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Answers Still Lacking In Lao Disappearance


In this Aug. 31, 2005 file photo, Sombath Somphone of Laos, the winner of Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005, poses with the bust of the late Philippine president prior to receiving his award in ceremony at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.

More than 100 days after his unexplained disappearance, the United States continues to monitor the case of Sombath Somphone.

More than 100 days after his unexplained disappearance, the United States continues to monitor the case of Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil society leader in Laos.


The United States shares the serious concerns of other nations about Mr. Sombath’s safety and well-being and has urged the Lao government to do everything in its power to facilitate his safe and immediate return home to his family.

The Lao government’s failure to provide significant information about its efforts to find him raises questions about its commitment to the rule of law and to engage responsibly with the international community.

The Lao government has not provided a satisfactory explanation about Mr. Sombath’s disappearance.

On the evening of December 15, Mr. Sombath, the founder of the Participatory Development Training Center, or PADETC, was reportedly stopped by traffic police on his way home from his office. The United States has offered to assist with analyzing surveillance camera footage from that evening which apparently shows Mr. Sombath being stopped at the police checkpoint and later being driven away by unidentified men. Mr. Sombath has not been seen since.

Despite repeated appeals from the international community, the Lao government has not provided a satisfactory explanation about Mr. Sombath’s disappearance and has not accepted U.S. and other international offers of assistance with the investigation.

Mr. Sombath, 60 years old, established PADETC in 1996 to promote education, training and sustainable development in Laos. In recognition of his work both in Laos and across Asia he was presented with the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. He is a widely respected civil society leader and his family asserts he has no business or personal conflicts that would have led to his being kidnapped.

We join with Mr. Sombath’s family and loved ones and others in the international community in calling on the Lao government to account for his disappearance without further delay.
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