March 25th marks the 100th day since the disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, a respected individual known for his work with non-governmental organizations, the government, and the international community. Video footage suggests that Mr. Sombath may have been abducted from a police checkpoint in the capital city of Vientiane. The United States shares the international community’s serious concerns about Mr. Sombath’s safety and well-being. We call on the Lao government to do everything in its power to account for his disappearance without further delay. We are concerned at the lack of significant information we have received from the Lao government about Mr. Sombath’s case, despite our offers to assist with the investigation and numerous expressions of concern about Mr. Sombath’s welfare.
Mr. Sombath’s disappearance resurrects memories of an earlier era when unexplained disappearances were common. We note that Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations, including its accession to the World Trade Organization and its hosting of the Asia-Europe Summit Meeting last November. Regrettably, the continuing, unexplained disappearance of Mr. Sombath, a widely respected and inspiring Lao citizen who has worked for the greater benefit of all of his countrymen, raises questions about the Lao government’s commitment to the rule of law and to engage responsibly with the world.
We join with countless organizations, governments, journalists and concerned citizens around the world in demanding answers to Mr. Sombath’s disappearance and urging his immediate return home.