I raised Sombath’s disappearance with Laos’s then Foreign Minister, now Prime Minister, Dr Thongloun Sisoulith, when we opened the new Lao embassy in London in November 2014. Sombath’s disappearance was raised at the annual EU-Laos human rights dialogue in October. We will continue to highlight our interest in this particular case.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. In addition to the disappearance of Sombath, the whereabouts of three students arrested in 1999 and another nine arrested in 2009 are still unknown. Can my right hon. Friend update the House on what the UK is doing more generally about discussions with Laos on human rights?
Indeed I can. We have an annual EU-Laos human rights dialogue; the last one was held in October 2015, and the next is scheduled for the final quarter of 2016. The Laos Government agreed to establish a thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into Sombath’s disappearance following a British recommendation in Laos’s universal periodic review of human rights last year. We will not cease in pursuing this particular case and the others to which my hon. Friend alludes.