Laos, Hmong Letter Released in U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Representatives Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagan, Ron Kind, Frank Wolf, Dana Rohrabacher and others sign Laos,Hmong Letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C. and Chang Mai, Thailand, June 26, 2009 - The full text of a U.S. Congressional letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding the Lao Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand and Laos was released today in Washington, D.C. Members of Congress from California, Wisconsin, Minnesota and other states helped cosign the letter.
Former U.S. Foreign Service officer Edmund McWilliams and others have also lauded the U.S. Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton. According to McWilliams: “This is a powerful and very timely statement… 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… 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 contribution to our efforts, have left an enduring legacy and obligation…” http://media-newswire.com/release_1093489.html
“The bipartisan U.S. Congressional letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, signed by 31 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, urges increased 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,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C. http://media-newswire.com/release_1092956.html
Mr. Smith continued: “In May, Medecins Sans Frontieres ( MSF ), Doctors Without Borders, withdrew from Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp in Thailand, because of the international outcry regarding the Thai military’s forced repatriation policy and abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees. The razer-wire ringed detention camp is the last remaining Lao Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. In response to this horrific crisis, this important new bipartisan Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton regarding the Laos Hmong refugee crisis was spearheaded by U.S. Congressmen Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ) and Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ) and massively backed by leading Lao Hmong organizations and communities across the United States in opposition to the Thai Military's, and Prime Minister Abhisit’s, deplorable and cruel forced repatriation policy against the Laotians and Hmong.”
“…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 work on behalf of the abused in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ).
Jane Hamilton-Merritt further stated: “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. www.tragicmountains.org
Hamilton Merritt observed in conclusion: “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.”
The following is the text of the U.S. Congressional letter publicly released today in Washington, D.C. The letter is still under review by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the U.S. Department of State:
Congress of the United States
June 17, 2009
The Honorable Hillary Clinton Secretary of State United States Department of State Washington, DC
Dear Madam Secretary:
We wish to convey our deep concern about the plight of the Hmong at Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Petchabun and at the Nong Khai DetentionCenter in Thailand. We strongly believe the deteriorating circumstances surrounding both humanitarian crises require renewed U.S. diplomatic efforts at the highest level of the State Department. We urge you to address this crisis through two concerted efforts.
First, we ask you to directly urge the Prime Minister of Thailand and senior Thai military officials to halt the forced repatriation of the Hmong at Huay Nam Khao and allow independent third-party access to the refugees to ensure all protection claims and repatriations are resolved in accordance with international standards. As you know, there are currently about 5,000 Hmong refugees at Huay Nam Khao who claim to have fled violence and persecution in Laos. The Thai government has been sending Hmong in the camp back to Laos involuntarily since 2005 and recently reaffirmed its intention to return all refugees in the camp to Laos before the end of this year. Since no independent third party has been allowed access to the camp to monitor the Thai's own screening process, the number of bona fide refugees in the camp remains unclear. Nevertheless, based on NGO reports, we have concerns that Hmong with legitimate protection needs may be residing in the camp.
These issues have been compounded by the fact that Medecins Sans Frontieres ( MSF ) - the sole humanitarian organization working at the camp since 2005 - recently announced the closure of its operations at Huay Nam Khao in protest of the continued repatriation of the Hmong and the Thai military's coercive and restrictive tactics that prevented MSF from providing assistance to those in the camp. Your appeal to the Thai government to bring an end to the forced repatriation and allow independent third-party access will help alleviate these concerns as a new humanitarian organization moves in to provide aid to the camp.
Second, we ask you to implore the Royal Thai Government to allow immediate resettlement of the 158 Hmong who have been detained at Nong Khai Detention Center since December 2006, despite being granted official refugee status by UNHCR. While we are pleased that the State Department has worked to improve the conditions of the detention facility, we are particularly concerned about the fact that the refugees, many of them women and children, are being held in cramped conditions that fall short of international standards. Given the fact that several countries have offered to receive these refugees for resettlement, we believe it is imperative that the Thai government follow through on their promises to help promptly resettle them to third countries.
The U.S. has been a "champion" of the Hmong since the Vietnam War, when many Hmong fought alongside U.S. soldiers and were a critical part of the war effort. We continue to have a vital national security interest in and moral obligation to assist our former allies, especially those with bona fide persecution claims.
We recognize that Thailand has historically provided political asylum and compassionate humanitarian assistance to Hmong refugees fleeing persecution. We are confident that with the appropriate engagement by the U.S., the Royal Thai Government will recognize that maintaining a positive humanitarian record is in its best interests, especially at this juncture. Therefore, we strongly support swift diplomatic action from you. We look forward to working together to resolve this critical problem, and we appreciate your efforts to date on this issue. Please continue to keep us closely informed on the Royal Thai Government's response to our concerns.
Thank you for your attention to these important issues. We look forward to your response.
Members of Congress
( -end text of U.S. Congressional letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, June 17, 2009- )
Juan Lopez ( 202 ) 543-1444
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. No. #212 Washington, D.C. 20006
This story was released on 2009-06-27. 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.