SP Senator Tuur Elzinga in Laos: grave concern for missing activist Sombath Somphone

10 March 2013

SP Senator Tuur Elzinga in Laos: grave concern for missing activist Sombath Somphone

This week a European delegation led by SP Senator Tuur Elzinga visited Laos and expressed grave concern to the country’s government and parliament – known as the National Assembly of the People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) Lao – over the well-being of Sombath Somphone.

Sombath is well-known in Laos for his talent for educating people from every corner of the country and for organising them and involving them in sustainable development. The fear now is that in doing this he has not only made friends: on 15th December he was stopped following a routine traffic control and has not been seen since.

Tuur Elzinga
On behalf of the delegation SP Senator Tuur Elzinga presents a resolution on the Sombath affair which won the unanimous approval of the European Parliament.

The government opened a formal enquiry a few days after the disappearance, but the delegation is unimpressed by the reported results, as Senator Elzinga explains: 'The government and police must really give greater priority to this,’ he says. ‘I have told the government that I have every confidence that they can resolve this quickly, that I’m not interested in the details of their enquiry, only in the result.’

The delegation also made it known that it would be in the interests of Laos to find a quick solution. ‘I have made it clear to the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and to a delegation from the National Assembly of the PDR Lao that this issue won’t resolve itself. As long as Sombath isn’t safely reunited with his family, this disappearance will dominate all international discussion on or with Laos, whether it involves the UN Human Rights Council or the World Trade Organisation, which Laos has just joined.’

Elzinga gave force to his message by presenting on behalf of the delegation the European Parliament motion on the affair unanimously adopted on 6th February. This motion followed a letter of concern sent to the National Assembly and the government in Laos, a letter signed by numerous national parliamentarians from South-East Asia and Europe, as well as MEPs. The involvement of parliamentarians from these regions is a product of Sombath’s most recent project, which was to participate in the organisation of the Asia Europe People’s Forum in October in the Laotian capital Vientiane. This international forum of social organisations from the two continents was held, like those for parliamentarians and business people which paralleled it, to develop contributions to the Asia-Europe Meeting which took place shortly afterwards in Vientiane and which brought together government leaders from across both regions. It was soon after this event that Sombath disappeared.

The delegation has spoken extensively with Sombath’s wife and in addition held meetings with the EU’s permanent representative and a number of member states’ ambassadors to Laos, the Dutch Ambassador to the region in Bangkok, and several representatives of social organisations within Laos.

For more information in English go to sombath.org

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