Hmong: US Citizens Still Detained After Three Years
In Laos, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) military regime has been urged to release, three Americans of Hmong descent from St. Paul, Minnesota, who were arrested in 2007 while traveling to Laos. The LPDR has been asked to release the three, which include Mr. Hakit Yang, of St. Paul, prior to the start of the Southeast Asia Games (SEA Games) in December. The three Americans were arrested by Lao Peoples Army (LPA) and LPDR security forces in Xieng Khouang Province in the summer of 2007 and moved to Laos’ notorious Phonthong Prison were they were tortured and interrogated before being moved to a secret prison in Sam Nuea Province, Laos, according to sources.
“We are asking the Lao government for answers about my husband Hakit Yang and the others that they arrested,” said Sheng Xiong, wife of Hakit Yang, at a two-day national policy conference on Laos earlier this year at the U.S. Congress and National Press Club where she appealed for help for the release of her husband and his colleagues to the LPDR government, U.S. Ambassador Ravic Huso and the U.S. Embassy and Department of State in Washington, D.C.
The three Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota, arrested and imprisoned in Laos without charge by the Lao military are Mr. Hakit Yang, Mr. Congshineng Yang, and Mr. Trillion Yunhansion.
The LPDR regime and public sector in Laos have been listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world in a recent study by Transparency International.
In April, Australian author and former political prisoner Kay Danes spoke at a national policy conferences in Colorado, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Congress on the horrific situation that prisoners in Laos face under the LPDR regime.
Kay Danes new book ‘Standing Ground’ was released in the Spring of 2009 about her ordeal, along with her husband, in Vientiane, Laos’ infamous Phonthong Prison, where she was imprisoned and was an eyewitness to torture and unspeakable abuses by LPDR officials and prison guards.
Mrs. Sheng Xiong was a keynote speaker at the events with Danes and other policy experts and Laotian and Hmong non-profit organizations.
Mrs. Sheng Xiong, a spokesperson for three Americans jailed in Laos, has repeatedly appealed to the LPDR government for the release of her husband and for answers to his current whereabouts in Laos. The Lao government has refused to allow the families of the three St. Paul American citizens to receive visitors from humanitarian groups, the U.S. Embassy in Laos or the family of the three arrested men. The three Americans were traveling to Laos as tourist and seeking potential business investment opportunities in Laos according to family members.
“Hakit Yang and the other two American citizens have disappeared into the Lao LPDR gulag system and secret prison system like so many others after their arrest in 2007,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C. “The LPDR regime is being urged to release the three Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota before the SEA Games so they can be reunited with their families before Christmas and the New Year; the Hmong community in St. Paul, Minnesota, and across the United States is anxious to see the three Hmong-American men returned safely to their families and released from jail in Laos where they are being held without charges or due process.”
In Thailand, the Thai military and Prime Minister Abhisit and Army Chief-of-Staff General Anupong are mobilizing more troops to force nearly 5,000 Lao Hmong political refugees from Thailand back to Laos. Members of the U.S. Congress, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council (LHHRC), CPPA and others have repeatedly urged Thailand to end the repatriation of these refugees and allow them to be screened and resettled in third countries that have agreed to grant them political asylum including France, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and The Netherlands.
"Clearly, given the arrest and ongoing imprisonment of Hakit Yang and the Hmong-Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota, these 5,500 Lao Hmong refugees should not be sent back to Laos; there should especially be no more forced repatriations of Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the communist regime in Laos that the refugees fled until Hakit Yang and his America colleagues are released from jail in Sam Neua Province, Laos by the Lao government," said Philip Smith of the CPPA earlier this year in Washington, D.C.
“Mrs. Sheng Xiong has issued numerous heart-felt and courageous appeals regarding her husband’s arrest and the ongoing imprisoned of the three St. Paul Hmong-Americans in Laos who were seeking business and investment opportunities in Laos,” stated Philip Smith of the CPPA. “We now know the three American citizens were transferred from Phonthong Prison in Vientiane, Laos, to a secret prison site in Sam Nuea Province, where they are still being held against their will and with out charge or due process,” Smith concluded.
Ms. Sheng Xiong provided an official statement in January 2008 in the U.S. Congress regarding Hakit Yang’s arrest and imprisonment in Laos by Lao military and security forces along with Mr. Congshineng Yang, and Mr. Trillion Yunhansion.
A number of key Minnesota Twin Cities Lao Hmong community leaders and delegations from St. Paul and Minneapolis spoke at, and participated, at a series of Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C. policy events on the plight of the three St. Paul men as well as human rights and refugee issues in Laos and Thailand including: Mr. Phoukhio Khaochonetham, Mr. Boon Boualaphanh, Mr. Phoumy Phanthavong, Mr. Sangvane Phommachanh, Ms. S. Thao, Beth Xiong and others.
Some 1200 Laotians have been arrested in Laos in November in reform and anti-government marches, rallies and protests in Vientiane and elsewhere in Laos. Many, including political and religious, students and ordinary Laotians, are being imprisoned in Laos notorious Sam Khe Prison. The marches and protests began on November 2 in Laos. Vietnam has intervened with more troops and security forces deployed in Laos to seek to prop up the Stalinist LPDR regime prior to the start of the SEA Games.