Thursday, January 10, 2013

Philippines asks Laos about missing Ramon Magsaysay awardee

The Philippines has expressed its concern for the fate of the missing Lao national who won the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for community development, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday.

However, there has been no feedback from the Lao government on what happened to Sombath Somphone, who has been missing since December 15, 2012, del Rosario said in a news conference.

The Philippines, a founding member of the ASEAN, is considered a leading force in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It joined the United States, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) in expressing concern over Sombath’s disappearance. 

The Philippines recently enacted the Anti-Desaparecidos Act, indicating its strong position against government-sanctioned human rights violations, particularly involuntary disappearance.

Sombath, 62, is a much-respected development worker both inside and outside Laos. He was recently at the forefront in organizing the successful Asia-Europe People’s Forum that preceded the Asia-Europe Meeting of state leaders.

He was last seen by his wife on Dec. 15, leaving their office in Vientiane. A CCTV footage showed that his vehicle was later stopped at a police post; a little bit later, he was being driven away with two unidentified persons.

The Lao government has officially released a statement that it does not have Sombath in custody, and even speculated that Sombath might have been kidnapped for personal or business reasons. 

Laos is a one-party communist state which exerts total control over the media and does not tolerate criticism of its institutions.

Sombath won the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership for his work in poverty reduction and sustainable development in a country that remains one of Southeast Asia's poorest nations.-Interaksyon (January 09, 2013 5:09PM)

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