Magsaysay Award Winner Disappears in Laos

Today, 61 Thai Civil Society groups send an emergency letter to top officials in Vientiane, Lao PDR to request an emergency investigation on the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, a high-profile Lao citizen, who has reportedly been missing since approximately 5 pm on Saturday, December 15 in Vientiane.

Mr. Sombath is well-known nationally and internationally.  In 2005, he received the prestigious international Ramon Magsaysay Award, often referred to as Asia’s Nobel Prize, for Community Leadership.  Mr. Sombath is highly respected in the fields of education and development through his work as founder and former Director of PADETC – Participatory Development Training Centre.

Mr. Sombath was last seen by his colleagues on December 15 at 5 pm, when he was leaving the PADETC office in Vientiane to go home.  He went out and left the office in his own jeep.  He did not reach home and his family has had no news from or about him since then.

Thai Civil Society letter; that was directed to Minister of The Prime Minister’s Office, President of The National Assembly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior, Minister of Public National Security, Governor of Vientiane Prefecture; and copied to Secretary General of ASEAN Dr. Surin Pitsuwan as well as Vientiane-based Embassies/consulates of Australia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand and USA; reads:

“We, civil society organizations in Thailand, urge concerned Lao authorities to take every urgent action with regard to Mr. Sombath’s disappearance. We look forward to hearing that all immediate and necessary efforts are made to search his whereabouts and investigate the cause of his disappearance.

"Above all and last, we hope that Mr. Sombath remains safe and will re-appear to resume his unfinished mission. For this will be encouraging to not only those sharing a similar mission, but, those committed to the course of making this world a better place for us all”

The search for Mr. Sombath continues.