TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP) is deeply concerned about the sudden disappearance of the prominent Lao development visionary and educator Sombath Somphone.
TVEAP joins Asian and global appeals calling for his safe return.
Sombath was last seen in the Lao capital of Vientiane on the evening of 15 December 2012. He went missing while driving home that evening. Later, some murky video footage from a street-side close circuit TV emerged showing that he had stopped at a police checkpoint.
Concerned family, friends and development professionals across Asia and worldwide have called for his safe return. As at 4 January 2013, his whereabouts remain unknown.
The global campaigning organisation Avaaz has launched an online petition urging the Lao government “to conduct urgent and transparent investigation into the disappearance of one of its most respected civil society leaders”.
“Sombath is a long standing and much valued partner. He is a fellow traveller whose wisdom and experience has enriched us all over the years,” says TVEAP Director Nalaka Gunawardene.
Sombath has been a TVEAP partner from the late 1990s, and joined its International Board of Directors in 2006. He has been an advisor and collaborator in TVEAP’s Saving the Planet Asian regional project showcasing best practices in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
Sombath Somphone returned to Laos in 1980 after earning degrees in education and agriculture from the University of Hawaii. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to promote sustainable development through training and educating young people in Lao PDR.
In 1996, he founded Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC), a grassroots development and education organization. It won the UN-ESCAP Human Resources Development (HRD) Award for 2001.
In 2005, Sombath received the Ramon Magsaysay Award – often called Asia’s Nobel Prize -- in recognition of his efforts to promote sustainable development in Laos “by training and motivating its young people to become a generation of leaders”.
Read more about Sombath Somphone
Sombath was interviewed in September 2008 in Vientiane for TVEAP’s Saving the Planet Asian regional TV series, and excerpts appeared in the Lao story (It’s Alive!) that featured PADETC’s efforts to transform Lao education.
By releasing the full interview online today, TVEAP salutes the soft-spoken visionary who sought viable development alternatives where no one gets left behind.
Read transcript of the video interview
Filming PADETC and Sombath: TVEAP Producer Recalls…
In September 2008, TVEAP’s roving director/producer Pamudi Withanaarachchi, filmed PADETC’s field activity in Vientiane and also interviewed Sombath Somphone. Pamudi recalls her experience:
“When filming the Laos story for Saving the Planet series, I experienced first-hand the positive outcome of Sombath's approach to revolutionizing the education system of Laos. His student volunteers were very articulate, aware about the values and ethics of their work, had a deep-rooted appreciation of their own cultural heritage and knew where they were headed in their lives. While the youngest students enjoyed all the fun activities the volunteers implemented in the classroom, they also looked up to and admired the older volunteers as their role models.
What Sombath has created through PADETC is a self-replicating system. The younger children too eventually grow up to be successful individuals and role models for many others. Thanks to this comprehensive approach to learning, children grow up to be successful, educated individuals with a greater awareness of their place and role in the society.”
Photos courtesy: sombath.org website, facebook page
TVE Asia Pacific Image Archive