Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 5 April 2019

It is no longer just an opinion that thus far Royal Commissions of Inquiry (RCI) in Malaysia are regarded as a mere stalling device by the ruling coalition in the face of citizens’ outrage over gross injustice and government indifference. The suggestion by the Pakatan government that yet another RCI will be set up to look into the enforced disappearance of several Malaysian activists has strengthened the suspicion that RCIs in our country have been reduced to “Royal Cosmetic Institutions”.

Any leader of a genuine democratic country founded on the defence of human rights would have responded to such a finding by its National Human Rights Commission by demanding answers from the Police Chief and Home Minister and seeking the immediate release of these “disappeared” Malaysians.



Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 4 April 2019

By labelling as “hearsay”, Suhakam’s findings that pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat are victims of “enforced disappearances” by the Malaysian Special Branch, the Prime Minister shows contempt for the country’s Human Rights Commission and for the precious right to human liberty.

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) is neither an amateur nor insignificant organisation.  Suhakam was set up in 1999 as a serious state-sponsored and state-funded entity  under an act of the legislature with the broad objective of protecting and promoting human rights. Suhakam has held extended public inquiries into the disappearances of Koh, Amri, and two others missing — pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife, Ruth Hilmi — under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act. Headed by three senior respected commissioners, the inquiry into Koh’s case took place over 21 days and heard 16 witnesses.

Any leader of a genuine democratic country founded on the defence of human rights would have responded to such a finding by its National Human Rights Commission with deep concern and an immediate demand for a) answers from the Police Chief and Home Minister and b) the immediate release of these “disappeared” Malaysians. Instead, the PM has disappointed us with his “business as usual” response:

“I don’t know if they (Suhakam) have evidence to prove this is what happened. If they have, of course, we will take it up…But please remember this did not happen during our time. It happened under the previous government. A lot of things were hidden from us and the public,” he said.

Mahathir said Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohamad Fuzi Harun will retire soon and that he will be allowed to retire first “… then we will have another IGP who will conduct the investigations.” Fuzi was the former Special Branch chief at the time of the said disappearances.

Such a lackadaisical response by the PM to this unprecedented indictment of the Malaysian Police for such a heinous crime is unacceptable. If the culprits are not apprehended and dealt with severely, no Malaysian will ever trust the Malaysian Police to act with fairness, justice and professionalism.

We expect nothing less than a Special Task Force under the Prime Minister to immediately get to the bottom of this disgraceful blemish on the Malaysian Police Force and its Special Branch in order that these missing Malaysians may regain their liberty and to end the anguish of their long-suffering families. Nothing short of a radical overhaul of the whole Malaysian Police Force, its Special Branch and the Home Ministry can salvage our country from being associated with repressive regimes and banana republics. We remind the PM of the oft quoted judicial dictum that the liberty of any person – hence habeas corpus writs – must be attended to EXPEDITIOUSLY.


Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 4 April 2019

The conclusion by the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) public inquiry that Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh, who vanished in 2016 and 2017 respectively, were victims of enforced disappearance is the most serious indictment against the Malaysian Police to date. Suhakam has also concluded the perpetrators were members of the Special Branch.

Throughout the years since the enforced disappearance of these men, the police and the Home Ministry have maintained an unacceptable nonchalance. They have consistently refused to acknowledge that they played any role in the abduction and/ or whereabouts of the disappeared persons. Now they have been fingered as the abductors of these two hapless men, those in the Special Branch, the IGP as well as the Home Ministry who ordered the abductions must be brought to book.

The Prime Minister and the Attorney General must step in without a moment’s delay to ensure the release of these two men and to deal with all those responsible for their enforced disappearance.

Enforced disappearance refers to the arrest, detention or abduction of a person, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the fate of that person. In this case, Suhakam has concluded that the agents of the Malaysian State, namely, the Special Branch of the Malaysian Police Force perpetrated this crime.

Enforced disappearance is a heinous crime in international law. Such arbitrary detention is not only a violation of the rights of the victims but also of their families, often equated with psychological torture. A disappeared person is also at a high risk of torture and other human rights violations, such as sexual violence or even murder. Systematically perpetrated against civilians, it is considered a crime against humanity.

Enforced disappearance is frequently used as a strategy to spread terror within society. The feeling of insecurity and fear it generates is enormous for the close relatives of the disappeared, and also affects communities and society as a whole. Those most at risk include human rights defenders, relatives of those already disappeared, key witnesses and lawyers.

“New Malaysia” must never tolearate the enforced disappearances largely used by military dictatorships and banana republics. We therefore call on the Prime Minister to secure the immediate release of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat and to bring the perpetrators of this despicable crime to justice. Only then can we salvage the already damaged reputation of Malaysia as a democratic country that respects the rule of law and human rights.

Laos: Five years on, 122 organizations worldwide demand to know: “Where is Sombath?”

On the fifth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, express outrage at the Lao government’s failure to independently, impartially, effectively, and transparently investigate Sombath’s disappearance, reveal his whereabouts, and return him to his family.

The Lao government’s continued silence and obfuscation of the facts around Sombath’s enforced disappearance have subjected his family to five years of fear and uncertainty over his fate and whereabouts, which remain unknown to this day.

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. His abduction was captured on a CCTV camera near the police checkpoint. The footage strongly suggests that police stopped Sombath’s vehicle and, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also appears to show an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center before returning sometime later.

The fact that police officers appeared to have witnessed Sombath’s abduction and failed to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ involvement in, or acquiescence to, Sombath’s disappearance. Despite this evidence, the Lao authorities have not presented any new findings with regard to their investigation of the case. Despite claiming in various international fora that the investigation is “ongoing”, the government has not issued an official report on the investigation’s progress since 8 June 2013.

Sombath’s case is not the only case of an unsolved enforced disappearance in Laos. Lao authorities have failed to provide information on the fate or whereabouts of many other individuals, including community activists, who have been victims of enforced disappearance.

The Lao government’s failure to undertake adequate investigations into all cases of enforced disappearances violates its obligations under international human rights law, including Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Laos is a state party.

We urgently call on governments worldwide to demand that the Lao government immediately provide information on Sombath’s fate or current whereabouts, and other details surrounding Sombath’s enforced disappearance, as well as all other cases of enforced disappearance, in order to determine the victims’ fate or whereabouts. Lao authorities should commit to making the findings available to family members of the disappeared, and provide regular public updates on their progress on all cases of enforced disappearance. The Lao government should also ensure that those responsible for enforced disappearance, regardless of title or rank, are held accountable in trials that comply with international fair trial standards.

Lastly, we strongly urge the Lao government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, incorporate its provisions into the country’s domestic legislation, and implement it in practice.

1. Accion Ecologica

2. Al Haq

3. Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS)

4. Amnesty International

5. Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA

6. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

7. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

9. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)

10. Association for Law, Human Rights and Justice (HAK)

11. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP)

12. Awaz Foundation Pakistan – Centre for Development Services

13. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

14. Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) – Friends of the Earth Bangladesh

15. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)

16. Bank Information Center

17. Bytes for All

18. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)

19. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

20. Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) – Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka

21. Centre for Environmental Justice

22. Centre for Financial Accountability

23. Centre for Human Rights and Development

24. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)

25. China Labour Bulletin (CLB)

26. Christian Development Alternative (CDA)

27. Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED)

28. Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement 11.11.11

29. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)

30. Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC)

31. Covenants Watch

32. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)

33. DIGNIDAD (A Life of Dignity for All)

34. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

35. Empowering Singaporeans


37. Fastenopfer Switzerland

38. FIAN International

39. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

40. Finnish Asiatic Society

41. Finnish League for Human Rights

42. Focus on the Global South

43. Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific

44. Friends of the Earth Australia

45. Friends of the Earth International

46. Friends of the Earth Japan

47. Fundacion Solon

48. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict

49. Globe International

50. GZO Peace Institute

51. Haburas Foundation- Friends of the Earth East Timor

52. Human Rights Alert

53. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)

54. Human Rights Defenders Forum

55. Human Rights Defenders’ Alert

56. Human Rights Watch

57. Indian Social Action Forum

58. Indigenous Perspectives

59. Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association(PBHI)

60. Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)

61. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre

62. Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC)

63. Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)

64. International Accountability Project

65. International Commission of Jurists

66. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)

67. Italian League of Human Rights – LIDU

68. Jan Mitra Nyas

69. Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP)

70. Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)

71. Lao Movement for Human Rights

72. Latvian Human Rights Committee

73. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)

74. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) – Friends of the Earth Philippines

75. Liga lidských Práv (LLP)

76. Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH)

77. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)

78. Mangrove Action Project


80. Mekong Monitor Tasmania

81. Mekong Watch

82. Moroccan Association for Human Rights (Association Marocaine des Droits Humains/AMDH)

83. National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)

84. ND-Burma

85. NGO Forum on ADB

86. Odhikar

87. Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON) – Friends of the Earth Palestine

88. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)

89. People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)

90. People’s Watch

91. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

92. PILIPINA Legal Resource Center (PLRC)

93. Polish Society of Antidiscrimination Law (PSAL)

94. Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI)

95. Progressive Voice

96. Pusat Kumunikasi Masyarakat (Pusat KOMAS)

97. Re:Common

98. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU)

99. #ReturnOurCPF

100. Russian Social-Ecological Union (RSEU) – Friends of the Earth Russia

101. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) – Friends of the Earth Malaysia

102. Savitri Bai Phule Women Forum

103. School for Wellbeing Studies and Research

104. Sister’s Arab Forum (SAF)

105. Solidarité des Jeunes Lao

106. Sombath Initiative

107. Southeast Asia Development Program (SADP)

108. South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM)

109. Suan Nguen Mee Ma

110. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

111. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)

112. Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)

113. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)

114. The Corner House

115. Think Centre

116. Transnational Institute

117. Ulu Foundation

118. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights

119. Vietnamese Women for Human Rights

120. WomanHealth Philippines

121. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

122. World Rainforest Movement​

United Nations – 23 May 2017

The United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia expresses serious concern regarding the recent disappearances of community workers Amri Che Mat and Raymond Keng Joo Koh, and urges Malaysian authorities to urgently investigate the abductions of the two men associated with religious minority groups.

Mr. Che Mat, founder of the NGO Perlis Hope which provides assistance to the underprivileged, disappeared on 24 November 2016, and Mr. Koh, founder of Harapan Komuniti (Hope Community) that undertakes social and charity work among marginalized and underprivileged communities, disappeared on 13 February 2017. According to sources, both men were driving alone when they were forced to stop by a convoy of vehicles and swiftly taken away. Neither of the two men have been seen since. Mr Koh’s abduction was captured on CCTV, and footage showed at least eight masked individuals dressed in black taking him away. Despite official reports being lodged with police, the authorities have provided very little information on these two cases.

Mr. Che Mat had previously been accused of “deviant” Shia teachings in Malaysia, which endorses only the Sunni denomination of Islam. Mr. Koh, a Christian pastor, had previously been investigated by Malaysian religious authorities for “proselytizing Muslims” and had also received death threats due to his work.

“We are gravely concerned for the safety and well being of the two men and we fear they may have been abducted due to their community work,” said Laurent Meillan, acting regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office in Bangkok. “We call on the Malaysian Government to conduct a prompt investigation to establish their whereabouts, and to keep their families informed of any developments.

“Enforced disappearances are rare in Malaysia and it is deeply concerning that little progress has been made into these cases,” said Meillan.

The UN Human Rights Office calls on the Malaysian Government to urgently sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Original statement available at UN Bangkok Facebook