Minister of The Prime Minister's Office (Fax: 00856-21-213650)
Minister of Foreign Affairs (Fax: 856 21 414009)
Minister of Public Security, Vientiane Prefecture (Fax: 00856 21 262 396)
Vientiane, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic

Cc: Embassies/consulates of Australia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, and the Delegation of the European Union; ASEAN Secretary General

21 December 2012

Dear Madams and Sirs,

Re: Request for urgent investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone

We the undersigned civil society organizations in Asia and Europe are disturbed by the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, who was the co-chair of the Lao National Organizing Committee of the Ninth Asia-Europe People's Forum (AEPF9) that was successfully held in Vientiane last October.

We are requesting for an immediate and thorough investigation into his disappearance. We urge the Lao Government to use its extensive resources to cause his return to his family and friends healthy and unharmed.

Mr. Sombath, winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005, has been missing since 15 December 2012. His wife and colleagues last saw him at about 5 p.m. that Saturday as he drove off in his vehicle (an open-top Jeep) from his office. He failed to show up at home later that day, prompting his family to look for him in all hospitals in the area. Not finding him in any hospital, his friends joined his family in searching for him and reporting his disappearance to the police the following day, 16 December. To date, he and his Jeep have not been seen.

We share his family and friends» concern and worry for his health, safety, and wellbeing. Like them, we are greatly alarmed by his disappearance.

A highly committed and well-respected social development worker and scholar, Mr. Sombath is a true inspiration to the Lao people and to us, kindred spirit in promoting sustainable development and other peaceful solutions to poverty. Founder and former director of Participatory Development Training Centre (PADETC), Mr. Sombath has dedicated his life to better the welfare of his fellow women, men, and children.

We share the hope of many other national and international civil society organisations that Mr. Sombath «remains safe and will soon re-appear to resume his important work – for this will encourage not only those who share a similar mission, but also those who share his vision of making this world a better place for us all.»

Deeply concerned,

From Asia
AEPF Finland
Alliance of Progressive Labor, Philippines
Altsean Burma
Amnuay Sungchuay, Thailand Land Reform Network
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Auranuch Phonpinyo, Land and Forest Network in Northeastern of Thailand
Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association- ADHOC
Civil Society Alliance for Political Laws Amendment (Aliansi Masyarakat Sipil untuk Revisi Undang-undang Politik), Indonesia
Dr. Nymia Pimentel Simbulan, Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights)
Equitable Cambodia
Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (EquityBD)
Focus on the Global South, Thailand
Global Network ASIA
Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himachal Pradesh, India
Inclusive Development International, Cambodia
India FDI Watch
Indian Social Action Forum, India
Indonesia for Global Justice, Indonesia
Indonesian Peasant Union (SPI)
Institute for Popular Democracy, Philippines
Junya Yimprasert & Richard Thompson Coon, Action for People's Democracy in Thailand
Kanchana Ya-ud, Ecological Alert And Recovery – Thailand (EARTH)
Kanya Pankitti, Thailand Land Reform Network
Keadtisak Yungyuen, Sustainable Agriculture Foundation (Thailand)
Kerala Fishworkers Forum (KSMTF), Trivandrum, India
Kusuma Khumpin, Land and Forest Network in Northeastern of Thailand
KIARA, Indonesia
Labor Education Foundation, Pakistan
LEARN, Philippines
Life of Dignity for All Campaign – Philippines
Mindanao Peoples» Peace Movement, Philippine
Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation, Malaysia
National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, Sri Lanka
National Hawkers Federation, Kolkata
Network for Transformative Social Protection in Asia (NTSP)
Pakistan fisherfolk Forum
People's Action for Change, Cambodia
Pornpana Kuaycharoen, Thai Working group for Climate Justice (Thai – CJ)
Prayong Doklumyai, Northern Farmer Federation of Thailand
Prof. David Arase, The Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies, Nanjing University
Prue Odochao, Northern Farmer Federation of Thailand
Sarba Raj Khadka, PhD (Pakistan)
School for Wellbeing Studies and Research, Bangkok/Thimphu, Thailand/Bhutan
Stop the War Coalition, Philippines
Suan Nguen Mee Ma social enterprise, Bangkok, Thailand
Sumech Panjumlong, Sustainable Agriculture Network in Northeastern of Thailand
Supa Yaimuang, Sustainable Agriculture Foundation (Thailand)
The Indonesian Institute, Center for Public Policy Research (TII), Indonesia
Towards Organic Asia (TOA) programme, Bangkok, Thailand
Vaishali Patil, India
Women's Voice Empowerment Movement (Gerakan Pemberdayaan Swara
Perempuan/GPSP), Indonesia
Yu Xiaogang, Green Watershed, China

From Europe
Action from Ireland
Asia House (German Asia Foundation, philippinenbüro, Southeast-Asia
Information Center), Germany
CCFD-Terre Solidaire (Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement), France
Cris Brigoli, Geneva
Ecologistas en Accion, Spain
Fairwatch, Italy
Fresh Eyes, UK
FIAN Netherlands
Francine Mestrum, Global Social Justice
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Matthias Reichl, Center for Encounter and active Non-Violence, Austria
Pax Romana ICMICA-MIIC, Geneva, Switzerland
Pierre Rousset, Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF), France
Siemenpuu Foundation, Finland
Solidar
Südwind, Vienna
SYRIZA, Greece
Transnational Institute, The Netherlands
Watch Indonesia! – For Human Rights, Democracy and Environment in Indonesia and East Timor (Germany)

- Statement by the spokesperson of High Representative Catherine Ashton on the disappearance of Sombath Somphone in Laos

- Radio Australia's interview with Sombath's wife regarding details of Sombath's disappearance

- Bangkok Post: Laos Magsaysay winner Sombath Somphone missing since Dec.15, believed to be in police custody

- Washington Post: Award-winning social activist in Laos goes missing; co-worker says police detained him