Laos, Hmong Refugee Crisis: Tragic Mountains and the Human Rights Challenge in Thailand
"Within the past few days, another group of ethnic Hmong were escorted by the Thai Army from a camp in Thailand back to Laos . We are told by the Thai authorities that all persons "voluntarily" returned; No independent person can verify this and there is ample reason to doubt," said U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, Former Coordinator for Refugee Affairs in a statement today at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., Thursday, February 5, 2009 - In response to recent dire developments in Thailand and Laos regarding the horrific plight of thousands of Lao Hmong refugees, the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) will sponsor and co-host a National Policy and Press Conference today in cooperation with with non-governmental organizations, scholars and Members of the U.S. Congress on the Laotian and Hmong Refugee and Human Rights Crisis in Thailand and Laos.
A National Policy Conference and Press Conference regarding the current Laotian and Hmong Refugee and Human Rights Crisis in Thailand and Laos will be held from 8:00 A.M.-11:30 A.M., today, Thursday, February 5, 2009, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC 20045.
The serious plight of some 6,000-7,000 Lao Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, and Nong Khai, Thailand who are faced with dire humanitarian conditions and forced repatriation back to Laos will be discussed.
Human rights violations in Laos will also be one of the key topics of discussion including issues of political and religious persecution directed against the Hmong and other minority peoples.
The National Policy Conference/Press Conference will be organized in a panel discussion format and is entitled: "Laos, Hmong Refugee Crisis: Tragic Mountains and the Human Rights and Humanitarian Challenge in Thailand and Southeast Asia."
At the National Policy/Press Conference in Washington, D.C., members of the Hmong and Laotian community will honor journalist, author and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, who will serve as a keynote speaker at the event. She has persistently and courageously written about, and reported, on the plight of the Hmong and Laotian people during the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Dr. Hamilton-Merritt continues to research and write about the plight of the Lao Hmong people and has frequently testified in the U.S. Congress. The 15th Anniversary of the publication of her book "Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos" ( Indiana University Press ), will be discussed and recognized in the context of Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt's ongoing humanitarian and human rights work with Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand, Laos and the United States.
Speakers and panelists include: T. Kumar, Amnesty International; Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, Former U.S. Coordinator For Refugee Affairs; Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Laos and Hmong Scholar; B. Jenkins Middleton,Esq., Former Vice President, Export-Import Bank; Philip Smith, Center for Public Policy Analysis; Wangyee Vang, Lao Veterans of America Institute; Vaughn Vang, Lao Hmong Human Right Council; Bao Lee and Porsia Vang, Hmong Students Club, University of Wisconsin, Plattesville Campus; Pamela Xiong and Lia Vang, Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council of Minnesota; Schuyler Merritt, Southeast Asia Researcher; Oudong Saysana, Lao Students Movement for Democracy; Bounthanh Rathigna, United League for Democracy in Laos.
The event is cosponsored by the: Center for Public Policy Analysis; Indiana University Press; Survive, Inc.; the Lao Veterans of America Institute; the Lao Veterans of America, Inc.; the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council; Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council of Minnesota, Hmong Human Rights Students Organization, University of Wisconsin, Madison Campus; Laos Students Movement for Democracy; United League for Democracy in Laos and others.
The event is cosponsored by Indiana University Press which is the publisher Dr. Hamilton-Merritt's book "Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos." Dr. Merritt will serve as a keynote speaker at the event where she will be honored.
The event is generously cosponsored by Indiana University Press which is the publisher of Dr. Hamilton-Merritt's book.
Laotian and Hmong community leaders, delegations and non-profit organizations from Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, Rhode Island, Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and other states will speak and participate in the events.
Invited keynote speakers include: U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas,Former Coordinator for Refugee Affairs, T. Kumar, Amnesty International, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Southeast Asia Scholar and author of 'Tragic Mountains: the Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos" and U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ).
The following is the statement by U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, Former Coordinator for Refugee Affairs in a statement today at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C. : Statement by Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas Regarding the Situation of Lao Hmong in Refugee or Asylum Status The Kingdom of Thailand
For many decades, the Kingdom of Thailand has enjoyed a special and positive image in the minds of the American people and a special consideration as an ally of the American Government. This privileged relationship has been good for both countries and their peoples. Unfortunately, today the image of Thailand as a place of beauty, gentleness and compassion is being stained by inexplicably harsh actions by the Thai Government, the Thai Army and the country’s police against thousands of helpless Lao ethnic Hmong who fled Laos for sanctuary in Thailand and who now are confined under conditions inappropriate to their status.
Despite repeated calls from refugee, family and human rights groups to gain access to these people in order to arrange for their orderly departure from Thailand, the Thai Government and the Army persist in pressing for their return to Laos. Many, if not a majority of these Hmong , fear for their safety should they be returned. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Amnesty International and other groups have offered to assist in the orderly resettlement of many of the detainees but the Thai Government has forbidden access to the camps and to the Hmong detainees. Why? This is contrary to the policies of past Thai Governments and contrary to the obligations of Thailand under international agreements governing refugees and asylum seekers.
Within the past few days, another group of ethnic Hmong were escorted by the Thai Army from a camp in Thailand back to Laos . We are told by the Thai authorities that all persons “voluntarily” returned. No independent person can verify this and there is ample reason to doubt.
Thousands of Hmong are confined in the Ban Huay Nam Khao camp where reports of mistreatment of the Hmong are too frequent and reported by too many different sources to be ignored. The children are a special concern. The health and sanitary conditions in the camps are grave. Thailand is not asked to bear the financial burden alone, or to accept the Lao Hmong as permanent residents. All that is asked of the Thai Government is compassion.
At the height of the Southeast Asia refugee crisis, I had the great privilege to head America’s refugee assistance and resettlement activities as United States Coordinator for Refugees. In the last years of the 1970s and early 1980s, Thailand was an exemplary host for tens of thousands of Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees and asylum seekers. Guided by the compassion of His Majesty the King, Thailand’s hospitality and patience earned the respect of the world.
In the late 1960s I stood with the Royal Thai Army in defending the territory and freedom of Thailand. Later, it was my honor to serve on the Board of one of Her Majesty’s charities that cared for all the peoples of Thailand, including the ethnic Hmong. As a long time friend of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Thai people, I call on the Royal Thai Government to remember the traditional values of the country and the example of His Majesty the King. Let the Prime Minister and the Army be guided by compassion and patience. Allow the UNHCR and qualified representatives full access to the Lao Hmong confined in camps so that we may together arrange a humane and just resolution of the future for these men, women and children who deserve better from all of us.
H. Eugene Douglas Ambassador at Large and United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs ( 1981 – 1985 )
( --end statement of Ambassador H.Eugene Douglas-- )
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