“Listening to the People’s Voice”

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“Listening to the People’s Voice” Soumaly 12/23/12 8:23 PM
•It is notable that in the leadup to the Asia-Europe People’s Forum,
and the ASEM Summit in Vientiane, Sombath Somphone was a co-author of
a opinion piece entitled “Listening to the People’s Voice”.

Under pressure from persons in the Government of Laos, both authors
were forced to issue a retraction of the statement. The authors issued
a statement saying that it was a draft document and this draft
document that was widely distributed that may cause the dissapearance
of Ai Sombath.

Below is the original ‘draft’ document.

————

“Listening to the People’s Voice”

By Minh H. Pham and Sombath Somphone

October 8th, 2012

In one week, Vientiane will host a key forum as part of the run-up to
next month’s Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Lao PDR, where leaders of
48 nations will work to strengthen their relationship on development
issues of common interest. This crucial preliminary event, from 16 to
19 October, is the 9th Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), with a theme
of “People’s Solidarity Against Poverty and for Sustainable
Development.”

This theme is especially fitting for Lao PDR. In many parts of the
country, the struggle against poverty and the pursuit of sustainable
and dignified livelihoods continue to be major challenges despite
steady national economic growth during the last decade.

To contribute to the overall “people’s visions” expected to emerge
from the AEPF, a series of extraordinary grassroots consultations has
been undertaken in Lao PDR to gauge the “pulse” of public sentiment on
how the country is moving forward.

These grassroots consultations did not measure income or material
poverty. Instead, they adopted an innovative approach focused on clear
concepts that are easily understandable by all: “happiness” (khouam
souk in Lao) and “suffering” (khouam thuk). This first-of-its-kind
exercise produced very interesting results.

Across all 16 provinces, highly diverse groups were asked to identify
issues that affect their own personal “happiness” or “well-being” as
well as their “suffering” or “poverty.” These included not only
ordinary villagers and workers, women’s representatives, and local
Government officials, but also business owners, monks, people with
disabilities, HIV-positive people, and young people.

Building on a consensus at the personal level, the groups then
explored issues of “happiness” and “suffering” at the societal level
by relating these to four pillars of development – economy, culture,
nature and spirituality – and further ranking the three top issues
under each pillar.

Full data from the consultations are still being consolidated and
analyzed, but preliminary findings can be grouped into four major
themes that emerged as contributing most to the people’s “happiness”
or “suffering”:

a) Good governance. Across all social groups, the people strongly
emphasized the need for wise leadership and good governance as the
fundamental basis for influencing happiness in multiple domains. In
particular, they repeatedly stressed the need to consistently enforce
laws and ensure social justice as precursors to social equity. This
would indicate a keen interest in strengthened public service
delivery, transparency and a role for the nascent civil society to
contribute to inclusive development.

b) Improved sustainable livelihoods and social protection. Most people
also were concerned with having an adequate income to provide a decent
standard of living and financial security, as well as with having a
range of economic opportunities. Continued strong policies will be
needed to proactively improve the enabling environment for a
job-creating private sector, including in manufacturing, tourism, and
higher-value-added agriculture.

c) Good health and adequate education. People highly valued
accessibility to and establishment of good schools, with good teachers
and spacious classrooms. Their overall satisfaction with their health
reflected not only their actual physical condition, but also their
emotional and psychological well-being. If health and education are
strong components of “happiness,” then there is every reason for their
continued enhancement to be policy priorities of the state.

d) Protection of natural resources. Natural resource-based
economic growth, underpinned by expanding Foreign Direct Investment,
is pressuring traditional livelihoods and valuable environmental
assets. In turn, the findings showed, this is leading to widespread
“suffering.” Many rural Lao families and communities retain serious
concerns about land security. At the same time, deforestation is
severe and non-sustainable land and water use are rising. People want
policies that will ensure sustainable natural resource management and
effective adaptation to climate change.

Now, how do we use these clear public messages to inform where the
country is heading at this crucial time? How do we integrate them into
national debates and planning or budgeting mechanisms?

The Government has one critical opportunity during the 2013 mid-term
review of implementation of the 7th National Socio-Economic
Development Plan (NSEDP), when such observations could be used to help
fine-tune some of the Plan’s valuable goals. Another key opportunity
could emerge if the National Assembly holds a special session in the
coming months todiscuss and debate the people’s observations.

Looking further ahead, the results also could help to influence the
formulation of the next NSEDP in 2014, helping to ensure that Lao PDR
achieves the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the following year
and graduates from Least Developed Country status by 2020. Lastly, all
this could be profitably integrated into the objectives of the post-
MDG global development paradigm, as well as into the shaping of Lao
PDR’s future Vision 2030.

The people have spoken. We encourage the Government to make a
substantive response, so that this becomes a true national dialogue on
common development concerns and interests as Lao PDR moves forward.



Minh H. Pham is the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Lao
PDR and the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development
Programme.

Sombath Somphone, founder of Participatory Development
Training Center (or PADETC), Magsaysay laureate, and Co-chair of the
National Organizing Committee for AEPF9.
For more news about the AEPF9, visit http://www.aepf9.info/
Re: “Listening to the People’s Voice” Soumaly 12/23/12 8:43 PM
Man, if this writing is really causing the disappearance of Ai
Sombath--I don't know if I will ever step in the land of paradise of
His Excellency  or not since my writing is far worse than this.

Love and kisses
Soumaly
Re: “Listening to the People’s Voice” nottoo...@yahoo.com 12/24/12 3:52 AM
 I concur.  There may be something else we don't know about which caused Mr. Sombath Somphone's disappearance...and who knows?

Re: “Listening to the People’s Voice” nottoo...@yahoo.com 12/24/12 4:43 AM
This is about Mr. Sombath's disappearance...
http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-275-2012
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LAOS: Somphone Disappearance --- Test for Laos as World Watches
 
December 22, 2012 The inaction of the Laotian Government with regard to the enforced disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone on December 15th is worrying. The Asian Human Rights Commission joins the request made by civil society groups and the diplomatic groups inside Laos, and echoed by numerous international groups and institutions, including the European Union and the United Nations, for immediate investigation in order to safeguard Mr. Sombath, whose whereabouts still remain unknown.

Mr. Sombath, 60, is a veteran community activist who, in 1996, founded Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC), a nongovernmental organization, where he has continued work, even after stepping down from the position of executive director earlier this year. A recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005, Mr. Sombath has been recognized for his pursuit of small-scale people-centered socio-economic upliftment, using a variety of avenues, more recently in the areas of youth training and handicraft, for the people of Laos.

According to information collated, on the evening of December 15, Mr. Sombath was driving his jeep in Laos-capital Vientiane, following the car driven by his Singaporean wife Ng Shui Meng to their home from office for dinner, when he was hailed down by two policemen on Thadeu Road. Recorded footage of a screening of what is purported to be the closed-circuit television capture of the incident, available on the internet, shows the arrival of an unidentified man on motorcycle, who hurries over to the police post where Mr. Sombath is being questioned, soon after Mr. Sombath steps out of his jeep. Later, the same motorcyclist appears to drive Mr. Sombath’s jeep away. The footage further shows the arrival of a white pick-up truck, with flashing hazard lights. In a recent interview, Ng Shui Meng has stated that the blurry footage that follows actually shows her husband being whisked away in the truck: “Now the footage showing the men escorting my husband into the truck was rather blurred because we took the footage off the monitor of the original CCTV footage at the Vientiane municipality police station, where we requested to view the CCTV footage.”

On Wednesday, the Laotian government has responded to the appeals and the footage of what appears to be an enforced disappearance by offering that it is “possible Mr. Sombath has been kidnapped perhaps because of a personal conflict or a conflict in business.” This statement by a Lao Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, appearing on the website of state news agency KPL, is reported to also argue that the men in the video cannot be identified and that there is no sign of anyone being forced into a vehicle, while also maintaining that “authorities concerned are currently and seriously investigating.”

There is speculation that Mr. Sombath has been targeted by a jittery Laotian government, concerned about his role in the Asia People’s Forum 9 (AEPF9) held in Vientiane recently, in the sidelines to the ministerial-level Asia Europe Summit. For the international community, this perceived attack against nongovernmental organizations follows the expelling of Anne-Sophie Gindroz, head of major Swiss-Aid agency from Laos, and has deepened a climate of fear.

Mr. Sombath, eldest son of a poor farmer, became a refugee in Thailand as a young boy, escaping the violence in Indo-China during a time when American aggression made Laos the most cluster bombed-place on the planet. Scholarship and USAID assistance saw Mr. Sombath complete his education in the United States, and following the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, return home in 1979 to begin work on sustainable agriculture and rural development.

The Asian Human Rights Commission joins voices that have raised concern for the safety and well-being of Mr. Sombath, a man recognized for having dedicated his life for the welfare of fellow Laotians. AHRC requests the government to allay the suspicions of the international community by conducting a swift and impartial investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath, so he may return to his family safely.
Re: “Listening to the People’s Voice” nottoo...@yahoo.com 12/24/12 5:34 AM
On Monday, December 24, 2012 11:23:05 AM UTC+7, Soumaly wrote:
This is another one about Mr. Sombath's disappearance.
http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-laos-activist-disappears-20121221,0,6117855.story