Laos, Thailand Crisis: Forced Repatriation of Hmong Refugees Concerns Human Rights Watch
In addition to the forced repatriation of over one thousand Hmong, hundreds of Hmong refugees in Thailand and Laos, including 13 refugee camp leaders from Ban Huay Nam Khao, in Petchabun Province, Thailand, have disappeared in recent weeks.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington,D.C., July 16, 2008 - Human Rights Watch ( HRW ) and other human rights organizations and advocates have issued statements of concern about the Thai government’s recent forced repatriation of hundreds of Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the regime in Laos that they fled. Additionally, hundreds more Hmong refugees in Thailand and Laos, including 13 refugee camp leaders from Ban Huay Nam Khao, in Petchabun Province, Thailand, have disappeared in recent weeks.
“Thai authorities have kept Lao Hmong in fear and uncertainty for years to pressure them into giving up their hopes of refuge in Thailand or resettlement elsewhere,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should end this immoral and unlawful policy, and as a first step it should account for the missing.” http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/07/11/thaila19340.htm
“The Hmong refugees who have disappeared after the Thai military arrested the protestors are approximately an additional 700 to 750; they are still missing along with the Hmong leaders for this group who were at Ban Huay Nam Khao prior to the protest march on June 20, 2008 ,” stated Vaughn Vang of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. “We are very concerned that they have been taken by the Thai government and have disappeared, possibly imprisoned or killed in Laos or Thailand.”
Vaughn Vang continued: “We are appealing to the UNHCR and the United States to find the whereabouts of these specific Hmong asylum seekers and refugees. These Hmong refugees have done nothing wrong and unjust. Their only mistake was to help the United States and now they are being tortured and their lives are endangered by the Lao and Thai governments.
Vang asked: “Why are they being punished for something they, as descendants of the ones who fought on the side of the United States, have not done? Why is the United States and the world closing their eyes and ears and pretending that these horrific tragedies are not occurring and allowing hundreds, and thousands, of people to be killed in Laos in recent months?”
“Many of these forced returnees are relatives of American citizens--and data from many credible international human rights organizations have established for some time that these Hmong people have been targeted for abuse and accordingly have repeatedly called for the international community to put a stop to their repatriation,” stated Dr. Jane Hamilton Merritt, Southeast Asia scholar, author and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for her humanitarian and human rights work on behalf of Hmong and Laotian refugees. Dr. Merritt has frequently testified in the U.S. Congress on behalf of the Hmong 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://tragicmountains.org
“The US Department of State personnel, as well as members of the legislative and executive branches of the US Government, are acting like cowards by ignoring their moral and ethical responsibilities to the Hmong people in Laos and particularly those Hmong refugees in Thailand,” said Dr. Hamilton-Merritt. “It should also be understood that this no-action response poses a serious future national security threat.”
Dr. Merritt asked: “What is to prevent American allies on the War on Terror from suffering the same "consequences of allegiance" as the Hmong ?”
Dr. Hamilton Merritt continued: “Darfur seems to make the major media in this country on a regular basis and is a regular discussion on Capitol Hill. While Darfur is a tragedy, the US is not responsible for that crisis. However, the US is directly responsible for the plight of the Hmong refugees in Thailand whose relatives allied themselves with the U.S in the clandestine Lao theater of the Vietnam War.”
“Because of this relationship, former American-allied Hmong and their non-combatant descendants have been continually targeted by the victorious Lao, LPDR regime, as retribution for that highly strategic alliance,” Dr. Hamilton Merritt said.
Dr. Hamilton-Merritt stated further: “Most importantly, the Hmong were the American ‘boots on the ground’ holding the North Vietnamese Army at bay in Northern Laos for 10 years, thereby protecting Laos, Thailand, and American troops in South Vietnam from some 70,000 North Vietnamese elite ‘Regulars’.”
Dr. Hamilton-Merritt concluded: ”Hmong loses during the war were extraordinary, especially the civilian population, which came under direct North Vietnamese and Communist Pathet Lao attack. The loses of the North Vietnamese forces were equally great because they underestimated the abilities of the Hmong counterinsurgency units. In 1975, the victorious LPDR , run by the Lao Peoples Revolutionary Party, LPRP, formerly know as the Pathet Lao, turned on the Hmong who allied themselves with the US and the Royal Lao Government and announced its intention to “wipe them out’, which I detail more fully in Chapter 22 of my book Tragic Mountains.”
The U.S. Congress introduced legislation in June, 2008, H. Res. 1273, appealing to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, to seek his assistance to help stop the forced and involuntary repatriation of over 8,000 Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, and Nong Khai Province. The legislation also urges the Lao government to address the human rights crisis in Laos and stop its military attacks and mass starvation of the Laotian and Hmong people who are living in fear in the jungles and mountains.
The legislation, H. Res. 1273, was introduced, and is cosponsored by twelve ( 12 ) Members of the U.S. House of Representatives including Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ), Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), Congressman Jim Costa ( D-CA ), Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ), Congressman Ron Kind ( D-WI ), Congressman James Langevin ( D-RI ), Congressman Tom Petri ( R-WI ), Congressman Jim Kagen ( D-WI ) and others. http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_bills&docid=f:hr1273ih.txt.pdf
Seven U.S. Senators recently wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her intervention with Prime Minister Samak and the Royal Thai Government to stop the forced repatriation of over 800 Hmong refugees back to Laos and to seek to stop the involuntary repatriation of some 7000 additional Hmong refugees including those at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Phetchabun Province, and elsewhere in Thailand. The letter was signed by Senator Russ Feingold ( D-WI ), Senator Herb Kohl ( D-WI ), Senator Amy Klobuchar ( D-MN ), Senator Barbara Boxer ( D-CA ), Sheldon Whitehouse ( D-RI ), Norm Coleman ( R-MN ) and Senator Patrick Leahy ( D-VT ).
This story was released on 2008-07-16. 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.