August 1, 2008
Human Rights groups conclude a national conference in Washington DC in response to the recent imprisonment and repatriation of Hmong refugees in Laos.
Below is an article published by Media Newswire:
In response to the recent forced repatriation and imprisonment of hundreds of Laotian and Hmong refugees in Laos, the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. ( ULDL ), the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ), the Hmong Students Association ( HSA ), the Lao Students Movement for Democracy ( LSMD ), the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. ( HLHRC ) and other non-governmental organizations ( NGOs ) and experts concluded and national conference and policy events in Washington, D.C. today regarding the plight of political prisoners and human rights violations in Laos.
“The ULDL is here in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Congress, in support of H. Res. 1273 and H. Res. 402 urging the Lao communist military regime to immediately release all political prisoners including the leaders of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy of October 1999,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the ULDL.
A national conference, policy events and meetings were conducted jointly on Capitol Hill and the U.S. Congress by the ULDL, CPPA, HLHRC, HSA, LSMD and other organizations in cooperation with Members of Congress.
Mr. Rathigna continued: “Members of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy of October 1999 continue to be jailed in Laos following peaceful protests for political reform and an open society in Vientiane, Laos in that year.”
“We are here in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Congress, on behalf of the Laotian community to condemn, in the strongest terms, the Lao regime for its imprisonment and jailing of hundreds of Hmong refugees recently forcibly returned to Laos, many of whom have been sent to reeducation camps and classified as political prisoners by the Lao regime,” Mr. Rathigna concluded.”
“In the last several months, despite the international outcry and protests, over 1300 Hmong political refugees have been forced from Thailand back to Laos, where hundreds have disappeared and others have been jailed, tortured or sent to reeducation camps and treated as political prisoners,” stated Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Hmong Lao Human Right Council.
“The Lao government is attacking and killing Hmong civilians and unarmed dissident and opposition groups in the jungles and mountains of Laos,” Vang concluded.
“We urge the Lao government to address the human rights violations of its military commanders and to cease its campaign of mass starvation, […] and military attacks against unarmed Laotian and Hmong civilians and dissident groups hiding in the mountains and jungles of Laos,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.
“International law and he principles set forth in H. Res. 1273 and H. Res. 402, by the U.S. Congress, continue to be violated by the Lao regime and key Lao military commanders; these Lao officials and Lao military commanders are clearly guilty of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity and official charges should be brought before the international tribunal in the Hague, since we have the names a number of the key Lao officials responsible for these horrific atrocities,” concluded Smith.
Amnesty International (AI) has recently issued an Urgent Action Appeal expressing concerns about the forced repatriation of Hmong from Thailand to Laos. AI also expressed concern about the potential torture of Hmong sent back to Laos. AI has also issued a recent statement in opposition to the Lao government’s use of the death penalty.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others have also issued recent statements in opposition to the forced repatriation of Hmong refugees and asylum seekers from Thailand to Laos.
Laos is a one-party Stalinist state. It is also know as the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) and is ruled by a military junta which remains a staunch ally of Burma and North Korea.
H. Res. 1273, regarding the human rights crisis facing the Laotian and Hmong people in Laos and Thailand was introduced in the U.S. Congress in June of 2008 and cites H. Res. 402 which passed the U.S. Congress in 2004.