July 29, 2008
Below is an article published by Media Newswire:
Friday [25 July 2008] evening, on Capitol Hill, bipartisan legislation opposing egregious human rights violations and military attacks in Laos as well as the forced repatriation of Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the Lao regime they fled was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislation was introduced and spearheaded by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to seek to urge the Lao government and military to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and mass starvation of thousands of unarmed Lao and Hmong civilians. The House bill also appeals to the King of Thailand and the Royal Thai government to work to stop the forced and involuntary repatriation of nearly 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled.
“We are very pleased that this bipartisian legislation was introduced urging the Lao government to cease its military attacks on the Hmong in Laos and appealing to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, to halt the forced repatriation of the over 7,000 Hmong refugees in Thailand who do not back to Laos and whose refugee camp was recently set ablaze in apparent opposition to forced repatriation back to the communist Lao regime they fled,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Policy Analysis.
“Clearly, it is very historic and important that the legislation also appeals to the King of Thailand for his assistance to help to urge Prime Minister Samak and the Thai Third Army to stop pressuring and forcing Hmong refugees and asylum seekers back to Laos,” Smith continued.
The legislation, H.R. 1273, also urges the military regime in Laos, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) to release the leaders of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy jailed in October of 1999 for their peaceful, pro-democracy protests in opposition to one-party rule and systemic corruption in Laos by the communist regime.
“This new legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress sends a powerful and symbolic message of hope and truth regarding the terrible killing, mass starvation and persecution of innocent and unarmed Hmong people in Laos and urges the Lao government to immediately cease its massacre and attacks against the Hmong hiding in the jungle and mountains of Laos,” stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council. “The new legislation in the U.S. Congress also urges the government of Thailand to halt and stop the forced repatriation of 8,000 Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchabun Province as well as Nong Khai, Thailand, back to the cruel and brutal communist regime in Laos that continues to persecute and kill its own citizens, especially the Hmong people.”
Smith continued: “In a broader human rights sense, especially regarding the terrible ongoing plight of low-land Lao political dissidents and opposition groups jailed by the Lao regime, it is important to note that the legislation introduced by Congressman Patrick Kennedy and a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives urges the Lao government to address the issue of Lao student dissident, pro-democracy leaders who continue to be jailed following their peaceful protests in the capital of Vientiane in October of 1999.”
“We worked very hard with Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Members of Congress to seek to educate them about the terrible crisis facing the Hmong people under intensified military attacks and mass starvation in Laos as well as the urgent need to stop the forced repatriation of the Hmong refugees in Thailand,” stated Schuyler Merritt, Research Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C.
Smith concluded: “Given the recent Hmong refugee camp fire in Thailand and hunger strikes by the Hmong in the camp who are opposed to returning to Laos, we are very hopeful that this will send an important message and appeal from the U.S. Congress to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, as well as Thai Prime Minister Samak and elements of the Thai Third Army, to seek to grant asylum to the Hmong refugees in Thailand until they can be resettled in third countries like Canada, Australia, France and others who have agreed to grant them political asylum.
Lt. Colonel Wangyee Vang [Founder and National President of the Lao Veterans of America based in Fresno, California] stated: “For over 33 years after the Vietnam war ended, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) government continues to persecute the Laotian people continuously to the present time, especially the Hmong ethnic minority who had been the closest allies to the United States and Thailand during the Vietnam War. Now it is time for the LPDR to stop acting in such an inhumane manner against its own people, including the Hmong ethnic minority. It is time for LPDR to focus on how to improve the life of the Laotian people as a whole, not just for the remaining politburo members of the communist party.”
Regarding the plight of the Hmong refugees in Thailand, Colonel Wangyee Vang concluded: “I would also like to thank His Majesty King Bhumibul Adulyadej, His Majesty the King of Thailand as well as his Government and the people of Thailand for their warm hospitalization for the Laotian refugees to stay temporary in the refugees camps in Thailand while they are seeking freedom abroad to begin a new peacefully life. We appeal to the current government of Thailand to stop the force repatriation the Lao-Hmong refugees at Ban Hauy Nam Khao back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled; and allow third countries and NGOs to enter into the Ban Hauy Nam Khao refugee camp to interview and screen the Hmong refugees so that they can be resettled in third countries.”
“The Lao government still refuses to allow international human rights organizations into Laos to visit the Lao Student Movement for Democracy leaders who have been imprisoned since October of 1999 as well as to monitor the Hmong people that are being attacked in the jungles by the Lao army and security forces,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. :”This legislation, H.R. 1273 urges the Lao government to stop its attack against the Hmong people and set the Lao students free so that they can leave prison where they are being held in Laos. It urges Lao to allow Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch into the country.”
Bounthanh Rathigna concluded: "We thank the U.S. Congress for addressing our concern about the need to restore human rights and democracy to Laos and stop the ongoing and horrific killing of thousands innocent and unarmed Hmong people; Additionally, the 8,000 Hmong refugees in Pethabun Province and Nong Khai Thailand should not be sent back to Laos."