Hmong Laos Protesters Condemn Visit of Ambassador Ravic Huso to Minnesota
The Center for Public Policy Analysis and the families of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota, along with a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations condemned the visit of Ambassador Ravic Huso to St. Paul, Minnesota while Lao troops are engaged in ethnic cleansing and military attacks against the Hmong people in Laos.
(Media-Newswire.com) - The Center for Public Policy Analysis and the families of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota, along with a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations condemned the visit of Ambassador Ravic Huso to St. Paul, Minnesota while Lao troops are engaged in ethnic cleansing and military attacks against the Hmong people in Laos. They blasted Rep. Betty McCollum ( D-MN ), Senator Norm Coleman ( R-MN ) and Ambassador Ravic Huso for excluding, and not inviting the families of the three Hmong-American victims from St. Paul that are currently being jailed in Laos where they were arrested some seven months ago.
“We simply cannot think of a more offensive and inappropriate time for Ambassador Ravic Huso to be hosted in St. Paul by Rep. Betty McCollum and Senator Norm Coleman and to be seeking to promote the twisted logic of increased travel, tourism and business investement in Laos while the Lao military is attacking and starving to death thousands of unarmed Hmong civilians hiding in the jungles of Laos,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. “The Bush Administration’s policy failure in Laos and the stench of appeasement that hangs over the head of Rep. Betty McCollum and Ambassador Ravic Huso are simply unbearable and have cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Hmong and Laotians who have been killed and starved by the Lao military regime; moreover, Ambassador Huso, in Neville Chamberlain-like fashion, continues to seek to white-wash the Lao regime’s atrocities against the Hmong and appease the corrupt Lao military regime with U.S. taxpayers’ money. Additionally, it is unforgivable that on Ambassador Ravic Huso’s visit to St. Paul, Minnesota, he has utterly failed to telephone, contact and meet with the three St. Paul, Minnesota Hmong families whose loved ones were arrested and jailed in Laos and raise the case of Hakit Yang and the others, at the highest ambassadorial and diplomatic level with the Lao regime; he is acting in bad faith and it rises to the level of scandal along with the mishandling by the Bush Administration of the Bosnia and Darfur-like crisis facing the Hmong people in Laos,” Smith concluded.http://www.presszoom.com/story_144026.html
“We want Vietnamese and Laos troops to stop attacking the Hmong people and to stop the illegal logging and exploitation of the freedom-loving Lao and Hmong people in Laos,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. “We urge the Bush Adminstration, Ambassador Ravic Huso, and especially Rep. Betty McCollum and Norm Coleman to work to immediately stop their appeasement of the Lao regime and to aggressively work to free the peaceful Lao pro-democracy student leaders as well as Mr. Hakit Yang and the other three Hmong Americans from St. Paul that the regime continues to imprison without charge,” he continued. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1061830.html
Mr. Kenton Kue Xiong, President of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. of Minnesota and Wisconsin stated: “On behalf of the Lao Human Rights Council, we are gravely concerned about the atrocities taking place against our people in Laos by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, LPDR. As our U.S. Ambassador to Laos, we want to know what efforts you have taken on these humanitarian issues. Your U.S. tour agenda indicates that you will be promoting travel and business investment in Laos. . We believe that saving the lives of our relatives should take precedence over promoting LPDR interests.” http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1062130.html
Kenton Kue Xiong continued: “fearful of ill-treatment, arrestments, violence, retributions, and persecutions by the LPDR were factors driving thousands of Hmong families to inaccessible forest areas, which are strictly isolated from outside world.”
Schuyler Merritt, Research Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. made the following observations: “Current reports show that Laotian military forces are moving in on the isolated pockets of defenseless civilians still hiding in the jungles of Northern Laos. Most shocking, according to reports by Radio Free Asia and others, has also been the open declaration by the Laotian military that Lao soldier who kill Hmong in the jungles, ‘have been promised automatic grass-roots Communist Party membership and a one-step promotion, together with a reward of six million kip ( U.S. $600 ) per head’ It has also been reported that Vietnamese military and intelligence units are stationed near the Hmong in hiding, tracking the use of satellite phones which have been smuggled into Hmong trapped by the Lao PDR military.
Sadly, Mr. Ravic Huso, the current U.S. Ambassador to Laos claimed that he and the Bush dministration were, ‘respectful of human rights.’ By allowing some 8,000 Hmong refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchanbun Provice, Thailand, to be returned, the Ambassador has broken the trust given to him as a U.S. Ambassador. According to his statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, he promised to, ‘work steadfastly to encourage the Lao government to respect the rights of its minority ethnic groups.’ To date, there has been no change except to increase military action against the Hmong people for whom Ambassador Huso promised, ‘to work with the Lao and Thai authorities and appropriate international agencies to find durable solutions to the plight of the displaced Hmong.’ It is becoming quote obvious that the Ambassador has broken his promise to the U.S. Senate and the American people whom me represents.
Indeed, evidence from Medicine Sans Frontieres ( Doctors Without Borders ) has shown that many refugees in Thailand have wounds from military weapons and suffer severe psychological trauma from their time being chased through the Lao jungle by the Lao PDR military. Thailand is violating the jus cogens ( higher law ) of the international community prohibiting genocide and the complicity in genocide. By sending these people back to Laos under the guise of illegal economic migrant workers, Thailand is participating in and is actively supporting Lao PDR state sponsored genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in a campaign of terror which has lasted since the end of 1975,” concluded Mr. Merritt.
“Seven months have gone by since the arrest and disappearance of three US citizens, Hakit Yang, Congshineng Yang, and Trillion Yuhaison,” stated Sheng Xiong, wife of Hakit Yang, a U.S. citizen and Hmong-American from St. Paul who was arrested and jailed in Laos along with two additional Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota. Mrs. Xiong also serves as the spokesperson for the families of the other victims. http://www.presszoom.com/story_141061.html
Sheng Xiong continued: “We are deeply angered and disappointed by Ambassador Huso’s visit to St. Paul, Minnesota at the invitation of Rep. Betty McCollum and Senator Norm Coleman and his briefing to seek to promote travel, trade and business investment in communist Laos. It appears that Ambassador Huso is working to help the Lao regime cover-up the arrest and jailing of my husband in Laos and the ongoing killing and persecution of innocent Lao and Hmong people. To this day I have not received any updates, in recent months, about the investigation from the US Embassy in Laos nor the State Department about my husband. Ambassador Ravic Huso has never contacted me or my family or the other families.”
Sheng Xiong said: “The families and I are also upset and disappointed with Ambassador Ravic Huso for his personal lack of involvement on this issue, since he has never issued a public statement about the matter or raised the issue personally with the highest elements of the Lao government, and that there has been no new developments. Moreover, we were shocked and saddened that Ambassador Huso did not contact me to meet with myself and the other family members of the victims during his visit to St. Paul, Minnesota. Clearly, he is avoiding us and instead has appeased the Lao regime that is jailing my husband by granting tens of thousands of dollars in U.S. taxpayers money to the Lao regime for a library fund in Laos, as I understand it, almost immediately following the arrest and jailing of my husband and his two colleagues from St. Paul in Laos. This is outrageous.”
Sheng Xiong continued: “Moreover, we were equally astonished that the families and I were not invited by Senator Norm Coleman, Rep. Betty McCollum or Ambassador Ravic Huso to the briefing today in the Minnesota State Capitol, especially after we had been in close contact with Senator Coleman’s office and Rep. Betty McCollum’s office just days and weeks prior. Clearly, we do not fit into their sad and unbelievable agenda that seeks to defy the cruel and horrific reality of the situation in Laos and the fact that my husband and his two colleagues were arrested and are still being held by the Lao regime.”
“By way of background, it is important to note and stress the facts of the case, including the fact that A US Embassy staff confirmed with local Lao authorities that three US citizens from St. Paul, including my husband were arrested by Lao military officials in Laos, however, to this day no pressure has been put on the LPDR regime to grant access to Hakit, Congshineng and Trillion who were arrested in the presence of witness'. LPDR claims that the men crossed the Lao/Thai Friendship Bridge. However, despite repeated requests for the departure cards, none have been provided. I respectfully ask that the US Government and US Embassy in Laos continue their investigation on the arrest and disappearance of Hakit, Congshineng and Trillion. LPDR needs to grant immediate access to the men,” Sheng Xiong observed.
“We are deeply offended by Ambassador Huso’s failure to meet with us in St. Paul and the exclusion of us from his meetings. He never called or telephoned us. His efforts to promote trade and travel and business investment in Laos by United States citizens in St. Paul represents a major policy failure on the part of Bush Administration, Senator Coleman and Rep. Betty McCollum, especially while my husband and the two other Hmong-Americans from Laos are being jailed and imprisoned by the Lao regime without charge or due process and the Lao government continues to kill and persecute the Hmong people as documented by Amnesty International and journalists. We are also deeply offended by Rep. Betty McCollum’s, and Senator Norm Coleman’s, failure to invite us to the events in St. Paul with the U.S. Ambassador Huso,” Mrs. Xiong concluded.
The following is the statement of Mrs. Sheng Xiong presented in the U.S. Congress on January 31, 2008 regarding her husband and the two Hmong-Americans arrested and jailed in Laos:
Statement of Mrs. Sheng Xiong Wife of Hakit Yang & Spokesperson For Families of Two Additional Hmong-American Citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota Currently Being Jailed in Laos by The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) Regime --
Before the US Congressional Forum & Briefing on Laos Jan. 31, 2008 122 Cannon House Office Building U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515 _______
“The U.S.Government granted Normalized Trade Relations ( NTR ) to Laos in 2005. Today, it encourages citizens to consider foreign investments in the communist state despite the country's atrocious human rights records and the unjustified arrest, jailing and continued detention of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota including my husband Mr. Hakit Yang.
On July 10, 2007, Hakit Yang, Congshineng Yang and Trillion Yuhaison departed the United States for Laos to pursue business investment opportunities. The men were staying at the #5 Guest House in Phousavan, Laos when they were arrested by secret police forces. They were detained in Phonthong Prison and later transferred to an unknown destination. Several unofficial reports suggest they are being detained in the North of Laos near the Vietnam border.
The last phone call and communication was received from Yuhaison on August 26, 2007 at approximately 9:00 am ( CST ). Yuhaison called Hakit's older brother Xai Yang, and stated that he was calling from a security guard’s cell phone and confirmed that all three men had been arrested without warrant. Yuhaison sounded very worried and wanted Xai to contact the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane right away.
A US Embassy staff confirmed with local Lao authorities that three US Citizens were arrested, however, the authorities refused to release any names. According to the U.S. Embassy, the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs could not confirm the situation over the phone, but it appeared they knew about the cases.
The U.S. Embassy contacted the Lao government who denied having any record of the men entering their country and any U.S. Citizens being detained or arrested. Later, the Lao government changed their previous denials and admitted that the men did indeed entered Laos, but allegedly claimed that they had allegedly departed Laos via the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge on August 29, 2007. Despite repeated requests from the US Embassy no departure cards have ever been produced as evidence for their departure. Other documents produced are clearly bogus and fabricated allegedly claiming to support the Lao government’s false claims that my husband and the other two departed from Laos to Thailand, which is not factual.
It has been many months since the arrest and disappearance of Hakit Yang, Congshineng Yang and Trillion Yuhaison. To this day, our family has not received any concrete answers from the US Embassy in Laos nor the State Department. I have been in contact with the other men’s families and they also have not received any answers.
The US Government and US Embassy have a responsibility to inform US Citizens that there are no real protections in place to safeguard their civil and legal rights. The US Government has failed to properly hold the Laos Government accountable for the disappearance of these US investors.
Hakit, Congshineng, and Trillion represent the first of many US investors and tourists to travel to Laos under the new Normalised Trade Relations agreement but their disappearance clearly proves that no US Citizen is safe in Laos and no US citizen should invest in the current Lao regime until proper protections can be put in place, to safeguard the civil, legal and human rights of all US Citizens traveling to Laos.
I respectfully ask that the US Government and US Embassy in Laos continue to investigate the arrest and disappearance of Hakit, Congshineng, and Trillion and to press the Lao government for humanitarian access to the three U.S. citizens and their unconditional and immediate release.
The Lao government continues to jail my husband and the two other Americans from St. Paul that he was traveling with in clear violation and contempt of international law. Lao and Hmong Americans should not invest in the current regime in Laos, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. NTR Trade Status to Laos should be revoked by the U.S. Congress; and, U.S. foreign aid and assistance to the Lao regime should also be cut by the U.S. Congress and U.S. Government completely, including all de-mining funding, until at least such time as my husband Hakit Yang, Congshineng and Trillion, as Hmong-American citizens, are released from prison in Laos and brought home safely to America and their homes and families in St. Paul, Minnesota.
We will not forget and not give up fighting until we have truthful answers and the Lao regime releases Hakit Yang, Congshineng and Trillion. We appeal to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Government and international community for assistance in pressing the Lao regime to release our family members and restore human rights and freedom to them so that we can be reunited and these American citizens can return home once again from this terrible darkness,” Sheng Xiong.
--- Contact: Anna Jones
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