US Calls for Action on Missing Lao Civil Society Leader

One month after Lao activist Sombath Somphone mysteriously disappeared, the United States of America today called for action as to probe the whereabouts of the missing activist.

Reports say Sombath Somphone, 62, the founder of a non-governmental organisation for sustainable development, went missing in the country’s capital of Vientiane while driving home.

In her remarks in Washington DC, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the United States is deeply concerned about the well-being of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who disappeared one month ago.

She cites that Mr. Sombath went missing on December 15, 2012 after being stopped at a police checkpoint in the capital city of Vientiane.

Sombath Somphone, (on right), with Desmond Tutu, in 2006.

“We call upon the Lao government to pursue a transparent investigation of this incident and to do everything in its power to bring about an immediate and safe return home to his family.” – Ms. Clinton

According to Ms. Clinton, since receiving his education in the United States, Mr. Sombath has worked tirelessly to promote sustainable development in Laos and he inspired a new generation of young leaders.

Mr. Sombath founded the Participatory Development Training Center, which trains Lao youth and local government leaders in community development and poverty reduction.

His disappearance has generated a tremendous amount of concern from his family, friends and colleagues around the world, she added.

“We urge his immediate return home and send our thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones.” – Ms. Clinton

Reports say other civil society leaders are extremely worried as well of the well-being of the prominent activist. However, the current Lao regime denied allegations that Mr. Sombanth is in their hands.

Sombath Somphone received the Human Resource Development Award for empowering the rural poor in Laos from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in 2001.

In addition, in 2005, Mr. Sombath was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.

The United States and Laos continue their longtime cooperation in the search for Americans missing from the Indochina War, on clearance of unexploded ordnance remaining from the war, and on fighting drug addiction and illegal drug trafficking.

Both countries continue to strengthen their relationship through the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) and the many issues we are working together on, from reducing the impact of unexploded ordnance, to improving health, to expanding food security for the people of Laos. Both countries also support the Lao Government in its effort to fully implement our Bilateral Trade Agreement and join the World Trade Organization.

Laos has made considerable strides towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, according to UN.

There have been steady improvements in health, education, living standards and life spans, with progress having been made in literacy rates and access to safe drinking water as well in Laos.

However, poverty is still prevalent, especially in the countryside.

The Lao economy depends heavily on investment and trade with its neighbours like Thailand, Vietnam, and China.

Mina Fabulous
Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn't preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.