On December 15 2014, it will be two years since the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone. For those familiar with the Lao PDR and Southeast Asia, and those who participated in the last AEPF in 2012 in Vientiane, Sombath needs no introduction.
Sombath was abducted from a police booth on a busy Vientiane road on the evening of December 15, 2012. His abduction was captured by a CCTV camera, and the footage shows Sombath's jeep being stopped at the police booth, the jeep being driven away by a third person, and Sombath being taken away in a pick-up truck. Tracing the vehicle, identifying the perpetrators and locating Sombath would not have been difficult for criminal investigators.
But almost two years after Sombath was disappeared, the Lao Government has provided no meaningful information to Sombath's family, friends and the Lao public about the abduction. Instead, successive statements and actions by the Lao Government indicate a continuing denial of its basic responsibility and obligations. The only rational conclusion that can be drawn is that there has been no investigation.
The Lao PDR depends heavily on international aid, and in the lead up to its annual Round Table Process scheduled for November 2014, the Lao Government is requesting even more financial support from the international community. But it has refused offers of technical forensic support to analyze the CCTV camera footage. When asked about the investigation into Sombath's abduction by people from outside the country, the Government claims that this is an internal matter.
Enforced disappearance is never an internal matter in any country. It is a contravention of international law and widely held to be a crime against humanity. Sombath's family and friends and the people of Laos have the right to the truth, to know what happened to Sombath. Sombath and his family have the right to justice.
We remind all ASEM member states of their human rights obligations, both domestically and internationally, as well as for all other states their obligation to request enforcement of human rights in the framework of their relations with ASEM states and the Lao Government in particular. We call on the Lao Government to immediately launch an open and independent investigation into the enforced disappearance of Sombath, and urge ASEM member states to assist in and monitor the investigation.
We urge the international aid community, in particular the European Union, to ensure that aid to the Lao PDR is in accordance with the highest relevant human rights principles, and that a full, proper investigation into Sombath's enforced disappearance be a central element in aid agreements.
The signatories of this resolution will continue to take every opportunity and make every effort to ensure that Sombath and his family receive the justice that is surely their right.
Asia Europe People’s Forum International Organizing Committee Member Organisations:
Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD, Philippines)
Transnational Institute (TNI)
Focus on the Global South
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
Finnish Working Group on the AEPF
Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation
Institute for Global Justice (IGJ)
Ecologistas en Acción
Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation
Participants to the AEPF10