Lao and Hmong political refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao camp Thialand continue their hunger strike and have released a statement from the camp about their demonstrations and hunger stike prior to fires that set the refugee camp ablaze following Thai military threats to the refugees of forced repatriation back to Laos. In Washington, D.C., eight U.S. Senators have urged Secretary Rice and Thailand's Prime Minister Samak to immediately halt the forced repatriation of some 8,000 Hmong refugees in the camp back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., May 23, 2008 - Lao and Hmong political refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao camp Thialand continue their hunger strike and have released a statement from the camp about their demonstrations and hunger stike prior to fires that set the refugee camp ablaze following Thai military threats to the refugees of forced repatriation back to Laos. In Washington, D.C., eight U.S. Senators have urged Secretary Rice and Thailand's Prime Minister Samak to immediately halt the forced repatriation of some 8,000 Hmong refugees in the camp back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled. http://media-newswire.com/release_1067016.html http://media-newswire.com/release_1066833.html
The U.S. Senate 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 ).
Early news media reports about only 30 some Hmong on a hunger strike in opposition to repatriation back to Laos were inaccurate and erroneous.
Parts of Ban Huay Nam Khao are on fire as additional Thai military troops reportedly entered the camp and arrested the new camp leader elected by the refugees and others. Reports of the Thai military preparing to forcibly repatriate 2,000 Hmong back to the regime in Laos they fled also sparked fear and concern in the camp.
“We urge the Thai government and Prime Minister Samak to immediately halt the forced repatriation of the over 8,000 Lao and Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai Detention center so that they can be resettled in third countries that have agreed to grant them asylum as political refugees,” stated Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Lao Human Rights Council.
In apparent response to a recent series 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 ( MSF ) currently provides relief to the Lao Hmong refugees in Petchabun, Thailand and has raised concerns about the forced repatriation and plight of the Hmong refugees. In a recent statement MSF stated issued on May 22, 2008: "Nearly 8,000 ethnic Lao Hmong currently confined to a guarded, barbed-wire enclosed camp controlled by the Thai military in the village of Huai Nam Khao in Petchabun province in northern Thailand face the imminent threat of a forced return to Laos. Many of these refugees have told the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières ( MSF ), the sole nongovernmental organization working in the camp, of a life in Laos spent fleeing violent attacks and persecution, witnessing the murder of family members, suffering rape, surviving bullet and shrapnel wounds, and enduring malnutrition and disease." http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=2714
“Given the fires now burning at the Hmong refugee camp in Petchabun and the current 7,000-strong Hmong hunger strike in Thailand, 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 fires and hunger strike at the refugee camp in Petchabun symbolize Hmong opposition to repatriation back to Laos and 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.
On May 20, 2008 the Lao Hmong refugees protesting and engaged in a hunger strike at Ban Huay Nam Khao Camp in Thailand issued the following joint statement:
"Currently, we are here demonstrating and protesting with over 7,000 Hmong political refugees who are continuing on a hunger strike in Ban Huay Nam Khao, out of population of some 8,000 since there are many young children that cannot do without food; 34 of the Hmong protestors on the hunger strike are very sick.
We have not eaten or drank for several days and continue to sit in the rain, and harsh sun light. We have been on strike during the day and night without rest.
We know that many of our Lao Hmong American family members are very concerned about the safety of their family members who are currently on hunger strike to protest against being sent back to Laos. We do not want to go back to the communist regime in Laos that we fled. We are all political refugees who have fled political persecution and ethnic cleansing in Laos.
We, the Hmong refugees on hunger strike, were former soldiers and descendants of the veterans who served with the U.S. government and military during the Vietnam War in Laos. We have been chased and hunted for the last 30 years by the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( Lao PDR ) government and military.
For the last 30 years, our Lao Hmong people have been attacked, persecuted, starved to death, tortured and killed by the Lao PDR regime leaving us with no where to live and nothing to eat. Wives, children, mothers, and fathers have all been killed by the Lao PDR Government. We are the few remaining who have risked our lives to escape from persecution to Thailand because we believe that Thailand is a country of freedom and peace; free from persecution and torture.
We have stayed, here, in Thailand for four years now, and we have faced mistreatment and isolation and threats of forced repatriation. Therefore, we have decided to unite and go on a hunger strike in order to bring peace and freedom to all our Hmong in Thailand and Laos; we do not want to return to Laos. We want to be resettled in third countries that have agreed to help us and take us in to give us political asylum.
We are urgently appealing to the United Nations, United States and non-governmental organizations, that the Thai government committing unjustifiable, inhumane acts towards us by seeking to pressure and force us back to Laos, including the use of Thai army attack dogs against our Hmong people and threats of force if we do not go back to Laos.
In Laos, the Lao PDR regime continuously persecutes, tortures, starves to death and kills our people; we have fled to Thailand but the Thai Government continuously persecutes and tortures us.
Therefore, we have 7,000 civilians, women, and children who have united to plea for the Thai Government to not return us back to Laos and to release us from Thailand into another country that is willing to accept us. We refuse to stay in Thailand and Laos. We are pleading to the UN, United States, Amnesty International, European Union, and the world community to stop the forced repatriation of our people from Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai detention center and free us and resettle us in third countries.
If we are to die from starvation and dehydration in Thailand during our hunger strike, we will be happy to die in this manner rather than die from persecution and torture from the Lao government.
If the UN, United States, Amnesty International, European Union, and the world community do not take us out Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp and Nong Khai Detention center in Thailand, we will be guaranteed to persecuted and we will continue to be imprisoned.
Furthermore, we will almost certainly be guaranteed to be sent back to Laos by some elements of the Thai government and some elements of the Thai military.
We are not animals; we are human beings and do not deserve to be treated, tortured, and slaughtered like animals by the Lao Government.
We do not want to be persecuted and forced back to Laos by elements of the Thai government and military. We deserve a life of freedom, justice, and human rights."
Contact: Anna Jones or Philip Smith
Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite No. #212 Washington, D.C. 20006 USA
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