Thailand, Samak Crisis: Ambassador Douglas Appeals to President Bush On Hmong, Laos Repatriation
Ambassador Eugene Douglas joined by the Center for Public Policy (CPPA) and a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations in the United States today urged President George W. Bush, and Prime Minister Samak to address the crisis of Lao-Hmong refugees who are being brutally forced back to the regime in Laos that they fled.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C.- August 4, 2008 - Ambassador Eugene Douglas joined by the Center for Public Policy ( CPPA ) and a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations in the United States today urged President George W. Bush, and Prime Minister Samak to address the crisis of Lao-Hmong refugees who are being forced back to the regime in Laos that they fled. President Bush and Prime Minister Samak, who also serves as Thailand’s Defense Minister, are slated to meet in Thailand in the coming days as part of the President’s trip to Asia prior to his visit to the Olympic games in China.
Southeast Asian scholar, author and journalist Dr. Jane Hamilton asked: “President Bush is stopping in Thailand on his way to the Olympics in China. What will he say to the Thai leaders? Will he remind them of their moral and humanitarian responsibilities to the families of those who fought most successfully to protect Thailand during the Vietnam War?"
“We should monitor carefully President Bush's position on this humanitarian crisis,” concluded Dr. Hamilton-Merritt.
Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt ( Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for her human rights work on behalf of the Hmong, author of award winning Tragic Mountains, The Hmong, The Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos ) http://www.tragicmountains.org
“The Lao and Hmong-American community, including the Lao and Hmong veterans who served honorably with U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency during the Vietnam War in defense of the Kingdom of Thailand and Laos and U.S. national security interests, urge President Bush and Secretary Rice to raise the Hmong refugee issue President Samak to seek an immediate halt to the repatriation of Hmong refugees from Thailand to Laos,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. “The Hmong human rights crisis in Thailand and Laos needs to be addressed honorably and resolved in order to grant sanctuary to the Hmong refugees until they can be resettled in third countries like France, Canada, Australia, the United States and elsewhere.”
Prime Minister Samak has come under heavy international criticism for his role in pressuring and forcing back thousands of Hmong refugees from Thailand back to Laos in recent months. Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ), Human Rights Watch ( HRW ) Reporters Without Borders ( RSF ), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ), the CPPA, the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. ( HLHRC ), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. ( ULDL ), the Lao Movement for Human Rights ( LMHR ),the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. ( LVA ), the Lao Veterans of America Institute, Inc. ( LVAI ), the Lao Students Movement for Democracy ( LSMD,the United Nation’s Unrepresented Peoples Organization ( URPO )the Lao Institute for Democracy ( LID ) and other Non-Governmental organizations have issued urgent action appeals and statement is opposition to the repatriation of Hmong asylum seekers and political refugees from Thailand to the communist regime in Laos that continues to persecute, starve and kill them. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1068822.html http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1068645.html
A bipartisan letter signed by 20 Members of the U.S. Congress was sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday, August 1, by U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ) urging the Bush Administration and State Department to work with Thailand to seek to immediately stop the forced repatriation of the remaining Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers who are at Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee detention camp in Petchabun Province and Nong Khai, Thailand. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1069576.html
In June, the U.S. Congress introduced and cosponsored legislation, H. Res. 1273, appealing to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, the Royal Thai government and the Bush Administration to work to immediately stop the repatriation of Hmong refugees and asylum seekers back to the Stalinist regime in Laos. The legislation was spearhead by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), U.S. Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ) and fifteen Member of the U.S. Congress. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1067715.html
Ambassador Howard Eugene Douglas, U. S. Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs ( 1981 – 1985 ) issued the following letter of appeal as a result of the recent forced repatriation of over 1300 Hmong refugees from Thailand to Laos:
President George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W. Washington, DC
Re: An Appeal to the President of the United States To Uphold America’s Honor and Protect the Hmong
Dear Mr. President:
You are about to depart on a Presidential visit to Asia with stops in Seoul, Bangkok and Beijing for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Your visit to Bangkok recognizes the 175th Anniversary of U.S. – Thai relations. Thailand is a respected ally of the United States and the friendship between the Thai and American people is tested and strong enough to permit a candid exchange of views. The First Lady’s planned visit to Mae Sot on the Thai – Burma border and the Mae La refugee camp is ironic in light of another pressing refugee issue that directly touches America’s history in Southeast Asia and the Vietnam conflict and the lives of many new American citizens.
Today, there are many thousands of Hmong refugees still in Thailand awaiting resettlement abroad or a chance to return to their beloved Laos in safety and freedom. Recently, untold hundreds of Laotian Hmong refugees have been taken from their camps inside Thailand and forcibly returned to Laos where they face a dangerous If not fatal reception by the Laotian authorities. The Thai Army has taken part in these involuntary repatriations that are in violation of international agreements and practice. Why was this done now when there are confirmed reports of Laotian armed actions against the Hmong still inside Laos? Despite denials by the Lao Government, there are sufficient foreign witnesses to substantiate that all is not well inside Laos.
Recently, the United States Congress introduced, in bipartisan fashion, House Resolution 1273 appealing to your Administration, His Majesty the King of Thailand and the Royal Thai Government to assist the relatives of the same Hmong who were loyal and courageous allies of the United States during the Vietnam conflict. To date, the U.S. Secretary of State has not replied to the U.S. Congress. The honor of the United States and its people is known by how we stand with our allies in victory and in peace. There are Hmong families in the United States, many of whom are now proud American citizens, who implore you to act by directing the State Department to work with the Royal Thai Government to suspend its actions against the Hmong still in camps. We should assure our Thai ally that we will arrange resettlement to the United States, Australia, Canada and France and provide for their support inside Thailand in the interim. Forcing their return to Laos is dangerous for these Hmong and numerous respected international agencies and NGOs have testified to that fact. Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders ( RSF ), the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) and other independent organizations have testified to that fact.
Surely, the Royal Thai Government and the United States can afford this small measure of additional compassion for the Hmong. It was my honor to serve under President Reagan and Vice President Bush from 1981 to 1985 as United States Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs. During those years, I worked closely with the Thai Government and many foreign governments and the United Nations to find solutions for the world’s refugees. Then as now, the United States was the recognized leader in speaking for those without voice.
Mr. President, do the right thing and ask the Thai Government to suspend further involuntarily repatriation of the Laotian and Hmong still enjoying refuge inside Thailand. Once again, let us show the world that despite all our many burdens, the United States does not forget those who were our allies.
Howard Eugene Douglas U. S. Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs ( 1981 – 1985 )
In August of 2007, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ) sent a letter signed by over a dozen Members of Congress to His Majest, The King of Thailand, with copies to Prime Minister Samak, appealing for assistance to stop the repatriation of Hmong political refugees from Thailand back to Laos.
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