Laos, Thailand Crisis: Eight Senators Urge Action on Hmong
The letter was sent to Secretary Rice by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., May 21, 2008, In response to a series of recent events in Washington, D.C. and Southeast Asia, eight Senators from across the United States have sent a letter regarding the plight of some 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to intervene with Thai Prime Minister Samak to halt the forced repatriation of the refugees back to the communist regime in Laos.
The letter was sent to Secretary Rice on May 16, 2008 by Senator Patrick Leahy ( D-VT ), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse ( D-RI ), Senator Russell Feingold ( D-WI ), Senator Herb Kohl ( D-WI ), Senator Barbara Boxer ( D-CA ), Senator Dianne Feinstein ( D-CA ), Senator Norm Coleman ( R-MN ) and Amy Klobuchar ( D-MN ).
“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 letter, 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 horrific 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.
“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.
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
“Today, the United States has both political and moral obligation to reaffirm to the Royal Thai Government our special concern for the Hmong and to ask for firm assurances that there will be neither direct nor indirect pressures to force repatriation to Laos,” stated Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, Former U.S. Ambassador and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs ( 1981 – 1985 ) under the Reagan Administration. “ I am confident that the Government of France, especially Foreign Minister Kouchner, will work with the United States on this urgent initiative.”
Ambassador Douglas continued: “At the same time, the US Government must, without delay, deliver a clear and strong message to the Governments of Vietnam and Laos that we will not tolerate punitive actions or any nature of inhumane treatment against the Hmong, whether they be current permanent residents inside Laos or in the status of returned refugees from elsewhere in the region. Also, there must be vigorous international monitoring of the current and future well being of the Hmong inside Laos.”
Ambassador Douglas stated : “Administration support of the recent action of the US Congress to remove barriers to the resettlement of qualified Hmong refugees still in Southeast Asia is a key element in finding a solution to the current crisis of the Hmong in Thailand and Laos. Equivocation on the part of the Department of State would be shameful. Without immediate US leadership and demonstrations of meaningful concrete steps to work with the Thai Government on the Hmong issue, the Hmong will suffer yet more tragedies. They have no voice in their country of origin or in their country of temporary refuge.”
"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.
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
Schuyler Merritt, Research Director for the CPPA stated: “This letter is a historic opportunity for the U.S. Department of State to help 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.”
“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 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.
“We have testified, spoken and written to our Senators and Members of Congress 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.
The UNHCR and nearly a dozen third countries, including Canada, Australia, France and others have offered to assist with humanitarian aid, refugee screening and resettling the Hmong refugees and asylum seekers.
Anna Jones or Philip Smith
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite #212 Washington, D.C. 20006 USA
Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444 Fax ( 202 ) 207-9871
Washington, D.C. Contact: Anna Jones or Philip Smith Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444
This story was released on 2008-05-22. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date. See our disclaimer for additional information.