Laos: Keep pressing Laotian authorities for the safe return of Sombath!

Paris, 11 February 2013 – Following a resolution by the European Parliament last Thursday, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization the Lao Movement for Human Rights (MLDH) renew their call to Lao authorities to further investigate the enforced disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone and facilitate his immediate safe return.

The European Parliament expressed its deep concerns over Mr. Sombath Somphone’s safety and the lack of progress and information regarding investigations by the Lao authorities. This resolution comes short after the 4th Lao PDR-European Union Working Group on Human Rights and Governance held in Vientiane on 4th February. At that occasion, the EU has already raised the Sombath’s disapparance and urged Lao authorities to "quickly resolve the case so that Sombath is safely reunited with his family".

On 18 January, FIDH and MLDH joined a groups of 65 NGOs demanding Lao authorities to tell the truth about Sombath’s disappearance. He was last seen on 15 December as he was stopped by police officials at Thadeau police post in Vientiane. Authorities have constantly denied any involvement.

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, said 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 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 added.

We welcome the EU’s request to the Lao government to facilitate the registration process of domestic NGOs in full transparency. We hope that concrete measures and clear benchmarks will make it possible to monitor progress in this regard, concluded Ms. Belhassen.

Press contacts
Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris) – Email :
Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris) – Email :
Vanida S. Thephsouvanh (French, English, Laotian) - Tel: +33 1 60 06 57 06 (Paris) – Email :

Read more