All Comments for Kerry Warns Laos Over Missing Civil Society Leader's Case

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Jaidee :

The 2007 forced disappearance of my friend Somphone Khantisouk from the banks of the Namtha river by uniformed police in broad daylight and observed by various onlookers is a good case in point when discussing the intimidation that silences opposition to human rights and environmental violations in Laos.

(Som)Phone's wife and children have not seen or heard from him since. Sadly, it seems increasingly likely they never will.

Phone was a very rare diamond indeed in the current political context of Laos. He was passionate about the environment and human rights, and was brave enough to speak honestly and openly when he witnessed gross injustices and even attempted to change the outcomes through his network of influential Lao friends and NGO contacts. He has paid the ultimate price for being an inspirational environmental and human rights leader in Laos.

When the corrupt and inept provincial tourism minister of the time Mr Khamlien colluded with Chinese rubber plantation investors and other local politicians to forcefully evict minority peoples from their ancestral land and turn large sections of Luang Namtha's Nam Ha protected area into an immense rubber plantation, Phone spoke out and tried to apply pressure to limit these illegal activities through his network.

Unlike the villagers currently being evicted in the same area for Chinese hydropower projects, Phone was known and respected by many in the international community, particularly those involved with the UNESCO Nam Ha Eco-tourism project and the Wildlife Conservation Society and for co owning and operating the Lao P.D.R's first true eco-tourism lodge, the Boatlanding Guest House.

For these reasons Phone probably felt he had a limited form of protection against the direct use of violence by the corrupted authorities. Sadly, it was decided by the powers that be that eliminating Phone was worth while venture, despite the fact that some international pressure would probably come to bear as a result.

What disturbs me greatly until this day is the way that Phone's network of local friends and fellow environmental/human rights activists, were so effectively silenced by his forced disappearance. His reasonably broad support base was cowered into silence much more effectively than I would have expected. Few spoke out. It was like it never happened.

Everyone realised that no one is safe in Laos if they try to expose the truth and fight for justice. Fear of losing ones life or losing ones life's work are highly effective forms of suppression and I witnessed this first hand.

So, while the motive behind Phone's disappearance and the identity of some of those that sponsored it is common knowledge amongst those that knew him, simply making the accusation against provincial leaders for anyone residing in Laos would be an act of suicide.

Fear and intimidation from the Luang Namtha Authorities ensures the lucrative resource mafiosa spear headed by Chinese corporations and local political leaders continues to flourish and that grass roots environmentalism which, in Luang Namtha was effectively led by Phone and his network, has been eliminated before it ever fully got off the ground.

The bad guys are winning in Luang Namtha.., overwhelmingly. Phone fought and most likely was murdered trying to protect the Nam Ha protected area and the resource rights of vulnerable and impoverished subsistence people in the area. Sadly, most of the region he fought for has now been converted into an immense Chinese rubber plantation and his support network has been cowered by the increasingly powerful Chinese/Local politician resource exploitation mafia.

You can be quite sure that the same political network that orchestrated Phones disappearance are an integral part of promoting and profiting from the latest round of ongoing Chinese hydro dam forced evictions and resource exploitation in Luang Namtha province at the direct expense of local communities.

Its up to the international community and high level Lao Political leaders who wish to preserve some of their nation for future generations to apply more pressure to the Lao government and the Chinese corporations. Lets not let Phone's legacy as a true environmental and human rights hero of Laos go to waste.

Apr 24, 2016 03:09 AM

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Laopeople from U.S :

Laos really need a revolution now and get rid all current corrupted governments. Lao people needs to kick Chinese and Viet out of the country as soon as possible because very soon Lao people will be minority.

Jan 12, 2014 10:47 PM

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Smack U from wonder land :

You might be the next one will go missing Mr.THE US. Stop being smart ass. Just wondering if you're one those Vientkong's ass kissers or Choummarly's crooked colleague.

Dec 25, 2013 11:24 AM

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I also like to warn Kerry that 500000 people gone missing every year in the U.S.A according to the NCIC. so can we find these missing people at home first before you go around telling other country..

Dec 18, 2013 09:59 PM

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Ham Yai from Never Land :

Stop playing such a smart ass Mr. THE US. Maybe you are one of Mr. Choummarly's royalty, are you? How about if i smack you hard?

Dec 25, 2013 11:51 AM

Anonymous Reader :

Kerry shoul go to Laos and help the internatioal team to remove all the non-exploded bombs the United States has dropped on Laos to kill your former ennemy new friend vietcongs.If you have any good news about the location where Sombat is hiding you can share them with your homologue Thongloun.

Dec 18, 2013 11:12 AM

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5 5 5 from Vientiane :

If you are a threat to the government officials' Lexus, Landcruiser, Prado, Fortuner, and giant mansions, then you will magically disappear.

Dec 18, 2013 01:03 AM

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Zuangavong :

Indeed Laos does need a regime change! 45+ years nothing has change. The Lao ppl are dying and suffering whiling little by little the country and people being replace by Vietnamese expanding population and political grip on the country itself.

Dec 17, 2013 08:03 PM

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Anonymous Reader :

Sombat where are you hiding, in Hawaii? Get out from your hole right now; the Laotian losers and some politicians are playing your cards to condemn the current government for their political purpose.

Dec 17, 2013 08:37 AM

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Anonymous Reader :

Mr. Kerry, you need to ask the international communities to immediately withdraw their aids to Laos in order to solve this Sombath and other human right problems. Why are they so stupid to keep pouring millions of dollars to the pockets of the Lao government officias for nothign? Shame on the US and international communities.

Dec 16, 2013 12:30 PM

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Anonymous Reader :

USA and the international communities are so stupid to let the Lao government officals suck all the foreign aids and let its people suffer. Look at the case of Sombath and the UXO. USA keeps pouring millions of dollars to the UXO but the Lao government officials keep all the money without doing anything. It does not matter how much pressure the US and International communites put on Laos, nothing happens. The solution to all the problems in Laos is "REGIME CHANGE" as soon as possible.

Dec 16, 2013 12:17 PM

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phetsakhat sorphainam from vientiane :

president choummaly has pardoned prisoners in laos before, but not political prisoners and he also has promised to continue to investigate the disappearance of Mr. sombath,but I believe the lao government will keep denying it because they don't want to lose face.

Dec 16, 2013 11:54 AM

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Hello Laos from Vientiane :

You can't pressure the Lao government via economic means. They are already well off through corruptions.

Dec 16, 2013 08:31 AM

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Anonymous Reader :


Dec 16, 2013 12:24 PM

Franky :

Kerry should go to Laos and help the international team to remove all the non-exploded bombs the United States has dropped on Laos and during your stay in the country you can ever check with Mr.Thongloun if he have had any useful information where Sombat is hiding, may be you can tell him as well where you hide your citizen.

Dec 16, 2013 05:37 AM

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Phou Bia :

In the case of UXO, Laos cannot remove its own unexploded ordnances set to kill Hmong, inside the Xaisomboune Special zone, and several dams are to be built to cover up them up. In recent months, Laos still claimed that it would take about 150 years to take care of the UXO but refused to mention its own still active and dangerous UXO, hoping that lakes created by dams would cover up most of them. With all of these, Laos cannot be a respectful nation among the international community.

Dec 15, 2013 09:42 PM

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Anonymous Reader :


Dec 18, 2013 10:05 PM

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