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Lao Civil Society Leader Still Missing


Sombath Somphone of Laos.

This month marks the one year anniversary of the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, one of Laos' most respected civil society figures.

This month marks the one year anniversary of the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, one of Laos' most respected civil society figures.


Sombath was abducted on the evening of December 15, 2012, from a Lao police checkpoint in Vientiane. This deplorable act was recorded on Lao government surveillance cameras.

Sombath is from a poor farming family but was educated in the U.S., first attending high school in Wisconsin then earning degrees at the University of Hawaii. He founded the Participatory Development Training Center in 1996; its projects range from organic farms to model rural schools to enlisting monks in helping fight drug abuse among youth. In 2005, he won the Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a statement released this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “The United States remains deeply concerned over the fate of Sombath Somphone. ... Our thoughts are with Sombath’s family, friends, and the countless others in the international community who have been inspired by Sombath’s exemplary leadership and devotion to his country.”

The United States welcomes the recent statement by Lao President Choummaly Sayasone that the Lao government is very concerned about Sombath's disappearance and would continue its investigation and take all measures necessary to solve the case. The U.S. looks forward to learning the results of a full, thorough, and transparent investigation.

The United States values its partnership with Laos on a wide range of issues – including ordnance removal, health, education, combating trafficking in persons, environment, justice reform, counternarcotics, trade, and the search for Americans missing in action – and wishes to work constructively with Laos to protect human rights and promote the rule of law.

Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations. Sombath's abduction threatens to undermine those efforts.

The United States calls on the government of Laos to take all actions possible to ensure his safe return to his family.
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