Concerns Regarding Thailand, Laos Prompt Letter to United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
A US Senate letter signed by five (5) Senators to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was released and discussed regarding these matters. The letter was signed by Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), Senator Norm Coleman (R-CA), Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
(Media-Newswire.com) - A series of US Congressional and Capitol Hill policy events, meetings and conferences were concluded in Washington, DC yesterday, by Lao and Hmong leaders and US and international policymakers regarding the serious human rights situation in Laos and refugee crisis in Thailand, which continues to dramatically worsen.
A US Senate letter signed by five ( 5 ) Senators to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was released and discussed regarding these matters. The letter was signed by Senator Russell Feingold ( D-WI ), Senator Norm Coleman ( R-CA ), Senator Herb Kohl ( D-WI ), Senator Amy Klobuchar ( D-MN ) and Senator Dianne Feinstein ( D-CA ).
Members of Congress and Lao-Hmong delegations from St. Paul, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Rhode Island, California, Connecticut, North Carolina Virginia and other states urged the Bush Administration and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to act in a timely manner to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and halt forced repatriation of Laotian and Hmong refugees and asylum seekers. Participants in the Capitol Hill events called for a stop to ongoing military attacks and ethnic cleansing operations by the Lao government directed at unarmed civilians.
Highlighting the national events was a US Congressional Forum on Laos and policy briefing which was held on Capitol Hill to discuss recent developments in Laos and Thailand regarding the current human rights, refugee and humanitarian crisis facing thousands of Lao and Hmong refugees. The event was held from 9:00 A.M-12:00 PM on January 31, 2008, in 122 Cannon, US House of Representatives.
The event was cosponsored by Members of Congress and US Senate in cooperation with the Center for Public Policy Analysis, the Lao Veterans of America, the Lao Human Rights Council, Lao Hmong American Students Association, the United League for Democracy in Laos, Southeast Lao Hmong Association for Justice and other Lao and Hmong human rights, non-profit and community-based organizations.
“Amnesty International released a major report in March of 2007 about the Lao and Hmong people trapped in the jungles of Laos; and it is clear from this report that the Lao government is continuing to use military attacks and food as a weapon to starve and kill the Laotian and Hmong people,” stated T. Kumar of Amnesty International in Washington, D.C. who served as one of the keynote speakers at the US Congressional Forum on Laos.
“The U.S. Senate letter is an important first step in urging the State Department and the Bush Administration to address the killing annd mass starvation of Hmong and Laotian civilians in the Lao jungle by the Lao Government; Indeed, a a recent Congress briefing on Laos, T. Kumar, of Amnesty International reported that only two Asian countries use food as a weapon against their own people--Laos and North Korea,” stated Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Southeast Asian historian and scholar, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for her human rights work on Laos and the Hmong people, and acclaimed author of the award-winning book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos,” ( Indiana University Press ). She was a key note speaker at the Congressional Forum on Laos and policy events.
“The current U.S. Senate letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding concerns about human rights violations in Laos and the plight of the Hmong people is helpful and an important preliminary move in the right direction; Moreover, the US Senate should continue to press the Bush Administration and U.S. State Department, as previously urged by the US Congress in House Res. 402, passed in 2004, to take more concrete action to help the suffering Lao and Hmong people and stop the Lao military’s intensified campaign of mass starvation and ethnic cleansing directed against unarmed civilians ,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis. Smith also serves as the Washington Director for the Lao Veterans of America.
“Currently, there is an all-out ethnic cleansing war that has been launched by the Lao military to wipe out the remaining 9,000-15,000 unarmed Hmong civilians hiding in the mountain jungles of Laos,” stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council. Vaughn Vang stated further:
“Our people are suffering and dying and we have waited for too long; we want all of the provisions and text of House Resolution 402, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2004, implemented by the Bush Administration and international community,” stated Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President of the Lao Veterans of America.
“We do not forget the ongoing imprisonment and brutal jailing of the peaceful Lao student demonstrators from the 1999 protests in Vientiane, Laos by the communist Pathet Lao regime and its secret police,’ said Khamphet Moukdarat of the United League for Democracy in Laos.
Concerns about the coercion and threatened forced repatriation by elements of the Thai Third Army of over 8,000 Laotian and Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun, Thailand and Nong Khai, Thailand were also discussed by participants at the events. A US Congressional letter signed by a coalition of Members of Congress appealing to the King of Thailand for assistance regarding this matter was read by the office of US Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ) who previously met with the Royal Thai Ambassador to the U.S.
The following is the text of the US Senate letter to US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice regarding the critical situation in Laos discussed and released at the Congressional Forum on Laos and Capitol Hill policy events:
From the U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510
Jan. 25, 2008
The Honorable Condolezza Rice Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20520
Dear Dr. Rice:
We are writing to express concern about the situation of Hmong living in the jungles of Laos.
As longtime advocates for legitimate Hmong refugees, we are concerned about ongoing reports of persecution of those who live in the jungles of Laos. It was our hope that, after the United States normalized trade relations with Laos, international human rights monitoring groups would be allowed greater access to this population. These groups would be able to better assess basic humanitarian needs, look into longstanding and potentially ongoing human rights violations, and improve accuracy in the reporting of localized fighting. However, we continue to be contacted by constituents who inform us that their relatives are still living in remote jungle locations in fear of persecution. We ask that you provide us with an update as to current U.S. efforts to promote more robust human rights monitoring of the Hmong people living in the jungles. In addition, we would like to know what steps the Laotian government has taken to improve its human rights record.
Thank you for your attention to this matter; we look forward to your prompt response.
Russell Feingold United States Senator
Norm Coleman United States Senator
Herb Kohl United States Senator
Amy Klobuchar United States Senator
Dianne Feinstein United States Senator
CC: Acting Assistant Secretary Samuel M. Witten -- Contact:
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite No.#212 Washington, D.C. 20006 Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444 Fax ( 202 ) 207-9871
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