional Office, Thailand Joan Carling, Secretary General, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Thailand Jon Ungphakorn, Thailand Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt & Development, Philippines Karen Janigan, Canada Karin Downs, Mass. Dept. of Public Health, USA Dr. Keith Barney, Australian National University, Australia Dr. Ken Kampe, USA Kevin Kamp, USA Kenji Fukuda, Representative Director, Mekong Watch, Japan La Via Campesina, South Asia, India Lam Thi Thu Suu, Vietnam Rivers Network (VRN), Vietnam Laofang Bundidterdsakul, Lawyer, Thailand Lisa ter Woort, Canada Margie Law, Mekong Monitor, Australia Martin Lemenager, France Migrant Forum in Asia, Philippines Mueda Nawanat, Thailand Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan Peta Colebatch, Australia Peter Swift, USA Dr. Philip Hirsch, University of Sydney, Australia Pierre-Marc Blanchet, France Pieter Jansen, Both ENDS, Netherlands Randall Arnst, USA Randall Ireson, USA Rebeca Leonard, United Kingdom Re:Common, Italy Roger Henke, Netherlands Roger Rumpf, USA Rural Poor Institute for Land & Human Rights Services (RIGHTS), Inc., Philippines Sabrina Kathleen, USA Samuel Martin, France Theresa Wong, Singapore Tipakson Manpati, Thailand The Cornerhouse, United Kingdom The Peoples' Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA), Indonesia Towards Ecological Recovery & Regional Alliance (TERRA), Thailand Transnational Institute, Netherlands Dr. Walden Bello, Philippines Water Initiatives Odisha, India World Rainforest Movement, Uruguay  

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