December 4, 2009

Hmong: Laos Refugee Crisis

Active ImageConcerns have again been raised about the Lao Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand.

 

Below is an article published by Earth Times:

The United Nations, European Parliament, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and Lao Hmong Human Rights Council have made recent appeals to end the forced repatriation of the refugees.

Edmund McWilliams, a former U.S. State Department official, has issued a new appeal to the Obama Administration and the State Department.

“Edmund McWilliams and other distinguished former U.S. officials, including Ambassador Howard Eugene Douglas and Michael Benge, as well as Members of the U.S. Congress, are urging Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Army Chief General Anupong Paochinda to grant asylum to the remaining 5,100 Lao Hmong political refugees until they can be screened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and resettled in other hosting nations,” said Philip Smith, Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.

“There is a growing international outcry regarding the Lao Hmong political refugees in Thailand facing forced repatriation back to the one-party, military regime in Laos where the refugees fled horrific political and religious persecution,” Smith stated.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) withdrew in protest from Huay Nam Khao camp in Thailand because of the Thai military's forced return of 3,000 Lao Hmong refugees.

“The plight of the Hmong and Lao people who fled severe persecution in Laos and sought safety across the Mekong in Thailand is well known; Members of the U.S. Congress, the UNHCR and respected NGO's such as Human Rights Watch recently have voiced strong concern about their ill treatment in camps in Thailand and their likely imminent forced repatriation to Laos,” said Edmund McWilliams who served at the U.S. Embassies in Laos and Thailand.

McWilliams stated: “For many years the U.S. Government was an active champion on behalf of the hundreds of thousands who fled tyranny and persecution in Indochina. Not only did the U.S. welcome hundreds of thousands to its shores, it pursued effective diplomacy to ensure that the rights of the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ and Cambodian refugees were respected in countries of first asylum.

“U.S. diplomats like Ambassador Morton Abromowitz… and many others worked innovatively and often courageously to ensure that the U.S. principled approach to protecting refugee rights and often saving refugee lives carried the day in policy debate in Washington.

“That highly principled policy, undertaken by earlier Democrat and Republican administrations, in recent years has been abandoned by U.S. administrations more inclined to promote good political relations and trade in the region. A new generation of policy makers and diplomats are at the helm. They appear unaware of the sacrifices of many peoples of Indochina in support of U.S. efforts in the region. The Hmong of Laos, and Montagnards in Vietnam, in particular, not only fought with U.S. troops but also were key to the rescue of downed U.S. pilots and besieged U.S. units. But their sacrifice seems somehow unimportant to those now in control of U.S. policy, few of whom were witnesses to that sacrifice.

“This abandonment of former allies, this desertion of responsibility is a disservice to the sacrifice of U.S. and other forces that fought in that troubled war so many years ago, and brings no honor to the U.S. today.”
McWilliams, Members of the U.S. Congress, and others, have also appealed to Thailand, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz, and Ravic Huso, the U.S. Ambassador to Laos.