Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Thailand Diplomat Backs US Congress Laos, Hmong Plan
Bangkok, Thailand and Washington, D.C. June 25, 2009, For Immediate Release
Center for Public Policy Analysis
A senior U.S. foreign officer, Edmund McWilliams, who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, today commented upon and hailed a Congressional letter sent recently to the U.S. Department of State and Obama Administration regarding the Lao-Hmong refugee and human rights crisis in Thailand and Laos. The letter was sent late last week by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) along with 29 additional Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with copies forwarded to the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.
"This is a powerful and very timely statement," said Edmund McWilliams, regarding the U.S. Congressional letter signed by 31 Members of Congress to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "The refusal of successive U.S. Administrations to address decades of abuse of the Hmong people by the highly authoritarian regime in Laos
is unconscionable," McWilliams continued.
Edmund McWilliams is a retired Senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer, now working pro bono on human rights advocacy. While working for the U.S. Department of State he was assigned to US the Embassies in Vientiane and Bangkok, and elsewhere. Mr. McWilliams dealt with human rights issues, including the plight of Hmong in Laos and refugee status issues in Thailand. He is a military veteran of the Vietnam war.
Mr. McWilliams concluded: "The Hmong of Laos, like the Montagnard peoples of Vietnam,are forgotten allies from a forgotten war. Their self-sacrifice and loyalty included dangerous missions to save downed U.S. pilots and reconnoiter behind enemy lines.For those of us who served in the war in Indochina, their courage and contribution to our efforts, have left an enduring legacy and obligation..."
"Just last month, in May, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Doctors Without Borders, withdrew in protest from Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp in Thailand, because of the Thai military's deplorable forced repatriation policy and abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees," said Philip Smith Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C. "This detention facility is the last remaining Lao Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. MSF was the only Non Governmental Organization (NGO) providing critically needed food and medical support to some 5,500 Lao-Hmong political refugees at the camp."
"Encouragingly, the recent bipartisan U.S. Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton urges decisive emergency diplomatic efforts by the United States to end the Thai military's forced repatriation of Lao Hmong political refugees back to the one-party Communist regime in Laos that they fled," Smith continued.
"Sadly and tragically, many Lao Hmong political refugees are now facing forced repatriation by the Thai military back to the brutal Stalinist regime in Laos that they fled and that continues to persecute and kill their family members," Smith concluded.
"Without a doubt, clearly, the Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand absolutely do not want to return to the brutal Communist regime in Laos that they fled and that continues to attack, persecute and kill many of their family members and relatives in Laos," said Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council in Wisconsin.
In May, Laotian and Hmong-American community organizations from across the United States, including veterans and their families from Massachusetts, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and other states participated in National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam War Memorial and the U.S. Congress. A major U.S. Congressional Forum and Policy Conference on Laos was held in the House of Representatives and Lao and Hmong community representatives went door-to-door in the U.S. Congress to discuss the Lao-Hmong refugee crisis in Southeast Asia.