Laos: Open letter – Follow-up on request for AICHR to ensure the safety and wellbeing of disappeared development worker, Mr. Sombath Somphone
1 February 2013 12:08 pm

Your Excellency,

We refer to our letter, “Request for AICHR to ensure the safety and wellbeing of disappeared development worker, Mr. Sombath Somphone”, dated 4 January 2013. We wish to inquire if AICHR has taken any actions or if there are any immediate plans to do so on this case. We are deeply concerned that it has been 6 weeks since Sombath “disappeared” and despite statements and expressions of concern by the diplomatic community and civil society, key questions regarding his fate and whereabouts remain unanswered.

In this regard, and against the backdrop of the first AICHR meeting in 2013 under the Chairmanship of Brunei Darussalam (29 January to 2 February 2013), we reiterate our request the AICHR to urgently take up the case, including by communicating with the Lao authorities immediately to ensure the full disclosure of information and the expedition of investigation with the view of ensuring the safe return of Sombath to his wife and family.

This request is made with much urgency because of the apparent lack of progress in the investigation by the Lao authorities despite it being 6 weeks since Sombath’s “disappearance”. On 26 December 2012, Sombath’s wife, Shui-Meng Ng, was questioned by police on basic information regarding his background and lifestyle during preliminary investigations. When she was called in again on 15 January 2013 to further assist in investigations, the police officers again queried her on similar procedural questions, such as when they got married and when they moved into their current home.

The apparent stagnation in the investigation by the Lao authorities warrants an urgent need for AICHR’s immediate action on this case. Key questions regarding whether Sombath’s jeep has been found, the identity of the motorcyclist who took Sombath’s jeep and whether the police personnel in the CCTV have been identified and investigated remain unanswered. We thus urge AICHR to communicate with the Lao authorities immediately on these points to ensure the full disclosure of information and expedition of investigation.

This will also set a precedent in addressing cases of involuntary/enforced disappearances in the region and send a strong signal against such occurrences in the future. Taking decisive and meaningful action will ensure the credibility of AICHR.
We wish to reiterate that Sombath’s “disappearance” is indeed a matter of urgent concern for ASEAN, as his work has touched the lives of many people in ASEAN. We also wish to point out that an online petition letter signed by close to 3,000 individuals has also been sent (21 January 2013) to AICHR on this case .

Lastly, we wish to reiterate FORUM-ASIA’s continued commitment to assist and cooperate with AICHR on this case.
If you require more information, please kindly contact Joses Kuan at tel: +66 83544 5166 or email: joses@forum-asia.org; or John Liu at tel: +66 80282 8610 or email: johnliu@forum-asia.org.

We thank you for your kind attention and hope to receive a reply from AICHR.

Yours truly,

Sayeed Ahmad
Country Program Manager

1 February 2013

To:

H.E. Pehin Dato Dr. Awang Hj. Ahmad bin Hj. Jumat

Chairperson
ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)
Jalan Subok, Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei Darussalam BD 2710
Tel: (673) 226 1177, 226 1291-5
Fax: (673) 226 1709, 2904
Email: aseanbru@mfa.gov.bnbruneirep.aichr@gmail.com

CC:

1. H.E. Le Loung Minh, Secretary-General of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
2. H.E. Om Yentieng, Representative of Cambodia to AICHR
3. H.E. Mr. Rafendi Djamin, Representative of Indonesia to AICHR
4. H.E. Mr. Bounkeut Sangsomsak, Representative of Laos to AICHR
5. H.E. Dato’ Sri Dr. Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Representative of Malaysia to AICHR
6. H.E. Amb. Kyaw Tint Swe, Representative of Myanmar to AICHR
7. H.E. Amb. Rosario Gonzales Manalo, Representative of the Philippines to AICHR
8. H.E. Amb. Chan Heng Chee, Representative of Singapore to AICHR
9. H.E. Mr. Seree Nonthasoot, Representative of Thailand to AICHR
10. H.E. Amb. Nguyen Duy Hung, Representative of Vietnam to AICHR
11. Ms. Leena Ghosh, Assistant Director, AIPA, ASEAN Foundation, AICHR and Other
ASEAN Associated Entities Division, ASEAN Secretariat

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