Laos Should Abide By New European Parliament Resolution, Release Sombath

Press Release,

CPPA:  Laos Should Abide By New European Parliament Resolution, Release Sombath

Washington, D.C., Strasbourg and Paris, France, February 11, 2013

Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA)

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the Lao Movement for Human Rights (MLDH) the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), and a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are hailing the passage  of a resolution by the European Parliament expressing its deep concerns regarding the recent disappearance of Laotian civic activist Sombath Somphone at the hands of Laotian authorities. The international NGOs, joined by scores of Lao and Hmong organizations, are urging Laos to abide by the resolution and immediately release Mr. Sombath.

“We are  encouraged that the terrible plight of Sombath Somphone, who was extra-judicially abducted and disappeared at the hands of Laotian security forces last December,  was discussed at the highest levels of a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on February 7th,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.

“The result has been the unanimous and historic passage by the European Parliament of a multi-point resolution expressing its deep concerns regarding the disappearance of Laotian activist Sombath Somphone at the hands of Laotian authorities and calling for the government of Laos to cooperate in the case,” Smith commented.  “We are calling on the Lao government to abide by the European Parliament’s resolution and to respect basic human rights and international law regarding Sombath Somphone’s case.”

“In recent years, significant numbers of Laotian and Hmong political and religious dissidents, as well as ordinary Laotians and U.S. citizens,  have been arrested and disappeared in Laos at the hands of Lao and Vietnamese security forces,” Smith stated. “Other ordinary freedom-loving Laotian people, as well as members of the ethnic Hmong minority, have been tortured, subjected to horrific and deplorable prison sentences, or summarily executed in Laos by the Lao government, often in coordination with the Vietnamese military and secret police sent by Hanoi.”

“It is important to highlight that  Sombath was a humble, yet high-level international figure, and was previously awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership because he returned to his native Laos in 1979 to help farmers, young people and the poor,” Smith concluded.

As a signatory to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Lao government has the duty to take all possible means to guarantee the safe return of Sombath,” stated Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Sombath has merely been involved in education and capacity-building programs for the youth, initiating alternative development models to tackle rural poverty. His disappearance therefore sends a chilling message to the fragile civil society in Laos, said Vanida S. Thephsouvah, President of the MLDH.

The European Union, in its engagement with Lao authorities, should continue demanding for more freedom of expression in the country and the cultivation of a more enabling environment for human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights, including development workers,  Ms. Thephsouvah stated further.

We are grateful for the recent resolution by the European Parliament expressing its deepest concerns about Sombath Somphone,” said Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the ULDL. “Sombath should be immediated released by the Lao authorities to rejoin his family.”

Sombath was a U.S.-educated agronomist. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.

The Center for Public Policy Analysis ( Centre for Public Policy Analysis ) is a non-profit, non-governmental, public policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.  http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

###

Contact:

Maria Gomez or Philip Smith

(202)543-1444

Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA)

Washington, D.C.

U.S.A.

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