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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.