Thailand, Samak Crisis: Senators Respond to Hmong Crisis, Hunger Strike
In response to a series of recent events in Washington, D.C. and Southeast Asia, eight U.S. Senators have sent an urgent letter regarding the plight of some 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand to the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, urging her to intervene rapidly with Thai Prime Minister Samak to stop the forced repatriation of the refugees to Laos.
(Media-Newswire.com) - In response to a series of recent events in Washington, D.C. and Southeast Asia, Senators from across the United States have sent a letter regarding the plight of some 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand to the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, urging her to intervene rapidly with Thai Prime Minister Samak to stop the forced repatriation of the refugees to Laos.
Doctors Without Borders ( Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF ) currently provides medical and humanitarian relief to the 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees in Petchabun, Thailand and has raised concerns about the forced repatriation and plight of the Hmong refugees. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/pr/release.cfm?id=2131
“Given the current 7,000-strong Hmong hunger strike in Thailand and relentless military attacks by the Lao regime , we applaud the recent U.S. Senate, signed by eight Senators, urging Secretary Rice to rapidly intervene with Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak to avert the forced repatriation of some 8,000 Lao and Hmong refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand back to Laos,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. “The Senate letter helps to address the Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand and Laos by insisting on an internationally monitored refugee screening program, possibly operated by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees in cooperation with Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ) and other NGOs,” Smith said.
Prime Minister Samak was heavily criticized in Washington and internationally for the use of Thai Army attack dogs against a group of Hmong refugees at the refugee camp in Petchabun Province, Thailand, earlier this year when a group were forced back prior to his visit to Laos. http://media-newswire.com/release_1061830.html
Responding to the crisis in Laos and Thailand facing the Lao Hmong people, the Senators' letter calls for three necessary actions on the part of the U.S. government, particularly the Department of State: to encourage third party monitoring of the refugee screening in Thailand, to join members of the international community to provide a new home for the refugees trapped in Thailand, and at the very least work to ensure third party monitoring of any Hmong repatriated back to Laos.
"The signatory Senators of this letter to Secretary Rice should be congratulated for their significant step to rescue the Hmong trapped in Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp and Nong Khai Immigration Detention Center. Their leadership is vital to create a will to rescue these innocent Hmong refugees who have been suffering from extreme fear of persecution if forcibly returned to Laos," said Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of Tragic Mountains which details the Hmong association with the U.S. under three U.S. Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. http://www.tragicmountains.org
"Aware of the extraordinary efforts by the current government of Laos 'to wipe out' the Hmong who allied themselves with the U..S in the Lao theater of the Vietnam War, " said Hamilton-Merritt, speaking in Washington at the Vietnam Memorial, "forcing these vulnerable people back to Laos is unconscionable and immoral."
The killing of innocent Hmong in Laos by the Lao authorities over the years and the threatened Thai repatriation of Hmong refugees back to their tormentors and torturers in Laos is unacceptable. An honorable nation can not allow its former staunch allies to be so victimized," added Hamilton-Merritt, a Nobel Peace Nominee for her human rights works on behalf of the Hmong and others in Laos.
Schuyler Merritt, Research Director for the CPPA stated: “This letter is a historic opportunity for the U.S. Department of State to provide amnesty for people suffering from the aftermath of aiding U.S. military interests in Southeast Asia; Clearly, this letter helps give the Hmong refugees of Ban Huay Nam Khao, Phetchabun Province, Thailand a fighting chance to avoid forced repatriation and a strong voice in the American decision making process.”
“Helping these refugees, beleaguered decendents of former American allies in Southeast Asia, would provide a significant boost to United States credibility in Southeast Asia and around the world,” Schuyler Merritt concluded.
“The Lao government is using food as a weapon against the Hmong people,” stated T. Kumar, of Amnesty International at a U.S. Congressional Forum session on Laos held earlier this year in the U.S. Congress.
“Our meetings in the U.S. Congress, and our letters to our elected officials, this past week and in recent months have stressed the need for the United States Senate and House of Representatives to intervene to urge to immediately stop the forced repatriation of the Hmong refugees at Nong Khai and Huay Nam Khao back to Laos,” stated Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President of the Lao Veterans of America Institute.
On May, 15, 2008, a special session of the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos and Congressional staff briefing was held in the U.S. Congress regarding the crisis facing Hmong refugees in Laos and Thailand. The Lao Veterans of America, and Colonel Wangyee Vang, participated and spoke along with other organizations and Members of Congress and their staff.
On May 16, 2008, Lao Veterans of America National Recognition and memorial ceremonies were held at Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam Memorial to honor Lao and Hmong veterans and their American advisors who served during the Vietnam War and to remember those still left behind in Thailand and Laos. Congressional meetings and briefings were concluded on Monday, May 19 on Capitol Hill. http://media-newswire.com/release_1066798.html
“We have testified, spoken and written to our Senators urging that efforts be made to save our suffering Lao and Hmong people from forced repatriation and military attacks in Laos and Thailand,” stated Chong Toua Kue, Lao Hmong Community leader and refugee advocate in Rhode Island.
“We want the Lao government’s brutal killing of the Lao and Hmong people to stop; we want the military attacks by the Lao Army and Vietnamese Army in Laos to stop, and we want the international community to help end the ethnic cleansing in Laos and bring true peace and human rights to our suffering people,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. ( ULDL ).
The ULDL held a national policy conference on May 1 in Washington, D.C. regarding human rights violations in Laos. On May 2, the ULDL held a demonstration in front of the Lao Embassy in Washington, D.C. to protest the attacks and killings directed against Lao and Hmong dissidents and opposition groups in Laos, including unarmed Hmong civilians.
“We are appealing to Prime Minister Samak and the Thai government to heed the recent letter of the U.S. Senate and immediately stop the forced repatriation of the Lao Hmong people at Nong Khai and Ban Huay Nam Khao so that they can be resettled in third countries,” stated Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Lao Human Rights Council in Green Bay, Wisconsin and St. Paul, Minnesota.
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