U.S. Amb. Douglas: Halt Urged To Abhisit's Hmong, Laos Repatriation Tragedy in Thailand
The Honorable Howard Eugene Douglas, Former U.S. Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs, has issued a statement in response to recent emergency appeals to Thailand and its Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and others to end the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees to Laos. Laos is slated to hold the Southeast Asia Games (SEA Games) in December and efforts to force the Lao Hmong refugees back to the Stalinist regime in Laos have violently intensified in recent weeks.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., Ban Huay Nam Khao, Nong Khai and Bangkok, Thailand, November 24, 2009 - Today, in Washington, D.C. and Thailand, The Honorable Howard Eugene Douglas, Former U.S. Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs, has issued a statement in response to recent emergency appeals to Thailand and its Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ), Human Rights Watch ( HRW ) and others to end the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees to Laos. Abhisit, Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Army Chief-of-Staff General Anupong Paochinda and Ministry of Interior ( MOI ) Minister Chavarat Charnvirakuland have come under growing international criticism for using increasingly brutal and coercive measures against the Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand to seek to force them back to Laos by the end of this year. Laos is slated to hold the Southeast Asia Games ( SEA Games ) in December and efforts to force the Lao Hmong refugees back to the Stalinist regime in Laos have violently intensified in recent weeks. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0911/S00557.htm
“Over 5,000 Lao Hmong political refugees at Nong Khai and Ban Huay Nam Khao are now facing a dire and unsustainable emergency crisis in Thailand where they are being threatened, abused, beaten and robbed by Thai Army soldiers who are mobilizing in larger and more aggressive numbers to force the Lao Hmong refugees back to the communist regime in Laos in the coming days and weeks,” said Vaughn Vang of the LHHRC.
Mr. Vaughn Vang continued: “Hundreds more Thai soldiers have been sent to the camp and are drilling with fully loaded machine guns and automatic weapons inside and outside the camp, and conducting harassment raids, in preparations to force the Lao Hmong refugees back to the one-party military dictatorship in Laos that continues to persecute and kill them.”
The Honorable Howard Eugene Douglas, Former U.S. Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs stated:
“No country likes to be bossed about by another country, regardless of cause or disparities in power or cultures. Likewise, no country or its leaders are immune from criticism, or in some instances outright condemnation, for abuses against human dignity and the established norms of civilized behavior. Thailand and the Thai government of Prime Minister Abhisit seem intent to erase their country’s past record of compassion toward refugees and replace it with a program of repeated cruel abuse of the human rights of thousands of helpless Lao Hmong who fled their country for refuge in Thailand.
Despite offers from several countries, numerous human rights groups and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to arrange alternatives for those Lao Hmong who do not want to return to Laos, the Thai Government, the Armed Forces and police seem determined to send the Lao Hmong back to Laos against their will. This could be involuntary repatriation writ large. What drives this action by the government in Bangkok? Is it a diversion by a fractured military and civilian leadership to hide their impotence in dealing with the real business of governing?
I have known Thailand first hand since the 1960s and have worked with its military and civilian leadership through many a crisis. Given my association with the country, it pains me to see the Thai Government act as though it were deaf to the cries of the Lao Hmong, to the offers of assistance from other countries, and to the high ideals that have previously earned Thailand such praise for its compassionate grant of temporary refuge.
No one doubts that the Thai government can organize the manpower and force to deliver the helpless Lao Hmong back to Laos against their will. That would be a proud day in the history of the Kingdom. In this eleventh hour before a mass involuntary repatriation, the Thai civilian and military chiefs might profitably remember that the costs of such gratuitous cruelty and indifference can be high: for their country and perhaps even for themselves.”
( --End Statement The Honorable Howard Eugene Douglas, U.S. Ambassador at Large and U.S. Refugee Coordinator-- )
“It is important to note that the Thai military, and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Army General Anupong Paochinda have mobilized hundreds of new troops in the last several days and weeks to seek to force thousands of the Lao Hmong refugees back to Laos before the end of this year, and possibly as soon as Thanksgiving week,” said Philip Smith of the CPPA.
Smith continued: “Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva, Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Army Chief-of-Staff General Anupong Paochinda and Ministry of Interior ( MOI ) Minister Chavarat Charnvirakuland are deploying more heavily soldiers to the camps at Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai to seek to coerce, brutalize and force the Lao Hmong refugees to return to the one-party communist regime in Laos where they fled persecution, military attacks, ethnic cleansing and mass starvation.”
Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President of the Lao Veterans of America Institute explained: “Those 5,000 refugees in Ban Hauy Nam Khao, Phetchabun Province, and Nong Khai, Thailand, are the victims of the Vietnam war. They are veterans, veterans' family members, and descendents of the combat veterans who honorably served the national interests of the United States and the Kingdom of Laos during the Vietnam War, they must immediately be rescued by the United States Government to help save their lives from so many unknown dangers such as persecution, torture, separation from their family members, murder and long-term reeducation camp seminar imprisonment or disappearance."
Colonel Wangyee Vang concluded: "The recently peaceful demonstrations before the SEA games by the students, peasants, merchants, and farmers in Vientiane and other parts of the country clearly show that the Laotian people are not happy with the dictatorship of one party control in Laos. Therefore, the international community of nations who love freedom must intervene to save those refugees from forces repatriations back to the communist LPDR regime in Laos." http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1105478.html
Human rights and refugee advocate Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Distinguished U.S. Foreign Service Officer Edmund McWilliams, Former Vice President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank B. Jenkins Middleton, Hmong human rights advocate Joe Davy and others have also appealed to the Thai government to halt the repatriation of Lao Hmong political refugees from Thailand to Laos. http://www.tragicmountains.org
Members of the U.S. Congress, UNHCR, HRW, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders ( Médecins Sans Frontières — or MSF ), LHHRC, LMHR, the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ), the Lao Veterans of America Institute ( LVAI ), Lao Veterans of America, Inc. ( LVA ), Hmong Advance, Inc. ( HA ), Hmong Advancement, Inc. ( HAI ), United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. ( ULDL ) and other non-governmental and non-profit organizations have appealed to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Thailand to immediately stop the forced repatriation of some 5,000 Lao Hmong refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand to Laos.
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