Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Thailand have gone on hunger strike to protest their threatened forced repatriation back to the communist regime in Laos and the caging of a camp leader by Thai authorities.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Thailand have gone on hunger strike to protest their threatened forced repatriation back to the communist regime in Laos and the caging of a camp leader by Thai authorities.
“Some 7,000 Lao Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Phetchabun Province, Thailand, are currently engaged in a massive hunger strike in opposition to the Thai government’s arrest of camp leader Lee Xue,” stated Philip Smith Executive Director Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington D.C.
Xue was arrested on May 15, 2008 and is reportedly being held in a dog cage in the camp by elements of the Thai military for his efforts to contact journalists and human rights organizations about the conditions in the camp and the plight of Lao Hmong refugees being coerced and forced back to Laos against their will.
“Mr. Lee Xue was arrested on 15 May 2008 by order of Thai Colonel Boun Luang for reporting on the conditions within the camp to the international community,” stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Hmong- Lao Human Rights Council.
On 16 May 2008, in response to this arrest and inhumane detention, the 7,000 Hmong refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao began a demonstration and hunger strike within the camp.
“The 7,000 Hmong refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp are appealing to the U. S. Embassy in Thailand, the United States, Amnesty International, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights, the European Union, and other NGOs to urge the Thai government to release Mr. Lee Xue,” continued Vang.
According to a May 2008 report by Doctors Without Borders, a 20 years old Hmong woman at Huay Nam Khao camp shared the widespread sentiment that, “ I will never go back to Laos. I would rather die here than go back to where so many of my family died.” UNHCR has been denied access to the camp to screen the refugees by the Thai authorities. The international community believes, due to Doctors Without Borders reports on extreme psychological trauma, that independent screening is necessary.
Doctors Without Borders, the sole NGO allowed in the camp, also notes grave concern for the safety and well being of these Hmong and calls on, “the governments of Thailand and Laos to immediately stop the forced repatriation of these Lao Hmong refugees without independent monitoring and guarantees for their safety.”
Hmong Americans across the U.S. have relatives trapped in this Thai camp. These American citizens continue to demand that the U.S. Congress take action to save their family members from forced repatriation to Laos where tens of thousands of Hmong have been killed by the current government of Laos.
During the Vietnam War, the Hmong, under the command of Hmong General Vang Pao, fought the North Vietnamese to stand still in Northern Laos for ten years. Armed and trained by the CIA, General Vang Pao’s forces fought under three U.S. Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. When the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam and Laos in defeat, it left the Hmong, the staunchest of allies, behind to be punished for their alliance with the U.S.
Those trapped in Huay Nam Khao behind razor wire and patrolled by Thai soldiers are the remnants and decedents of General Vang Pao’s forces who fought the communist forces of Vietnam in place of American soldiers. According to Colonel Wangyee Vang, president of Lao Veterans of America Institute, “Some 35,000 Hmong were killed and another 50,000 wounded during the Vietnam War.”
More than triple that number were killed by the victorious Lao government after it came to power in 1975. “Hmong in Huay Nam Khao have been running and hiding in the Lao jungle for years, hunted by the Lao military before escaping to Thailand. Rescuing these Hmong in the camp should be a U.S. foreign policy priority,” commented Schuyler Merritt, Research Director at Center for Public Policy Analysis. “This is a failure of American values and directly threatens the lives of American citizens’ relatives.”
Contact: Anna Jones or Philip Smith Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. No.#212 Washington, D.C. 20006 USA
------- The Center for Public Policy Analysis is a Washington, DC-based think tank and research organization focused on national security and foreign policy issues.
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