A demonstration at the Lao Embassy as well as a week-long series of policy events in Washington, D.C. were concluded today by Laotian-Americans. The events were held in cooperation with American policymakers, Members of Congress and non- governmental organizations (NGOs), and ended with a call for the release of hundreds of political and religious dissidents and thousands of Lao-Hmong refugees currently held in detention in Laos.
The withdrawal of Vietnamese troops, special security forces and Communist party advisors from the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) was also discussed and stressed on Capitol Hill. The events were held concurrently with actions undertaken by the United Nations (UN) in reviewing concerns about human rights violations by the LPDR in Laos. "We are here in front of the Lao Embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest the continued imprisonment of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy leaders of October 1999 as well as the peaceful protesters and dissidents from October and November of last year who continued to be imprisoned by Lao and Vietnamese military and security forces in Sam Khe prison and elsewhere in Laos," said Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL) at a human rights and pro-democracy demonstration held on May 1 in front of the LPDR Embassy in Washington, D.C "Many Laotians and Hmong have been persecuted, tortured--or and have disappeared, or been killed--by Lao and Vietnamese security forces in Laos for merely expressing their political or religious views, peacefully protesting or practicing their faith," Rathigna continued. The demonstration in front of the Lao PDR Embassy as well as a national policy conference and meetings held in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Congress stressed the need for political change and reform as well as an open-society in Laos. Laotian and Hmong delegations from Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, Rhode Island, California, Pennsylvania and other states participated. The continued detention of Lao and Hmong political refugees as well as religious and minority dissidents was detailed and stressed. The demonstration and policy events were hosted by the ULDL and cosponsored by the Laotian Community of Minnesota, the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council, the Lao Institute for Democracy, Hmong Advance, Inc., Hmong Advancement, Inc., the Center for Public Policy Analysis and others. Mr. Rathigna continued: "Hanoi continues to engage in illegal logging and to economically and politically exploit the people of Laos with its open and clandestine military presence in Laos, as well as the brutal acts of oppression by its secret police, We want the corrupt generals from Hanoi and communist Vietnam, as well as Vietnam military owned companies, to withdrawal their terrible military forces from Laos and allow the Lao and Hmong people to live in peace and freedom... stop stealing the Laotian peoples´ natural resources and raping and destroying our forests and sacred lands." "The LPDR regime continues to hunt and brutally persecute Laotian and Hmong Christians, Animist leaders and many independent Buddhist groups as well as to deny the United Nations access to over 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees forced from Thailand to Laos from 2007-2009," said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C. "The Lao Peoples Army, backed by corrupt generals in Hanoi, continues to engage in illegal logging in Laos and to hunt and kill Laotian and Hmong civilians as well as religious and political dissident groups hiding in the mountains of jungles of Laos, including many innocent people still trapped in various provinces in Laos." "We are also calling on the Lao government to grant international access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to thousands of Lao Hmong refugees in Laos that were forced from Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand to Laos last year," said Thongchanh Boulum, Secretary of the ULDL at the demonstration in front of the Lao Embassy. "The Lao government under the LPDR regime continues to engage in egregious crimes against humanity and violate its international commitments to the United Nations; the communist regime in Vientiane continues to persecute and to violate the human rights and religious freedom of the Lao and Hmong people with the help of corrupt military generals in Vietnam." "We need the LPDR regime in Laos to abide by its international agreements and stand up to the corrupt and bloody military bullies in Hanoi that are violating Laos´ national sovereignty and deploying their soldiers in Laos," said Boun Boualaphanh, of the Lao Community of Minnesota. Mr. Boualaphanh concluded: "The corrupt, one-party Stalinist regime in Laos has failed the Laotian and Hmong people who are suffering ongoing political and religious persecution. Laos continues to be dominated by corrupt military generals from the Lao Peoples Army and Hanoi who have impoverished the nation and destroyed much of its potential and many of its people. The LPDR regime should allow independent human rights monitors into Laos and to allow free and fair multiparty elections as called for in H.Res. 402, and H. Res. 1273, by the U.S. Congress and independent human rights and humanitarian organizations." "We want positive change and political reform in Laos, and an end to one-party military rule in Laos and the Lao Hmong refugee crisis that sadly continues to plague Laos as a result of the communist regimes´ oppressive authoritarian rule," said Hompheng Southivong to Laotian delegates and policymakers at the Laos National Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.