McWilliams Spotlights Reps. Kennedy, Rep. Cardoza's letter in Opposing to Laos,
The letter from the U.S. Congress on the crisis in Thailand and Laos was signed by Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ron Kind (D-WI), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (D-FL), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Steve Kagen (D-WI), James Langevin (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and others.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., June 24, 2009 - A respected, senior U.S. foreign officer, Edmund McWilliams, who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, today commented upon and lauded a U.S. Congressional letter sent recently to the U.S. Department of State and Obama Administration regarding the Lao-Hmong refugee and human rights crisis in Thailand and Laos. The letter was sent late last week by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ) and U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ) along with 29 additional Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with copies forwarded to the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“This is a powerful and very timely statement,” said Edmund McWilliams, regarding the U.S. Congressional letter signed by 31 Members of Congress to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The refusal of successive U.S. Administrations to address decades of abuse of the Hmong people by the highly authoritarian regime in Laos is unconscionable,” McWilliams continued. http://media-newswire.com/release_1092956.html
Edmund McWilliams is a retired Senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer, now working pro bono on human rights advocacy. While working for the U.S. Department of State he was assigned to US the Embassies in Vientiane and Bangkok, and elsewhere. Mr. McWilliams dealt with human rights issues, including the plight of Hmong in Laos and refugee status issues in Thailand. He is a military veteran of the Vietnam war. http://media-newswire.com/printer_friendly_1089605.html
Mr. McWilliams concluded: “The Hmong of Laos, like the Montagnard peoples of Vietnam,are forgotten allies from a forgotten war. Their self-sacrifice and loyalty included dangerous missions to save downed U.S. pilots and reconnoiter behind enemy lines.For those of us who served in the war in Indochina, their courage and contributionto our efforts, have left an enduring legacy and obligation…”
In May, Medecins Sans Frontieres ( MSF ), Doctors Without Borders, withdrew in protest from Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp in Thailand, because of Thailand's forced repatriation policy and abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees. The detention facility is the last remaining Lao Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. MSF was the only Non Governmental Organization ( NGO ) providing food and medical support to some 5,500 Lao-Hmong political refugees at the camp. Another 158 Hmong political refugees are being detained in harsh conditions at Nong Khai, Thailand, where they have been attacked with tear gas by Thai military and Ministry of the Interior ( MOI ) troops seeking to force them back to Laos.
“First, it should be noted that the recent protest by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Medicines Sans Frontieres ( MSF- also known as Doctors Without Borders ) is historical,” said Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of the award-winning book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos” ( Indiana University Press ) and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her human rights and refugee work on behalf of the abused in Laos. www.tragicmountains.org
Mrs. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Ph.D., further commented: “This organization deserves another Nobel for its courageous protest–-perhaps its first--to give voice to the suffering voiceless behind razor wire in Thailand. Many of the refugees in Thailand were our staunchest allies. Secretary Clinton should acknowledge this heroic act by Doctors Without Borders by reading the carefully documented reports of medically certified abuses, Thai mistreatment, and forced repatriation. Read the reports about the fear of those who are about to be forcibly returned to their abusers in Laos. Know their stories: Hear their cries.”
Dr. Hamilton Merritt observed: “Resolving this humanitarian crisis and protecting our former allies from harm is clearly a national security priority—or it should be if the U.S. hopes to attract or maintain alliances in the future. Those who are knowledgeable on this issue all agree that resolution is possible and frankly not complicated. This Congressional Letter succinctly describes the problem and the actions needed for resolution.” http://doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=3627&cat=press-release
“Encouragingly, the recent bipartisan U.S. Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton urges emergency diplomatic efforts by the United States to end the Thai military’s forced repatriation of Lao Hmong political refugees back to the one-party Communist regime in Laos that they fled,” said Philip Smith Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C.
"Sadly and tragically, many thousands of Lao Hmong political refugees, including many veterans who served with U.S. clandestine and military forces during the Vietnam War, are now facing forced repatriation by the Thai military back to the brutal Stalinist regime in Laos that they fled," Smith said.
"The House letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding the Laos Hmong refugee crisis was spearheaded by U.S. Congressmen Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ) and Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ) and is backed by Lao Hmong-Americans in opposition to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit's continued forced repatriation of Laotians and Hmong political refugees," Smith concluded.
"Indeed, as a former political refugee, I am strongly urging Mrs. Clinton to work with the Royal Thai Government to stop the force repatriation of the Hmong refugees back to Laos; and at the same time open the refugee camp for NGOs and third countries to go in there and screen those refugees who want to resettle in third countries including those in Nong Khai detention center,” said Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President and founder of the Lao Veterans of America Institute ( LVAI ) in Fresno, California. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1091798.html
Lt. Colonel Wangyee Vang, of Fresno, California, stated further “Again, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of many in the Laotian and Hmong-American community across the United States to thank our Congressmen Dennis Cardoza, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Congressman Jim Costa, Congressman George Radanovich, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgreen and the over 25 Members of the U.S. Congress who signed this important letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; I want to again thank our Members of Congress for their crucial efforts and support for the Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand and Laos, these political refugees should not be sent back to the brutal one-party Communist regime in Laos that they fled."
“Without a doubt, clearly, the Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand do not want to return to the brutal Communist regime in Laos that they fled and that continues to attack, persecute and kill many of their family members in Laos,” said Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “This U.S. Congressional letter is an important step in helping to reverse the current forced repatriation policy in Thailand and the abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees by elements of the Thai Third Army and Ministery of Interior.”
Signatories to the letter sent to the U.S. Department of State include: U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Howard Berman ( D-CA ), U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Ron Kind ( D-WI ), U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ( R-FL ), U.S. Congressman Chris Smith ( R-NJ ), U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo ( D-G ), U.S. Congressman Steve Kagen ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman James Langevin ( D-RI ), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Jim Moran ( D-VA ), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), U.S. Congressman Jerry McNerney ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Mike Honda ( D-CA ), U.S. Congresswoman Doris Matsui ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Tom Petri ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Jim Costa ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman George Radanovich ( R-CA ), U.S. Congressman James McGovern ( D-MA ), U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ), U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva ( D-AZ ), U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Bill Delahunt ( D-MA ), U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter ( D-CO ), U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes ( R-CA ), U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee ( D-CA ), Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman John Olver ( D-Massachusetts ) and U.S. Congressman Timothy Walz ( D-MN ) and U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry ( R-NC ).
In mid-May, last month, Laotian and Hmong-Americans community organizations from across the United States, including veterans and their families from Massachusetts, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and other states participated in National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam War Memorial and the U.S. Congress.
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