Hmong: Local Hmong Families Fear for Safety of Relatives, Friends
As U.S. and international officials work to ensure the safety of thousands of deported Hmong refugees in communist Laos, some Wisconsin Rapids-area residents continue to worry about family and friends.
Below is an article published by Wisconsin Rapid Daily Tribune
Xia Moua Thao, 54, Wisconsin Rapids, still has not heard from his three relatives whom the Thai government sent back to Laos in December.
"I'm worried because I don't know where they're at, and I'm concerned that they're in prison," Thao said through his daughter-in-law, Mai Thao of Wisconsin Rapids, who interpreted. A veteran of the Secret War, Xia Moua Thao worked with members of the CIA, fighting against the communists, but he now worries his relatives could fall victim to retribution for helping the United States. For Mai Thao, 34, who moved to the United States at a young age, being further removed from the situation reduces her ability to relate.
"It's hard for me to understand what they're going through," she said. "I can't even start to imagine what it must be like."The Thao family isn't the only one in the community awaiting answers about the location or welfare of their displaced friends and family members, said Xia Moua Thao, who has spoken with others in the south Wood County area.
"Nobody knows anything about where anybody is at," the 54-year-old grandfather said. U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, both Wisconsin Democrats, along with eight other senators, have expressed their concern for the safety of the more than 4,000 individuals who were transported Dec. 28 by military truck from refugee camps in Thailand to the Lao border.
"The United States and the international community are watching this situation closely, and we hope that your government will follow through on the pledges to allow international access and to provide support and safety for Hmong who have been sent back to Laos," they wrote in a Jan. 8 letter to Lao Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.For Xia Moua Thao, who moved to the United States in 1989, just knowing the federal government is at least trying to ensure his relatives' safety provides some comfort.
"I am so happy the United States is doing all they can to help the Hmong people that are there right now."