The Singaporean wife of a missing Lao activist says she has not received any information from Lao authorities about his disappearance in more than two years and believes they “stopped searching long ago.”
At a gathering in Bangkok to mark seven years since he went missing, Ng Shui Meng, said Lao
authorities have made no headway in the search for her husband and prominent activist, Sombath Somphone.
Sombath, a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, disappeared on Dec. 15, 2012 when police stopped
his vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Laos’ capital Vientiane.
Before he went missing, the activist had spoken out against government land deals that left thousands of villagers homeless and which sparked rare protests in a country where political
freedoms are tightly controlled.
Despite denials of responsibility by the government for the abduction, it is widely thought Sombath’s case is an enforced disappearance.
“After seven years, there has been no progress in the investigation of Sombath, absolutely nothing. The Lao authorities have not provided any help and any information,” Ng said at the Bangkok gathering on Dec. 17, reported RFA.
“The last time I met with them was on Nov. 21, 2017. They met with me at that time because the
Singaporean embassy pressured them to meet with me. They just told me that they don’t know,
they don’t see, they’re still investigating,” she said.
Ng called upon Lao people abroad and the international community to help in and support her
ongoing search for her husband.
The event was also attended by other families affected by enforced disappearances and rights
activists, including Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch, who said enforced disappearances
were “crimes that shattered [victims’] families and shattered their lives.”
The Bangkok press conference followed a ceremony at a Buddhist temple in Vientiane on Dec. 15
to mark the actual anniversary.
Speaking to Radio Free Asia the next day, Ng said Laos’ failure to locate her husband did not make sense.
“They have been successful in finding many things, if they are willing to. They are very good at
security. They have many spies in every village. They have a very good monitoring system,” she
“So why would they not be able to search for Sombath? They can even search for a cow, if it’s
missing. I believe 100 percent that they can solve this case easily because you cannot hide or keep anything a secret in Laos.”
She said all she could do is keep on calling on Laos to actively search for her husband.
“The upper leadership knows what happened, but they don’t want to talk, or speak or release any information. They only say they don’t know, they didn’t see it, they are still investigating. Actually, they stopped searching years ago,” she said.
Sombath won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award — often called Asia’s Nobel prize — for community leadership.
He also received the U.N.’s Human Resource Development Award for empowering rural poor people in Laos.