News / Asia

ASEAN Representatives Criticize Investigation of Missing Activist

Laos Missing Activist
Laos Missing Activist
Gabrielle Paluch
— Representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have criticized an investigation by Laos into the recent disappearance of a prominent activist.  A delegation representing ASEAN expressed its concerns Wednesday during a fact-finding visit to Laos.

Sombath Somphone, founder of a non-governmental organization campaigning for sustainable development in Laos, went missing in the city of Vientiane while driving home in December. Images from closed-circuit cameras, obtained by Sombath's family and published online, show him being taken away from a police post by two unidentified individuals.  He has not been seen since.

Officials in Laos say they have been investigating Sombath's disappearance, but have come up with few leads.  In a letter published in various news media in early January,  the Lao ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yong Chanthalangsy, suggested his disappearance may have been the result of a personal or business conflict.

Sombath's work for the Participatory Development Training Center targeted Laos' marginalized and impoverished rural population.

Rights activists have expressed concern that the Lao government is not doing enough to solve the mystery.  Some members of the Southeast Asian regional economic bloc ASEAN agree.

Speaking Wednesday at a news conference in Bangkok after a fact-finding mission to Laos, Philippines parliamentarian and ASEAN delegation member Walden Bello said the government failed to provide answers to basic questions of the investigation and tried to deny police involvement.

"We were told that after a month of investigation, the only thing that has been established is that the police had nothing to do with the disappearance. We told them that this was not credible and if we accepted this at face value as to the progress of the case, we ourselves would lose credibility," Bello said.

Charles Santiago, an ASEAN delegate from Malaysia, said that considering available evidence, an investigation should take only a matter of days. He pointed out inconsistencies in different government officials' explanations and the fact that only the lowest-ranking police officers had been assigned to the case.
 
"That the police and the civil administration have absolutely no interest, no political will, to get to the root of this problem, except saying in all our meetings that we want to get to the root of this problem, because the credibility of Laos has been hi," Santiago noted. "But when asked about the investigation itself it's absolutely stonewalling and the same script being repeated all the time, because the civilian component of government really has no idea what has transpired. Therefore, we have impressed that the investigation must move to the highest level of the military as well as the police."

Regional analysts say Sombath's disappearance is a test case for the new ASEAN human rights mechanism, to which the fact-finding committee will be making recommendations in Jakarta.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid