Thailand, Laos: US Senators Urge Samak To Halt Hmong Crisis, Repatriation
The Center for Public Policy Analysis is releasing the text of the recent U.S. Senate letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging Thai Prime Minister Samak to cease the forced and involuntary repatriation of Hmong refugees. The U.S. Senate 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), Amy Klobuchar ( D-MN ) and Norm Coleman (R-MN).
(Media-Newswire.com) - In response to U.S. Congressional and international opposition to the repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand back to Laos and recent protests, hunger strikes and fires that set a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand ablaze, the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ), is releasing the text of the May 16, 2008, U.S. Senate letter to Secretary Condoleezza Rice urging Thai Prime Minister Samak to cease the forced and involuntary repatriation of Hmong refugees. http://media-newswire.com/release_1066976.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 ), Amy Klobuchar ( D-MN ) and Norm Coleman ( R-MN ).
"The signatory Senators of this important 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 the award-winning book Tragic Mountains ( Indiana University Press ) which details the Hmong association with the U.S. under three U.S. Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. http://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. Schuyler; 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 of May 16, 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. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA26/003/2007
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 the U.S. 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.
“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 following in the text of the U.S. Senate letter sent to U.S. Secretary of State Rice on May 16, 2008 urging Prime Minister Samak to stop the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the regime in Laos that they fled:
From the U.S. Senate
he Honorable Condoleezza Rice .Secretary of State U.S. Department of State Washington, DC
Dear Madame Secretary
We are writing to urge that the U.S. intervene rapidly with Thai Prime Minister Samak to avert forced repatriation of Hmong refugees to Laos where many will face possible persecution. The Hmong played a key role in the U.S.-led war in Indochina by stalling North Vietnamese forces from taking over Laos. In that process the Hmong fighters took per capita losses far in excess of those suffered by U.S. forces in Vietnam. A significant proportion of the Hmong who fled to Thailand have ties to that war effort or are fighters who only recently abandoned their last ditch Hmong resistance in Laos. Such Hmong, as well as others sheltering in Thailand, would appear to meet the international standard for refugee status -a well-founded fear of persecution, if returned to their country of origin.
Legitimate refugees should he provided protection and resettlement opportunities consistent with United Nations High Commissioner of Refugee standards. An estimated 8,000 Hmong from Laos are in Thailand's Petchabun province as well as those refugees who have been held for more than a year in a detention center in Nongkhai. First and foremost, we strongly support your efforts to encourage Thailand to allow a third party , such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to screen those who have refugee claims from those who do not.
Recently the Thai Foreign Minister stated publicly that there would be no forced repatriation of the Hmong, but this pledge will not necessarily allay fears of those living in Thailand and their families in the United States that the Thai military is preparing to forcibly repatriate the Hmong. Therefore, a fully transparent screening process should be conducted before any further repatriation takes place. It is our understanding that the Thai Government says it has completed refugee screening of the Hmong, but this process has not been transparent and has excluded international monitoring. A review process should be put in place to determine which Hmong have valid claims to refugee status.
Secondly, the international community, led by the U.S., should agree to resettle the Hmong identified as refugees. Several countries already have expressed a willingness to do so. The U.S. Congress, cognizant of the history of the Hmong, recently acted to remove barriers to the resettlement of former Hmong fighters, legislation which now needs to be implemented by the Administration.
Finally,. should any repatriation occur, we encourage you to work with the Lao Government to ensure that no Hmong returnees are persecuted in Laos. At a minimum, the Lao Government should allow for third party monitoring of Hmong who are resettled in Laos.
We urge you to raise these concerns with Prime Minister Samak to ensure that Thailand does not forcibly repatriate legitimate Hmong refugees. Thank you and we look forward to your prompt response.
Signed by Eight U.S. Senators: Patrick J. Leahy Herb Kohl Amy Klobuchar Russell . Feingold Dianne Feinstein Barbara Boxer Sheldon Whitehouse Norm Coleman --------
Anna Jones or Philip Smith Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite #212 Washington, DC 20006 USA
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