July 10, 2008
Below is an article published by the Media Newswire:
The U.S. Senate letter was signed by Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Herb Kohl, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Barbara Boxer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Norm Coleman and Senator Patrick Leahy. The Hmong refugees in Thailand and Lao-Hmong community in the United States, France and internationally have joined in support of U.S. Congressional legislation and letters appealing to His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, of Thailand, for humanitarian assistance to help stop the repatriation of the Hmong.
The Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ), Hmong Laos Human Rights Council, Inc., the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc., and other organizations condemn the grossly misleading and inaccurate statements reportedly made on July 4, 2008, by Thai Lt. General Nipat Thonglek, Chief of the Royal Thai Army’s Border Affairs Department, that nine envoys from six countries were satisfied with the treatment of 215 Hmong political refugees that are slated to be forced back to Laos on Thursday, July 10, 2008.
“According to the Hmong, and other sources, this was a ‘Potemkin village’ visit by a few envoys who were apparently only allowed one hour to visit some 215 Hmong that are being heavily guarded by Thai soliders at the 28th Cavalry Battalion in Petchabun, Thailand,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA.
“The group of 215 Hmong political refugees in Thailand who are now being threatened to be repatriated back to Laos this week have not volunteered to be sent back to Laos,” stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. According to Vang, “Current information that we have received from Thailand is that if the Hmong indicate that they do not want to go back to Laos, they are beaten and threatened until they agree.”
Mr. Vang has serious concerns regarding the refugees and raises some important questions about the factual situation. Vang, asked: “Why is Thai Lt. General Nipat Thonglek making grossly bogus and false public statements and assertions that official diplomatic envoys from Western nations are being given free access to the Hmong refugees when this is clearly not true?”
He further asked: “If the 215 Hmong political refugees being held at the 28th Calvalry Battalion in Phetchabun Province were interviewed, we want to know who interviewed them and what are the names of the people who interviewed them? When were they interviewed?
Director Vang further questioned: “Could the refugees speak freely or were Thai officials and soldiers listening and watching? What kinds of questions were asked? Who were the translators and were they independent translators? Was the UNHCR given access to this location during the alleged questioning? How many Hmong refugees were interviewed?”
Most importantly, Vang asked, “What is the total number of Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at the 28th Cavalry Battalion, since we believe many more are being held there against their will?”
"Thai authorities claim that these were voluntary repatriations," said Gilles Isard, Medecine Sans Frontiere ( MSF ) head of mission in Thailand. "It is hard to believe. Families have been torn apart. One of our Hmong staff members who joined the protest has been sent back to Laos without her children and we know of other similar cases. Many of these refugees have expressed grave fears at the prospect of being sent back to Laos," he said. "In the camp there are more than one hundred and fifty people who have suffered bullet wounds that they claim they received a few years ago from the Lao army while staying in the jungle. Hmong refugees who were receiving treatment from MSF for mental trauma caused by the violence and persecution they experienced in Laos are among the missing. These people do not trust the Lao government and demand real guarantees before going back."
During the events reported by MSF, hundreds of Hmong refugees and asylum seekers have disappeared or have been arrested in Thailand by Thai military and security forces, in addition to the over 800 forced back to Laos following a protest march by over 5,000 Lao Hmong refugees on June 20, 2008, in opposition to their being sent back to Laos. Thirteen Hmong refugee leaders were arrested and disappeared after the protest march.
The Hmong refugees in Thailand and Lao-Hmong community in the United States, France and internationally have joined in support of U.S. Congressional legislation and letters appealing to His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, of Thailand, for humanitarian assistance to help stop the repatriation of the Hmong and grant them asylum in Thailand until they can be resettled in third countries.
The legislation, H. Res. 1273, was introduced, and is cosponsored by seven ( 7 ) Members of the U.S. House of Representatives including Congressman Patrick Kennedy , Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Congressman Frank Wolf, Congressman Jim Costa, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Ron Kind and Congressman James Langevin.
Seven ( 7 ) U.S. Senators recently wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her intervention with Prime Minister Samak and the Royal Thai Government to stop the forced repatriation of over 800 Hmong refugees back to Laos and to seek to stop the involuntary repatriation of some 7000 additional Hmong refugees including those at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Phetchabun Province, and elsewhere in Thailand. The letter was signed by Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Herb Kohl, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Barbara Boxer, Sheldon Whitehouse Norm Coleman and Senator Patrick Leahy.
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