Sombath Somphone, winner of a 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award

Sombath Somphone, winner of a 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for social development work. The award is often considered Asia’s Nobel Prize.

Our Founder,
Sombath Somphone

Participatory Development Training Centre (PADETC) was founded by Sombath Somphone, the eldest son of a poor farming family from Ban Don Khio, Khammouane Province, Lao PDR. Sombath grew up experiencing poverty, hunger and insecurity first hand. In the 1960s, Sombath’s family sought temporary refuge in Thailand to escape the Indochina war. When the family was able to return to Laos, Sombath had to leave home again to continue his primary and secondary schooling, living with relatives in Thakek, Savannaketh and Vientiane.

By dint of hard work, he managed to obtain an exchange scholarship and in 1969 Sombath found himself in Wisconsin living with a family and attending senior year of high school there. Another scholarship from USAID in 1971 took Sombath to the University of Hawaii where he studied Education and Agriculture.

After completing his studies, Sombath decided to return home to Laos in 1979 and use his knowledge and skills to improve the lives of poor farmers like his parents and relatives. In 1980 he started the Rice-Based Integrated Farming System (RIFS) Project with the approval of the government and supported by foreign grants.

Through this project he trained farmers in improving food security through use of low-cost and eco-friendly technologies. He also trained scores of women and government employees in participatory planning for integrated rural development as a means to tackle rural poverty and to address the needs of not only farmers, but also other groups such as small entrepreneurs, women, and young people. It was through this experience that Sombath came to believe that to alleviate poverty, development approaches must be multidimensional and multi-sectoral. And he identified that, in the case of Laos where more than 50% of the population is below the age of 20, the country’s future hinges on engaging and building capacities of the Lao youth to find appropriate solutions to the development challenges confronting their community and society.

Sombath Somphone teaching life skills such as fishing to children

Sombath Somphone teaching life skills such as fishing to children, part of his philosophy to educate the whole person: head, hand and heart.

In 1996, Sombath founded the PADETC, which extended his earlier work in agriculture and rural development to include a range of projects for promotion of organic farming, sustainable energy, waste management, and rural handcrafts. In order to improve the livelihoods, PADETC also supported establishment of small and medium enterprises, especially for small rural and urban producers through training in business planning, product development, marketing, and access to micro-credit.

In all projects, young people are involved first to learn, then to participate, and then to lead. Teams of youth volunteers are trained in basic community development concepts, problem identification and analysis, mobilization skills, and leadership skills which they then use to spearhead activities in schools and communities. The emphasis, as explained by Sombath, is to get the young volunteers to “learn to think, to plan, to act, and to lead”.

Sombath Somphone (on right) with Desmond Tutu in 2006

Sombath Somphone (on right) with Desmond Tutu in 2006

In 2001, Sombath Somphone received the Human Resource Development Award for empowering the rural poor in Laos from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

In recognition for his tireless effort “to promote sustainable development in Laos by training and motivating its young people” to become leaders, Sombath Somphone was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005. Often called Asia’s Nobel Prize, the Magsaysay Award applauded Sombath’s contribution to Laos’ development through grass root mobilization and for his conviction that a nation’s future ultimately rests with harnessing the potential and creativity of its young. Sombath remains the only person from the Lao PDR to receive this award.

Sombath Somphone, Co-Chair of Asia-Europe People's Forum in Vientiane

Sombath Somphone, Co-Chair of Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Vientiane, October 2012

In 2012 Sombath and the PADETC staff decided to dedicate a considerable amount of their time and efforts to the organization of the Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), that was held from 16-19 October in Vientiane ( This forum was the first international Civil Society event in Lao PDR. In July 2012 Sombath announced his retirement from his position as Director of PADETC to have more time to focus on other activities, starting with his role as co-chair of the National Organizing Committee of the Asia-Europe People’s Forum. Sombath addressed an audience of over 1000 representatives from civil society across Europe and Asia as Lao key note speaker during the opening ceremony of the AEPF. The International Organising Committee of the AEPF have called Sombath one of the most respected and influential voices for sustainable people-centred and just economic and social development in Laos.

Sombath Somphone disappeared on 15 December 2012 in Vientiane, Lao PDR and has not been seen since. A website has been set up to help facilitate his return. It includes information, links to media coverage and advocacy initiatives. Visit:

ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນໄດ້ສ້າງຕັ້ງສູນອົບຮົມຮ່ວມພັດທະນາໃນປີ 1996 ເພື່ອສົ່ງເສີມການສຶກສາ, ທັກສະການເປັນຜູ້ນຳ ແລະ ການພັດທະນາທີ່ຍືນຍົງໃນ ສ.ປ.ປລາວ.

ທ່ານ ສົມບັດ ສົມພອນ ແມ່ນໄດ້ຫາຍຕົວໄປໃນວັນທີ 15 ທັນວາ 2012 ທີ່ ວຽງຈັນ, ສ.ປ.ປ ລາວ  ແລະ ຍັງບໍ່ທັນພົບຕົວຈົນເຖິງປະຈຸບັນ. ໄດ້ມີການສ້າງເວບໄຊເພື່ອຊ່ວຍຕາມຫາທ່ານຄືນກັບມາ ເຊິ່ງມັນລວມມີຂໍ້ມູນຂ່າວສານຕ່າງໆ ແລະ ສື່ທີ່ກ່ຽວຂ້ອງກັບທ່ານ. ທ່ານສາມາດເຂົ້າເບິ່ງໄດ້ທີ່


Comments are closed.