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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3390


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (13:32): Today, I would like to raise the disappearance in Laos of Mr Sombath Somphone, a leading humanitarian and community development worker. As evidenced by CCTV footage on 15 December 2012, Mr Somphone was abducted after being pulled over for questioning by state police in Vientiane.

The Laos government has asserted that there was no official involvement in his disappearance, but there does not appear to have been an investigation into his whereabouts. There are a number of critical questions that remain unanswered in relation to the CCTV footage; yet, the Laos government has refused the offer of technical assistance by several countries to examine the CCTV footage.

The issue has been raised by successive US secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, by the European Parliament and by 62 NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

We have a role to ensure that universal human rights are observed and upheld across the world but particularly in those places where we might have some influence. Australia is one of Laos' major aid donors. I encourage my parliamentary colleagues and the government to visit the website—www.sombath.org—that sets out the social justice contributions of Mr Somphone to the wellbeing of his fellow Lao citizens and the worrying circumstances of his disappearance; to join in international calls for the government of Laos to undertake prompt, transparent and thorough investigations in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law; and to ensure the immediate and safe return of Sombath Somphone to his family and community.