[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific

US 'deeply concerned' over Laos activist fate

Sombath Somphone was abducted from police checkpoint a year ago, but Laos's government is silent on the matter.

Last updated: 16 Dec 2013 06:56
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The US said diplomats raised Somphone's abduction case with Lao president following a donor meeting [AP]

The United States has said it is "deeply concerned" that the fate of one of Laos' most prominent social activists is still unknown, one year after he was abducted from a police checkpoint in Vientiane.

The abduction of Sombath Somphone, 61, at a busy traffic junction in the Laotian capital on December 15 last year was recorded on government surveillance cameras.

Despite calls by foreign governments and rights groups for information on Sambath's disappearance, the Laos communist-led government has maintained almost complete silence on the matter.

"Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations. Sombath’s abduction threatens to undermine those efforts," the US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Sunday.

"We call on the government to take all actions possible to ensure his safe return to his family."

We [US] call on the government [of Laos] to take all actions possible to ensure his [Sombath Somphone's] safe return to his family,

US State Department

US Ambassador Daniel Clune, who arrived in Vientiane in mid-September, told Al Jazeera that the diplomatic community raised the abduction case with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone following a donor meeting.

"The president said he was very concerned about the disappearance and the government would continue to investigate," Clune told Al Jazeera from Vientiane. "We take the president at his word. We remain deeply concerned over Sombath's fate."

Sunday's statement said that the US welcomed Choummaly's "concern", but that it looks "forward to learning the results of a full, thorough, and transparent investigation".

The Laos government did not respond to Al Jazeera's repeated requests for comment. It has previously denied being involved in the community leader's disappearance.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Monday, asking the Laos government to immediately disclose the fate of Sombath, calling the official investigation into the disappearance "inadequate".

"One year since Sombath Somphone 'disappeared’, the Lao government clearly hopes the world will just forget about what happened to one of its most prominent citizens," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Foreign donors to the Lao government should make Sombath’s enforced disappearance a priority until he can return home."

Sombath is the founder and former director of the Participatory Development Training Centre in Laos. He is widely respected in the field of education and development both in Laos and across Asia. As a result of his work, Sombath received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, one of Asia’s top honours, in 2005.

439

Source:
Al Jazeera
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.