Somchai's Thailand, Laos Crisis: Torture, Abduction of Lao Hmong Refugees as Amnesty International, UN Appeal
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Amnesty International issued international appeals and reports regarding the plight of Lao Hmong refugees at Nong Khai, Thailand earlier this week. Amnesty International's Report of November 17, 2008, entitled "Hmong Refugees Held By Thailand Must Be Freed" discusses the terrible plight of 92 Lao Hmong refugee children.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C. and Bangkok, Thailand, November 19, 2008 - Some 7,000 Lao Hmong political refugees in Nong Khai and Ban Huay Nam, Petchabun Province, Thailand are under mounting physical and psychological pressure by Thailand’s Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and elements of the Thailand’s military to return to Laos against their will despite calls by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ), Members of Congress and human rights and refugeee advocates to reverse the current forced repatriation policy and allow the refugees to be granted asylum and resettlement in third countries.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ) and Amnesty International issued international appeals and reports regarding the plight of Lao Hmong refugees at Nong Khai, Thailand earlier this week. Amnesty International’s Report of November 17, 2008, entitled “Hmong Refugees Held By Thailand Must Be Freed” discusses the terrible plight of 92 Lao Hmong refugee children, in a group of 158 Laotian refugees, held in deplorable conditions by Thai authorities in Nong Khai Detention center. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/refugees-held-thailand-must-freed-20081117
“As part of its mounting forced repatriation policy directed against Laotian and Hmong refugees at Nong Khai and Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, Thai military and refugee camp authorities under the apparent direction of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat are placing increased and heavy pressure, threats, and coercive demands on some 7,000 political refugees to ‘volunteer’ to return back to Laos,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. “Prime Minister Somchai should immediately halt this policy and provide UNHCR and NGOs access to the Lao Hmong refugees in Nong Khai and Ban Huay Nam Khao.”
“The increased psychological and physical attacks by elements of the Thai military, with the apparent blessing of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, against Laotian and Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers, are in clear violation of international law,” Smith observed.
Smith concluded: “Many Hmong refugees, including young people, who have met with Thai authorities are being forced, under threat, by the Thai military and paramilitary forces to sign, against their will, the ‘volunteer agreement’ to be sent back to Laos; Refusal to sign this agreement by Laotian and Hmong refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai now often results in physical punishment ending in brutal beatings by the Thai authorities, or Hmong refugees are abducted, disappear and are feared to have been killed in Thailand or Laos .” http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1077936.html
“These 7,000 Lao-Hmong refugees in Huaj Nam Khao have been ordered by the Thai government to return to Laos by the end of this December 2008,” said Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc.
“Lor Xiong, Cheng Lor and three other Lao Hmong refugee men have recently been arrested by Thai military and camp authorities at Ban Huay Nam Khao; The families of these five Lao Hmong men have been told by Thai military and camp authorities that they have disappeared,” Vang said.
“Another Hmong political refugee, Vang Chia Xeng Lor has been physically beaten by Thai authorities because he refused to sign the ‘volunteer’ agreement and refused to be forcibly repatriated back to Laos,” Vang further observed.
“In the last week in Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp, Qiam Lee a Hmong political refugee about 18 years old, was ordered to meet with Thai authorities in the detention camp who brutalized him, threw him in a cage and forced him out of the camp in route to Laos where he disappeared,” said Vaughn Vang.
Vaughn Vang continued: “Qiam Lee, a Hmong youth and refugee who fled from Laos, was arrested by Thai authorities around 11:00am on November 11, 2008 and locked in a dog cage for one night. While Thai officials transported Qiam Lee on the way to Long Xa, Thai authorities reported that Qiam Lee jumped out of the army truck and disappeared. Since Qiam Lee had disappeared, the family cannot confirm anywhere in Laos or Thailand whether or not Qiam is still alive. His family and others have no doubt that Qiam Lee was tortured and killed by Thai authorities on the way to Long Xa, Thailand, in an effort to force him back to Laos, on November 12, 2008.”
Vaughn Vang recounted additionally, with another tragic concluding example, that: “On November 13, 2008, Thai military and camp authorities ordered Qiam Lee's mother, Ms. Chao Thao, 45 years old, to meet with Thai authorities and ordered Ms. Chao Thao to sign documents to ‘immediately volunteer’ to go back to Laos. However, Chao refused sign and to return to Laos. At 8:00 am on November 14, 2008, Thai authorities came to arrest Chao and falsely accused her, and falsely allege that her son Qiam Lee had jumped out of the army truck because Chao had told him to jump out. Thai authorities became very hostile towards her. They physically beat her and pulled her out of her small make-shift hut. They ordered her to volunteer to return to Laos and stated that the Thai authorities will kill her if she refused to go back to Laos.”
U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, U.S. Ambassador at Large, and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs ( 1981–1985 ) in a letter to President Bush in August, 2008 stated:
“Today, there are 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 contrary to the historical tolerance and hospitality extended to refugees by the Kingdom of Thailand. Why was this done now when there are confirmed reports of Laotian armed measures 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. Numerous respected international organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have testified to the recent dangers to the Hmong within Laos itself.” http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1070289.html
Ambassador Douglas further commented in his letter to President Bush that:
“Recently, the United States Congress introduced House Resolution 1273 calling on your Administration to assist the kinsmen of the same Hmong who were loyal and courageous allies of the United States during the Vietnam conflict. Today, when we are at war in defense of America’s security and in support of the values of our civilization, 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. The United States can assure our Thai ally that they are not alone in the care of refugees and that we will work to arrange resettlement to the United States, Australia, Canada and France and provide for their interim support while still in Thailand… Surely, the Royal Thai Government and the United States can afford this small measure of additional compassion for the Hmong...”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress, in expressing its concern about the human rights and refugee crisis in Laos and Thailand,introduced H.Res. 1273, which appealed to Thailand to immediately halt the repatriation of Laotian and Hmong refugees back to Laos and allow the refugees to be resettle in other countries H.Res. 1273 specifically addresses the refugee and human rights crisis in Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand as well as the human rights crisis in Laos. http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_bills&docid=f:hr1273ih.txt.pdf
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