Laos, Thailand Crisis: Action Urged by U.S. Ambassador, Congress on Hmong
Former United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs, U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas lauded the introduction of H. Res. 1273 in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Former United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs, U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas lauded the introduction of H. Res. 1273 in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ) and U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ) last week in the U.S. House of Representatives. The new legislation appeals to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, and the Royal Thai Government to seek to stop the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers from Thailand back to the Stalinist regime in Laos that they fled. It urges the Lao regime to abide by international law and immediately cease its military attacks on Hmong hiding in the jungle as well as release Lao student pro-democracy dissidents imprisoned in Laos since October of 1999.
Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ) currently assists some 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchabun Province, Thailand. Some 150 Hmong refugees are also being held in Nong Khai, Thailand. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UNHCR have repeatedly issued statements and appeals about their plight in Thailand.
Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs ( 1981 –1985 ), asked:
“More than thirty years after cessation of hostilities in Southeast Asia, decades after the normalization of relations between the United States and the Governments of Laos and Vietnam, how could we have failed so badly to resolve the issue of the permanent resettlement of the relatively small remaining population of Laotian and Hmong still confined to refugee camps in Thailand ?”
Ambassador Douglas further questioned:
“Why can we not resolve the final resettlement of the Hmong and Laotian people still inside Thailand? Surely permanent resettlement can be arranged in North America, Australia or Europe for those few thousands who feel they cannot safely return to Laos. For others in the camps, who desire to return to their homeland, are we incapable of arranging proper guarantees for their safety and well being that also respect the dignity and sovereignty of Laos ? ”
H. Res. 1273 was introduced following the mass hunger strike, protests and blaze at Huay Nam Khao refugee camp where nearly 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees demonstrated in opposition to returning to the communist regime in Laos that they fled.
"The introduction of H. Res. 1273 provides an opportunity for U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Ravic Huso, to begin serious work, as he stated that he would during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation process, to address the human rights abuses in Laos, particularly the killing of civilian Hmong hiding in the jungle", Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt said.
Dr. Hamilton-Merritt is a Southeast Asia scholar, author, journalist and photographer. She is a former Nobel Peace Prize Nominee who was nominated because of her human rights and refugee work on behalf of the Lao Hmong people in Southeast Asia. She has frequently testified in the U.S. Congress and is the author of the highly-acclaimed book Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos ( Indiana University Press ). http://www.tragicmountains.org
“This resolution provides a voice for the voiceless,” stated Dr. Hamilton-Merritt. "Those Members of Congress who have the resolve to address the brutal treatment of our former Hmong allies and their families should be commended for providing a voice for the voiceless."
"For Members of Congress who believe that curtailing human and civil rights abuses is an integral and honorable part of our foreign policy, this resolution provides a unique opportunity for Members to stand tall on this issue by supporting HR 1273 which seeks to address the pitiful Hmong humanitarian crises in Laos and in Thailand," Dr. Hamilton-Merritt concluded.
“The Lao government continues to persecute and kill its own people, including thousands of unarmed Laotian and Hmong civilians and political and religious dissident and opposition groups,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director, of the Washington, DC-based Center for Public Policy Analysis.
“The Hmong refugees who have sought asylum in Thailand’s refugee camps in Nong Khai and Huay Nam Khao also face the threat of repatriation back to Laos,” stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. “This new legislation sends an important message to the government of Thailand that the U.S. Congress and the American people do not want the Hmong refugees and asylum seekers to be sent back to Laos; they are political refugees who should be granted political asylum in Thailand until they can be resettled in third countries. The Lao Hmong in Thailand face persecution and death if sent back to Laos.”
Vaughn Vang continued: “There still currently remains some 14,000 to 15,000 Hmong civilians, women,and children in the mountainous jungle of Laos who are continually hunted by the Lao regime on a daily basis. These Hmong civilians, including many innocent women, and children, are descendants of the former Hmong soldiers who served with the U.S. military and clandestine forces during the Vietnam War, including the CIA. They have not committed a crime against the Lao government. Their only crime is having parents and grandparents who were allies with America during the Vietnam War.”
Vaughn Vang further stated: “Lao and Hmong children in Laos are born into this life with fear because of the Lao government’s persecution of them. It is not their fault; they do not understand the war between two countries that they did not instigate. These innocent people, under attack by the Lao government and military do not have any shelter, food, clothes, or medicine. They scavenge for plant roots and leaves; Moreover, the Lao government has sent military troops to surround them in the jungle to seek to kill them. Without the help of the international community and concerned organizations, these Hmong in-hiding are almost surely guaranteed to die, if not by the Lao government’s bullets and chemical weapons being used now by the military during their ongoing attacks, then by starvation.”
Vaughn Vang concluded: “Some of the Laos Hmong in-hiding have made the mistake of surrendering to the Lao government’s military hoping for a life with no more fear of persecution and death. However, they are faced with exactly what they were trying to avoid. A group of 27-29 young girls and boys had surrendered earlier. The girls were turned into sex slaves facing almost daily raping by the Lao government and military officials for one year. When they were finally released, these young girls escaped to Thailand seeking asylum. The whereabouts of the young boys, however, are unknown to this day.”
H. Res. 1273 was introduced in the U.S. Congress on June 12, 2008 regarding the human rights situation facing the Laotian and Hmong people in Thailand and Laos.
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