January 21, 2010

Legislators appeal to Laos to aid Hmong

Deported from Thailand to Laos, ethnic Hmong raise concern among members of Congress

Wisconsin lawmakers and other members of Congress are concerned about the safety of ethnic Hmong recently deported from Thailand to Laos.

 Reps. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl joined several of their House and Senate colleagues in signing letters to the deputy prime minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, calling for humane treatment of the returnees.

On Dec. 28, the Thai government repatriated more than 4,000 Lao Hmong who had been living in refugee camps. Human rights groups condemned the deportation, fearing that many of the Hmong would be persecuted by the communist Lao government.

The Hmong aided the United States in the Vietnam War and Secret War in Laos.

"As you know, the United States shares a unique history with the Hmong people," said the Jan. 13 letter signed by Kagen, Kind and 10 other House members. "As such, many members of the U.S. Congress are troubled by the sudden, mass-repatriation of the Lao Hmong."

The lawmakers urged the Lao government to allow the United Nations and other agencies access to the returnees to assess their well-being.

 Both the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees and the U.S. State Department have condemned the forced return of Lao Hmong and have urged the Lao government to admit international monitors.

Vaughn Vang, director of the Lao Human Rights Council in Green Bay, said Hmong living in the United States and other countries are afraid that many returnees will be tortured and subject to other abuse. "We are very scared there will be state persecutions," Vang said.

 "Not now, because the international eye is watching, but in the next three months, (the returnees) will slowly begin to disappear."

 Note: On 14 January 2010, UNPO and 67 global organizations have issued a joint statement calling for Asian states to reaffirm commitment to safeguarding asylum seekers threatened with a return to torture and persecution. To read the joint statement click here.