News / Asia

Laos Denies Role in Disappearance of Activist

In this August 31, 2005 photo, Sombath Somphone of Laos, winner of Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005, poses prior to receiving his award in Manila.
In this August 31, 2005 photo, Sombath Somphone of Laos, winner of Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005, poses prior to receiving his award in Manila.
VOA News
The government of Laos is denying responsibility for the disappearance of a prominent social activist, but human rights groups disagree, saying security camera footage suggests he was detained by Lao authorities.

Sombath Somphone was last seen Saturday in the capital, Vientiane, when his jeep was stopped by authorities outside a police post. Video footage posted on YouTube appears to show him being taken away with two unidentified men.



Four days after his disappearance, the Lao Foreign Affairs Ministry released a statement saying it has no information about Sombath's whereabouts. It suggested the 60-year-old activist may have been kidnapped for "personal" or "business" reasons.

Many of his friends and fellow activists remain unconvinced. Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview with VOA that the government's statement does not match up with the evidence.

"At this point, based on all the accounts of his family, as well as circumstantial evidence, including the security camera footage, we believe that Lao authorities are responsible for the disappearance of Sombath and he might still be in custody somewhere," he said.

Sunai points out that Laos, a single-party communist state that does not tolerate dissent, has a long record of carrying out arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances.

"The authorities in Laos claim they have transformed into a 'new Laos' on par with the rest of the countries in Southeast Asia in terms of respect for the due process of law and justice," Sunai said. "But what happened to Sombath is a spine-chilling reminder this is still the same old Laos where the state can still use this power arbitrarily in violation of human rights and doesn't care much about accountability."

Sunai said, if Sombath was abducted, as the government claims, it should provide information on why no police at the checkpoint failed to stop the assailants from taking him away.

A group of 132 Asian intellectuals wrote a letter Thursday to Lao officials, urging a thorough government investigation into their colleague's disappearance. The U.S. State Department has also called for the Lao government to make every effort to locate the activist.

In 2005, Sombath received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, widely regarded as Asia's Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts to promote sustainable development.

His friends say that Sombath's work was not directly political or confrontational, and that he was not known to have any enemies.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Guest from: USA
December 27, 2012 1:37 PM
When a matter like this surfaces in Laos, the victim has little or no chances to return. More important of all, a denial from the regime clearly indicates that its current victim is an adversary of the regime and will be gone for good. This regime has been given a green light to act this way for 40 years, and the world still pouring funds to support its violations. Who is to be blamed?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid