Washington, D.C. Observes National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day Events
"Today is the 12th year that we, Lao, Hmong and Americans, from all over the country, come here to Arlington National Cemetery to honor our fellow veterans, their family members, our American advisers, and to remember our fallen warriors and American advisers who paid with their lives in Laos for the freedom that we enjoy today," said Col. Wangyee Vang of the Lao Hmong Veterans (LVAI).
(Media-Newswire.com) - Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C., May 25, 2009 - National Memorial Day ceremonies honoring Lao Hmong veterans of the U.S. Secret Army in Laos, and their Laotian and Hmong refugee families, will cap nearly two weeks of National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition events in Washington, D.C. Events marking National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day, and honoring the Lao and Hmong veterans and their families and communities across the United States have been held in recent days at the Vietnam War Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Congress and U.S. Capitol Building.
On Memorial Day, from 8:30 A.M.-9:30 A.M., a special memorial service and vigil is planned honor Lao Hmong Veterans at the Iwo Jima U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial Monument ( East Area of Iwo Jima Monument, Arlington Blvd., Arlington, Virginia ). The 78 foot tall, Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of America's esteem and gratitude for the honored dead of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“U.S. Marine, Navy, Air Force, Army and Air America pilots courageously engaged in countless air raids, and combat sorties, over Laos during the Vietnam War in coordination with Lao Hmong and U.S. clandestine and military forces; This Memorial Day, the national ceremonies in Washington, D.C., honoring the Laotian and Hmong community, and National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day events, are important in the context of the crucial sacrifices made by the Lao Hmong veterans, their refugee families and American advisers, in defense of the United States and the Royal Kingdoms of Laos and Thailand during the Vietnam War,” said Philip Smith Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C.
The CPPA, Lao Veterans of America, Inc. ( LVA ), the Lao Veterans of America Institute ( LVAI ), Counterparts Veterans Association, Hmong Advance, Inc. ( HA ), Hmong Advancement, Inc. of Washington, D.C. ( HAIWDC ), United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. ( ULDL ), retired U.S. intelligence community, and military, officials and others are invited cosponsors, or invited guests/participants.
Participants and invited speakers include: Lt. Col. Wangyee Vang, Founder and National President, LVAI; Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director, CPPA and Washington, D.C. Liaison, LVA; Dr. Grant McClure, Liaison Counterparts organization; Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Laos Hmong scholar and author of the book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos” ( Indiana University Press ); Mr. B. Jenkins Middleton, Esq., Former Vice President, U.S. Export-Import Bank; Mike Benge, Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer and others.
The official wreath-laying ceremony by Lao Hmong veterans of the U.S. Secret Army in Laos, honored Laotian and Hmong veterans, their refugee families and American advisers who served in Laos during the Vietnam War. Led by the LVA and its Lao Hmong veterans members, a memorial wreath of flowers was laid at the apex of the Vietnam War Memorial by Lao and Hmong veterans, and a delegation of their former U.S. Special Forces, Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA ), and U.S. Foreign Service Officer ( FSO ) advisers at the conclusion of the ceremony.
In cooperation with Members of the U.S. Congress, a special U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos and U.S. Congressional Briefing was held in the afternoon of May 21, 2009. http://media-newswire.com/release_1091798.html Issues regarding Lao Hmong veterans, especially the plight of Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand detailed in a recent report by Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ), were discussed at the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos.
During the morning of Friday, May 22, a Lao Hmong veterans memorial ceremony was held in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., ( Grant Avenue, Arlington National Cemetery, at the Lao Veterans of America monument and commemorative tree in Arlington National Cemetery ) . National Lao Hmong Veterans Day Recognition Ceremonies in Arlington, included an official wreath-laying ceremony by the U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Army, to honor Laotian and Hmong veterans, their refugee families and American advisers who served in Laos during the Vietnam War.
U.S. Department of Defense honor guard soldiers participated in the National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day ceremonies along with an U.S. Army color guard and wreath bearer; A wreath was laid by the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Army at the LVA monument in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. A U.S. Army officer played “Taps” to conclude the wreath laying ceremony.
Traditionally, National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day events have been organized annually each year since 1991 during the week of May 15-22… prior to, and during, the U.S. Memorial Day holiday. Many thousands of Laotian and Hmong veterans and their refugee families fled Laos after the communist takeover during the end of the Vietnam War starting on May 14-15, 1975 when the U.S. and Lao Hmong base a Long Chieng was evacuated.
Laotian and Hmong veterans and community delegations from Maryland, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Colorado, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Hawaii are expected to participate and attend the events. Many Lao Hmong participants were dressed in traditional ethnic clothing and military uniforms for the national events.
Excerpts of the statement by Lt. Col. Wangyee Vang, National President and Founder of the LVAI at Arlington National Cemetery on May 22, 2009, are as follows:
“On behalf of the Lao and Hmong veterans and their families, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to come to join us for this tribute to our fallen fellow soldiers and Americans advisers who served in Laos and Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
Moreover, on behalf of the Lao Veterans of America Institute, Lao and Hmong veterans and the Lao and Hmong community across the United States, I want to thank Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, Grant McClure of Counterparts, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Laos Hmong Scholar, B. Jenkins Middleton, Esq. and Mike Benge, U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Ret., for your important efforts at today’s ceremonies.
We also wish to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt’s important book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars or Laos.” and honor her for her important human rights and humanitarian work on behalf of the Lao and Hmong people.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, this living monument was placed on this historical location by the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. and was authorized by Arlington National Cemetery in cooperation with distinguished historians on 15 May 1997. Today it is the 12th year that we, Lao, Hmong and Americans, from all over the country, come here to Arlington National Cemetery to honor our fellow veterans, their family members, our American advisers, and to remember our fallen warriors and American advisers who paid with their lives in Laos for the freedom that we enjoy today.
It is important to point out, that during the past 34 years, since the pull-out of the United States in 1975 from Vietnam and Laos, our veterans, their families, relatives, and friends, those we left behind, are still fighting for their survival against the brutal Lao communist regime just for their day-to-day existence and against persecution and military attacks. On Wednesday, Medecins Sans Frontiere ( MSF ) announced its protest withdraw from, and discontinuation of humanitarian and food assistance to, the Lao Hmong refugee camp at Ban Houi Nam Khao ( also sometimes known as Huay Nam Khao ), Petchabun Province, Thailand because of Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva and his… Third Army’s abuses and forced repatriation of the refugees.
Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Medecins Sans Frontiere ( MSF ) for their sincere and critical humanitarian help to the Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Houi Nam Khao, Petchabun, Thailand over the last several years.
Clearly, the Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Houi Nam Khao Camp, Petchabun, Thailand are the victims of the Vietnam War. If they, and their parents and grandparents and family, were not fighters for the Americans during the Vietnam War, they would not be in this Camp or refugees in Thailand or Laos.
Many in the Camp, at Ban Houi Nam Khao in Thailand are orphans and descendants of those Lao Hmong soldiers who were killed in the battlefields of Laos, and that is why they had no chance to flee the current Lao regime during the last three decades, they were left behind and become targets for the current regime in communist Laos, a one party Stalinist regime that seeks to exterminate many of its own people, especially the Hmong people.
These Lao Hmong refugees are political refugees and asylum seekers who have fled political and religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in Laos.
Once again, we sincerely thank, His Majesty, The King of Thailand, his Thai people and the Royal Thai Government ( RTG ) for their past generous help toward our fellow Laotian and Hmong refugees. We respect and admire Thailand’s past wonderful humanitarian stance toward those Lao Hmong refugees which once flooded Thailand. Now in the eyes of international community, we would like to request that the Thai authorities, especially, elements of the Royal Thai Third Army, and the Thai Third Army at large, to respect human rights by not using their guns’ point, or psychological tactics, to force the Lao Hmong refugees back to where they do not want to be., the brutal Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ).
Sadly, Laos under the LPDR regime has a long history of very poor and terrible human rights violations against its own people.
The LPDR Communist party leadership and LPDR military has also been denying that they are carrying Communists Vietnamese’s yoke and serve as Hanoi’s proxy regime; the LPDR regime denies the fact that the military generals in Hanoi continue to violate the human rights, territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Laos and the Laotian and Hmong people. Laos, under the LPDR, must start loving their own people of a hundred different ethnic minorities as if they are its fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children as their own family; and stop imprisoning, persecuting and killing the Lao-Hmong who are part of its family. The bogus LPDR propaganda that it loves its own people, and the Laotian and Hmong minorities, is false, since it continues to engage in military attacks against civilians, ethnic cleansing and large-scale human rights violations against its own people.
Now, it is time, after 34 years have passed since the end of the Vietnam War in Laos, for the international community members who respect human rights and love freedom, to immediately help stop the brutality of the one party control of Laos by the corrupt LPDR dictatorship and military junta. The international community should impose severe economic sanctions on the LPDR regime in Laos and withdraw their diplomatic relationship of the military junta in Vientiane.
With regard to the Lao, Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand, the Thai Army should immediately stop forcing the Lao and Hmong refugees back to Laos, and open the door for the international community and those nations, like Canada, France, Australia and the United States, who want to take the Lao Hmong refugees to their country. The Thai Army and Royal Thai government should immediately open the door to the Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao Camp and Nong Khai so that third countries that are mentioned above can have a chance to go in there to screen and interview these refugees.
Indeed, the United States of America, especially, must take actions to help those victims of the Vietnam War right away by negotiating with the Thai government to open the door and send food, medicine and other necessary humanitarian aid to the refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai Thailand and support those countries who accept the Lao Hmong refugees to take them out of Thailand… to be reunited with their families.”
( excerpts of statement Lt. Col. Wangyee Vang, President, LVAI, at Arlington National Cemetery, given on Friday, May 22, 2009 )
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