Free Sombath Now!
Two years ago, at the 9th AEPF, my husband, Sombath Somphone, as the Co-Chair of the National Organizing Committee, gave the keynote speech at the opening session of the Forum in Vientiane, Laos. He was at the time both happy and excited that after months of intensive preparation, the AEPF9 was officially declared open by no less than Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister. More than 1,000 people representing civil society groups and organizations from across Asia and Europe participated. As a Lao, Sombath was proud that his country could play host to such a major civil society forum.
By Walden Bello*
Sombath Somphone, a widely-respected leader in education and sustainable development in the Lao PDR, and recipient of the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, disappeared on the evening of December 15th, 2012 in the Lao capital Vientiane (see http://www.sombath.org ). CCTV footage which became available 2 days later showed Sombath being stopped by traffic police, his car driven away by an unknown person, and then Sombath being taken in a pickup by 2-3 other unidentified persons.
8PM, 3 July 2013
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of ThailandPenthouse, Maneeya Center518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
If you are a community or environmental activist who may be challenging powerful vested interests or the establishment – or very often both – in your country in this region, you face a challenge that could kill you.
Candle lighting and offering of flowers to represent messages of hope, support and remembrance from all over the world for Sombath at the Lao PDR Embassy in Makati, Philippines on the 6th month since Sombath was forcibly disappeared
On the occasion of the 6th month, on 15 June, since Sombath Somphone was forcibly disappeared, a call to send messages and prayers to remember the Lao development worker yielded messages from Asia, the US and Europe. The messages are not only about remembering what happened to Sombath but are also expressions of concern about the progress of investigation into his case, urging the Lao government to ensure Sombath’s safety return soon.
Here are the messages that were sent to Focus on the Global South through email:
Bangkok/Manila/Jakarta (15 May 2013) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Focus on the Global South, The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) reiterated their call on the ASE
Forced or enforced disappearance is not a new phenomenon in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines hundreds of people involuntarily disappeared during the brutal martial law regime.
In observance of holy week, the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) in the Phils. holds its annual Calvary of Injustice. Using the 7 last words of Christ for reflection, friends and families of the disappeared remember their loved ones, their own pains, struggles and hopes. Becky Lozada of the Phil. Coalition for the International Criminal Court remembers Lao activist Sombath Somphone in her reflections on "I am thirsty." Children of the disappeared tell their stories through dance.