Sombath Somphone, one of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s most respected civil society figures, was abducted on the evening of December 15, 2012 from a Lao police checkpoint in Vientiane. Today marks the one-year anniversary of this deplorable event, which was recorded on Lao Government surveillance cameras. The United States remains deeply concerned over Sombath’s fate. Our thoughts are with Sombath’s family, friends, and the countless others in the international community who have been inspired by Sombath’s exemplary leadership and devotion to his country.
We welcome the recent statement by Lao President Choummaly Sayasone that the Lao Government is very concerned about Sombath’s disappearance and would continue its investigation and take all measures necessary to resolve the case. We look forward to learning the results of a full, thorough, and transparent investigation.
The United States values its partnership with Laos on a wide range of issues – including unexploded ordnance removal, health, education, combating trafficking in persons, environment, justice reform, counternarcotics, trade, and the search for our missing in action – and we wish to work constructively with Laos to protect human rights and promote the rule of law. Laos has taken steps in recent years to become a responsible partner in the community of nations. Sombath’s abduction threatens to undermine those efforts. We call on the government to take all actions possible to ensure his safe return to his family.