Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Zong Khang Yang has a personal mission--but he doesn't feel like it should be a personal mission. Since discovering the plight and persecution of Hmong people left behind in the jungles of Laos and Thailand; the conditions his "family members and people" are living under have been the focus of his activities.
On June 16, 2004 he lead a group of 13 young people on what was dubbed, "The Long Walk For Freedom," from the State Capital in St. Paul to Washington D.C. The group made several stops along the way and worked to educate anyone and everyone they met along the way about the conditions and human rights abuses that the Hmong surviving in Laos have endured
Most recently his work has shifted to raise awareness about Hmong people in Thailand. With most of the refugee camps now closed, many Hmong find themselves at odds with the Thai government. The Thai government has kept no secret about the plans to return the Hmong to Laos. Several NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders/ Medicins Sans Frontieres have been working within Thailand to try and prevent this from happening.
On June 22 they failed in their efforts. 800 Hmong people were rounded up by Thai police and military and forced to return to Laos. Some reports say that the people were also badly beaten. There have been little to no reports about what happened to them after they were returned to Laos.
To raise awareness about their situation Zong Khang Yang built a large wooden cross and carried it along University Ave. from the State Capital to Norm Coleman's office. Yang said, " I was very concerned [when I heard of what happened in Thailand], some of our senators are also concerned, but that's our congress, our leaders. Are we going to sit and do nothing?"
Khang wore a traditional long jacket, "to symbolize my culture," and carried the wooden cross, "to symbolize suffering." Across the cross was written the words, "Please save my people in jungles Laos, Thailand Now!" Khang said, "I have no choice but to prick my own finger and write the words in my blood."
Fong Yang accompanied him carrying a Minnesota flag and Tyvone Lee carrying a United States Flag.
Khang stopped at Betty McCollum's office and several other offices on his journey, but he especially wanted to "encourage Hmong community to do their job"-call their family members to raise awareness and request that they call their representatives and senators and say:
1. Stop the Thai government from arresting Hmong and using force.
2. Allow an international peace commission to go into Laos and Thailand.
3. Follow-up on the 800 people returned to Laos. Say, "I am concerned about shelters, safety, medical attention. They have no place to live and possibly face execution. I am wondering if the Lao government will accept them."
Khang brought these requests to several local senators and representatives. Now he hopes to spread the word across the nation.