Sombath Somphone left his office in his car on 15 December 2012. Police stopped him at a checkpoint on Thadeua Road, in Vientiane's Sisattanak district. Video footage from a traffic camera appears to show that he got out of his car to speak with police. A motorcyclist arrived and drove off with Sombath Somphone's car. A truck with flashing lights then arrived, and Sombath Somphone was taken to the truck and driven away.
The Laos authorities have denied arresting Sombath Somphone and deny any responsibility for his disappearance, saying that he may have been abducted as part of a private dispute after being stopped by police for a routine document check. Several statements issued by the police provide little information or detail and show a lack of thoroughness and urgency.