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GENEVA December 21, 2012 (AP)
The U.N. human rights office says missing Laotian human rights activist Sombath Somphone appears to have been kidnapped because of his human rights work.
A spokesman for the office, Rupert Colville, says “we are highly concerned for his safety.”
Colville urged authorities Friday to do everything possible to find Somphone, 60, last seen on Dec. 15 in video footage from a police post where he detained and driven away in a car by men in civilian clothes. The government of Laos on Thursday disavowed responsibility for the disappearance, suggesting he was kidnapped over a personal dispute.
Somphone won one of Asia’s top civil awards in 2005 for his work reducing poverty and promoting education at a training center he founded.
Vientiane – The Lao government on Friday denied knowing anything about the disappearance of an activist this week, and appealed to the public for clues to his whereabouts.
Sombath Somphone, 60, disappeared on Sunday after being stopped at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Vientiane.
“Currently his family and the authorities do not have any more leads or sources of information about his whereabouts. If you know or hear any information about him, please contact one of the numbers below,” an appeal in the state-run Vientiane Times said Friday.//DPA
NGO activists in Thailand yesterday called on the Lao government to look into the disappearance of a Magsaysay Award winner, who has not been seen for several days.
In a letter sent to the Lao government, parliament and several embassies, the activists expressed concern about the safety of Sombath Somphone and called on Lao authorities to take urgent action on the case.
“We, civil society organisations in Thailand, urge Lao authorities to take every urgent action with regard to Mr Sombath’s disappearancee,” the letter, released by the NGO Coordinating Committee, an umbrella group comprising 61 organisations, said.
“We look forward to hearing that all immediate and necessary efforts are being made to search for his whereabouts and investigate the cause of his disappearance.”
The letter has been sent to the Thai and Singaporean embassies in Vientiane and to Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Mr Sombath, 60, won the award in 2005 for community service.
He is founder of the Participatory Development Training Centre in Laos, which is aimed at fostering social development.
Mr Sombath is well known among Thai activists working on cross-border social development issues.
He disappeared on Saturday while he was driving home from his office in Vientiane, the NGOs said.
A source close to him said he left his office around 5pm that day to meet his wife, Shui Meng, a Singapore national, for dinner.
His wife waited and then checked all hospitals after he failed to return home, and reported to police, the source said.
The news about Mr Sombath’s disappearance has been spreading on social networks.