Searching for Sombath: What is Laos Hiding?

Sombath Somphone's wife, Ng Shui Meng, handles a 'missing person' poster of her husband at Saoban, a store selling Lao Village handicrafts that she established with her husband. (Photo credit: Gilles Sabrie/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Sombath Somphone’s wife, Ng Shui Meng, handles a ‘missing person’ poster of her husband at Saoban, a store selling Lao Village handicrafts that she established with her husband. (Photo credit: Gilles Sabrie/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator

It’s always in the eyes. When we meet with the families of the disappeared there are a range of messages in the eyes – from fear to loss to sorrow – but also an occasional flicker of hope. Dr. Ng Shui-Meng came to Washington, D.C. recently and expressed all these feelings plus one other – determination.

Ng Shui-Meng is demanding an explanation for the December 15, 2012, disappearance of her husband Sombath Somphone from a police checkpoint in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

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Will the President of Myanmar Keep His Promise?

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar's main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests. (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar’s main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images).

The veneer of progress is wearing thin in Myanmar. A year ago, the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, promised to release all prisoners of conscience. Earlier this year, to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day, the President ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. Now one year on from the promise to release all prisoners of conscience, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even more troubling is the fact that the government is arresting more prisoners of conscience.

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TAKE ACTION: New Photo Campaign for Disappeared Activist

Amnesty activists hold up "Where Is Sombath?" signs as part of a Flickr campaign to demand an investigation of his disappearance. (Photo credit: Amnesty International)

Amnesty activists hold up “Where Is Sombath?” signs as part of a Flickr campaign to demand an investigation of his disappearance. (Photo credit: Amnesty International)

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty International USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator

Amnesty International is launching a “Where Is Sombath?” photo campaign on Flickr.

Activists from around the world are asking the government of Laos to investigate the
disappearance of development worker Sombath Somphone, and we’ll do it through our voices, print, photos and more. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

3 Ways You Can Help End Torture in the Philippines

Activists in masks at an Amnesty International rally in Manila calling for an end to torture and human rights violations in the Philippines (Photo Credit: Jes Aznar/AFP/Getty Images).

Activists in masks at an Amnesty International rally in Manila calling for an end to torture and human rights violations in the Philippines (Photo Credit: Jes Aznar/AFP/Getty Images).

By Nerve Macaspac, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for the Philippines

Torture is illegal in the Philippines. Yet Philippine police and military continue to use torture to extract information or force an admission of guilt from individuals they arrest for alleged crimes.

Alfreda Disbarro was punched in her stomach and face by a senior police officer in Manila. Her eyes were poked and her head banged against the wall. The police accused her of being a drug pusher. This happened in October 2013 – four years after the country’s Anti-Torture Act was passed.

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Have You Seen What’s Happening in Thailand?

Protester raise three fingers representing liberty, brotherhood and equality during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok (Photo Credit: Piti A Sahakorn/LightRocket via Getty Images).

Protester raise three fingers representing liberty, brotherhood and equality during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok (Photo Credit: Piti A Sahakorn/LightRocket via Getty Images).

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator

Despite the sunny resorts and hot weather, current events in Thailand are far from a Thai Spring.

The Thai military declared martial law on May 20. A military junta, calling itself the National Council on Peace and Order (NCPO), led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, announced on May 22 that it was taking over the administration of the country. Thai Winter descends.

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How Many Different Ways Can the World Fail the Syrian People?

The U.N. now numbers the total of displaced persons in Syria at 6.5 million. 2.8 million  more have have fled the country and are now in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, overwhelming authorities in those countries (Photo Credit: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images).

The U.N. now numbers the total of displaced persons in Syria at 6.5 million. 2.8 million more have have fled the country and are now in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, overwhelming authorities in those countries (Photo Credit: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images).

How many different times can Russia and China stand against justice for human rights abuses in Syria?

Yesterday, Russia and China vetoed a French resolution before the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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SHOCKING: Gang-Raped Woman in Indonesia Faces Caning for Adultery

A crowd watches as a woman is caned by a sharia police officer dressed in black robes at a public square in Aceh, Indonesia's only province that practices partial sharia law (Photo Credit: Riza Lazuardi/AFP/Getty Images).

A crowd watches as a woman is caned by a sharia police officer dressed in black robes at a public square in Aceh, Indonesia’s only province that practices partial sharia law (Photo Credit: Riza Lazuardi/AFP/Getty Images).

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator 

Yes – you read this blog title correctly. Maybe you shook your head, gasped, blinked your eyes and re-read it. The answer to your sputtered question is: Shari’a laws in Aceh, Indonesia.

On May 1, a group of eight men stormed into the woman’s house in Langsa district, accused her of having an affair with a married man, gang-raped her and beat her male companion. Now, she may face being caned a maximum of nine times for the crime of adultery.

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Do You Know What Happened in Tiananmen Square in the Spring of 1989?

On April 27, 1989, 200,000 students marched from Peking University to Tiananmen Square (Photo Credit: PBS News).

On April 27, 1989, 200,000 students marched from Peking University to Tiananmen Square (Photo Credit: PBS News).

In April 1989, former general secretary and chairman of the Chinese Communist Party Hu Yaobang died of a heart attack. Hu advocated for political and economic reforms while in office.

He was forced to resign for taking a soft attitude towards the student protests in 1986. His death brought on the gathering of university students in large numbers in Beijing calling for affirmation of Hu’s view on democracy and freedom.

Within days, the student gatherings transformed into pro-democracy protests demanding freedom of the press and an end to corruption. Their demands drew wide public support. Workers and ordinary citizens joined in. Peaceful demonstrations took place in Beijing and throughout China.

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2 Quick Ways to Stand with At-Risk Journalists in Pakistan

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It was dusk in Lahore when Pakistani journalist Raza Rumi was attacked. Armed gunmen accosted his car in a busy commercial area and rained bullets down on it. His driver was critically injured and would die. By a miracle, Raza Rumi was spared.

The attack was one of several on Pakistan’s journalists whose efforts to get news and information out to the country’s public meet with opposition from just about everyone. In a new report, “‘A Bullet has been chosen for you:’ Attacks on Journalists in Pakistan,” Amnesty International presents just how deep the problem is and how roundly the blame can be applied.

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