Enforced disappearances remain a major concern in Asia

In 2012, the annual report of the UN working group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances reported 5676 cases of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka, 621 in the Philippines and 458 in Nepal, among other countries.

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Photo by: trokilinochchi (Flickr)

See the complete report here.

These cases would be only a portion of the actual number due to the difficulties of officially reporting cases of disappearances. Many relatives of the missing might fear punishment from the authorities, especially in countries under repressive regimes or continuing armed conflict.

Among the missing there are many  high profile cases such as the one of Somchai Neelapaijit, the chairman of the Thai Muslim Lawyers Association, who disappeared nine years ago while providing legal assistance to Muslims accused of involvement in violence against security forces.

In Laos, prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone went missing in December 2012 after being stopped by police at a checkpoint (see previous posts here) , and in Tibet, the Panchen Lama was just six years old when he was put under protective custody at an undisclosed location by the Chinese authorities in 1995.

According to Parameswaran Ponnudurai’s article, the crime of enforced disappearance is not recognized by most Asian governments and only four Asian countries—Japan, Kazakhstan, Iraq and Cambodia—  have ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.