Laos, Thailand Hmong Crisis: President Obama, Secretary Clinton Urged To Save Refugees
Nobel Peace Prize nominee, scholar and human rights advocate, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, issued a statement today regarding a recent U.S. Congressional letter authored by U.S. Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)and others on the plight of Lao and Hmong refugees in Thailand and Laos.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C. and New York, New York, February 27, 2009 - Nobel Peace Prize nominee, scholar and human rights advocate, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, issued a statement today in Washington, D.C. and New York City regarding a recent U.S. Congressional letter authored by U.S. Congressman Ron Kind ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ), and a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives, to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“This is a clarion call from 19 Members of Congress to Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama,” stated Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt a Southeast Asia scholar, author and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who was nominated for her human rights and humanitarian work on behalf of Laotian and Hmong refugees in Thailand, Laos and Southeast Asia. Dr. Hamilton-Merritt has frequently testified in the U.S. Congress regarding Southeast Asia issues and the plight of Lao and Hmong refugees.
The U.S. Congressional letter signed by 19 Members of Congress addresses the plight of Lao-Hmong political refugees in Thailand and Laos facing persecution, human rights violations and forced repatriation.
In February, Dr. Hamilton-Merritt was honored in Washington, D.C. by Laotian and Hmong community leaders and Hmong students at events at the National Press Club, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and Arlington National Cemetery marking the 15th Anniversary of the publication her book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos ( Indiana University Press ).” The events, which also addressed the current human rights and refugee crisis facing thousands of Laotian and Hmong refugees in Thailand and Laos, were cosponsored by Lao and Hmong community organizations, Lao Hmong students, Members of Congress, non-governmental organizations and Indiana University Press. www.tragicmountains.org
Keynote speakers at the events honoring Dr. Hamilton-Merritt and commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the publication of “Tragic Mountains” included former U.S. Ambassador Edmund McWilliams, U.S. Ambassador Eugene Douglas, T. Kumar, Amnesty, International, B. Jenkins Middleton, Former Vice President U.S. Export and Import Bank, U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ) and other Members of Congress.
The following is the text of Dr. Hamilton-Merritt’s statement today regarding the bipartisan U.S. Congressional letter regarding the plight of Hmong political refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand and Laos:
“The recent Congressional letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a chilling call for the Obama Administration to take action to rescue the some 6,000 Hmong political refugees in Thailand from repatriation back to Laos. These 19 Members of Congress make it very clear when they warn Secretary Clinton: ‘... forced repatriation of legitimate Hmong refugees to Laos may be a death sentence for a number of detainees.’
The international human rights community believes that the vast majority of the Hmong behind razor wire at Ban Huay Nam Khao in Thailand are NOT illegal immigrants or economic migrants as the Thais claim, but are political refugees who fear persecution or worse if returned to Laos. These refugees fled Laos because they had been targeted for punishment for their past perceived relationship with the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, and Amnesty International have repeatedly warned that the Hmong at Ban Huay Nam Khao should not be repatriated back to Laos because of the fear of persecution.
This Congressional call for Secretary Clinton ‘to pressure the Thai government to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, access to the detainees in order to determine their refugee status,’ is an important and long overdue step that must be taken immediately. I would add that UNHCR screening personnel must be properly trained, unbiased, and allowed unmonitored access to the refugees.
The Thai authorities have stated that all Hmong in Ban Huay Nam Khao will be returned to Laos by 1 June 2009. That deadline is only weeks away. On February 1, 20009, Thai authorities forced 196 Hmong political refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao back to Laos to test the waters to see if the U.S. would protest. It did not, unfortunately.
During his Presidential Campaign, Barack Obama pledged to the Hmong American community: “Hmong on the Lao-Thailand border are in a dire situation. The U.S. must be clear in calling for all parties to respect international law and ensure that displaced Hmong are not placed in harm’s way.” The Hmong American community and the international human rights community expect President Obama to keep his word and not allow displaced Hmong in Thailand to be in “harm’s way.”
This bipartisan Congressional Letter is a clarion call to Secretary Clinton and President Obama. “
( ---end text of statement by Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt February 27, 2009--- )
“The Laotian and Hmong people continue to suffer persecution and egregious human rights violations in Laos,” concluded Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis. “This new letter by 19 Members of the U.S. Congress to Secretary of State Clinton and the Obama Administration is an important step forward in seeking to save these suffering people; it is due in large part to the ongoing and important efforts of Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt and the legacy of her book Tragic Mountains, which continues to inspire and educate many policymakers about the ongoing human rights and refugee crisis facing the Hmong and Laotian people. ”
Maria Gomez Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite #212 Washington, D.C. 20006 USA
This story was released on 2009-02-28. 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.