Sombat – Somchai : Unforgettable Missing Life in ASEAN

Vithune Permpongsajaroen

by Wipawee Julamanee

Expecting integration of ASEAN, people always spot on various issue concerned their daily life such as an investment, goods exchange and wealth when ASEAN becoming AEC (ASEAN Economics Community) in 2015.

Recently, Somchai Neelapaijittr Fund coordinated with Justice for Peace Fund , The Thai People′s Network for Mekong (TERRA) and Amnesty International held the seminar on the topic "Human Rights in ASEAN Community : The Disappearance of Sombat Somphone and Somchai Neelapaijittr" at Faculty of Laws, Thammasart University.

This seminar presented the issue of human rights violation and background of ASEAN values in term of human rights. ASEAN citizen feel that they have no power to reach their rights while they have been intimidated by their state officers.

"Sombat Somphone", a 60 years old Ramon Magsaysay Award winning social activist graduated from faculty of Agriculture, Hawaii University. His family settled in the United State but he decided to returns to Laos with intention to develop the well-being base of Lao people.

He was abducted after police called on Thadueir Road, Vientiane in August 2012.

Ung Chui Mheng, Sombat′s wife sent her statement to join this seminar. It noted that :

"Disappearance of Sombat has made me understand that the mechanic of human rights in region is not available. The Human Rights declaration which noted about rules of laws and respect of civil rights has no efficiency and invalidity at all.

She added at present people think that it is not strange if someone is politically missing. Frequently, the government has threatened their citizen not to have any question.

Sombat′s colleague "Vithune Permpongsajaroen" an environment activist suggested that Sombat′s disappearance might come from parallel civil seminar along with the ASEM that Laos became the host of this conference at that time.

This civil society seminar was created in order to criticize the government. He believes that Laos authority had not expected that the Sombat case would become a big issue internationally.

Lastly, he said that we should not ignore to this violation. There is no way to stop this fear if we do not fight together to prevent anyone to be a victim anymore.

Another case, "Somchai Neelapaijittr", an advocacy who helped people in 3 provinces in southern of Thailand, was kidnapped after he complained about the police had tortured alleged offender in 2004.

"Angkana Neelapaijittra", Somchai′s wife said she did not know what she had to do after disappearance of her husband. Moreover, she never expected that she had to face with the vast international problem like this.

Now Angkana and her cooperators are rise up to call for justice and break the fear to create the system that can be protected base of human rights for everyone.

She reveals that last year there was a report from Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of United Nations (UN WGEID) cited that Thailand, Laos, Burma and Indonesia have reported about missing person while Malaysia, Combodia and Brunei have no report. In addition, UN WGEID states their aim to find out the actual situation in thailand but they were rejected by Thai government.

Now, although there is ASEAN Human Rights declaration, in reality, it doesn?t match up with Internationl Human Rights declaration. For example, in the part indicated that "Every person has the rights to an effective and enforceble remedy, to be determined by a court or other competent authorities, for acts violating the rights granted to that person by the constitution or by laws".

But this part of declaration doesn?t include the harmful actions from goverment. So, this declaration is criticized whether it have real capability to protect the fundamental human rights of people in ASEAN or not.

The culture of ASEAN has various difference in social construct, race also religion. It is obvious that many small-sized countries can live together without the strongly conflict because the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) indicated that they must not interfere to each other.

This condition has pressed the individual problem behind and finally been ignored. It is including the large gap in social class, we can find that many governments in ASEAN claimed the rights in abuse of power in order to maintain the security and stability of state.

If people cannot access their rights, how the 3 pillars of ASEAN community can be completed?