U.S. Congress Urges Sec. Clinton, Thailand to Stop Forcing Hmong to Laos

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"This important new bipartisan Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton regarding the Laos Hmong refugee crisis was spearheaded by U.S. Congressmen Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) and massively backed by leading Lao Hmong organizations and communities across the United States," said Philip Smith of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C.,and Bangkok, Thailand, June 17, 2009 - A U.S. Congressional letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the Lao Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand and Laos is slated to be sent today by some 25 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan U.S. Congressional letter urges increased 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.

“Thousands of Lao Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers, including many veterans who served with U.S. clandestine and special forces during the Vietnam War, are now facing forced repatriation by the Thai military back to the brutal Stalinist regime in Laos that they fled,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C. “This important new bipartisan Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton regarding the Laos Hmong refugee crisis was spearheaded by U.S. Congressmen Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ) and Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ) and massively backed by leading Lao Hmong organizations and communities across the United States in opposition to the Thai Military's, and Prime Minister Abhisit’s, deplorable and cruel forced repatriation policy against the Laotians and Hmong.”

“We wish to convey our deep concern about the plight of the Hmong at Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Petchabun and at the Nong Khai Detention Center in Thailand. We strongly believe the deteriorating circumstances surrounding both humanitarian crises require renewed U.S. diplomatic efforts at the highest level of the State Department. We urge you to address this crisis,” the Members of Congress have written to Secretary of State Clinton.

“First, we ask you to directly urge the Prime Minister of Thailand and senior Thai military officials to halt the forced repatriation of the Hmong at Huay Nam Khao and allow independent third-party access to the refugees to ensure all protection claims and repatriations are resolved in accordance with international standards. As you know, there are currently about 5,000 Hmong refugees at Huay Nam Khao who claim to have fled violence and persecution in Laos,” the U.S. Congressional letter further says.

Last month, Medecins Sans Frontieres ( MSF ), Doctors Without Borders, withdrew from Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp in Thailand, because of Thailand's forced repatriation policy and abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees. The camp is the last remaining Lao Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. MSF was the only Non Governmental Organization ( NGO ) providing food and medical support to some 5,500 Lao Hmong political refugees at the camp. Another 158 Hmong political refugees are being detained in harsh conditions at Nong Khai, Thailand.

“First, it should be noted that the recent protest by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Medicines Sans Frontieres ( MSF- also known as Doctors Without Borders ) is historical,” said Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of the award-winning book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos” and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her human rights work on behalf of the abused in Laos. www.tragicmountains.org

Dr. Hamilton-Merritt further stated: “This organization deserves another Nobel for its courageous protest–-perhaps its first--to give voice to the suffering voiceless behind razor wire in Thailand. Many of the refugees in Thailand were our staunchest allies. Secretary Clinton should acknowledge this heroic act by Doctors Without Borders by reading the carefully documented reports of medically certified abuses, Thai mistreatment, and forced repatriation. Read the reports about the fear of those who are about to be forcibly returned to their abusers in Laos. Know their stories: Hear their cries.” http://doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=3627&cat=press-release

Dr. Hamilton Merritt continued: “Resolving this humanitarian crisis and protecting our former allies from harm is clearly a national security priority—or it should be if the U.S. hopes to attract or maintain alliances in the future. Those who are knowledgeable on this issue all agree that resolution is possible and frankly not complicated. This Congressional Letter succinctly describes the problem and the actions needed for resolution.”

"As a former political refugee, I am strongly urging Mrs. Clinton to work with the Royal Thai Government to stop the force repatriation of the Hmong refugees back to Laos; and at the same time open the refugee camp for NGOs and third countries to go in there and screen those refugees who want to resettle in third countries including those in Nong Khai detention center,” said Col. Wangyee Vang, National President and founder of the Lao Veterans of America Institute ( LVAI ) in Fresno, California.

Colonel Wangyee stated further “I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of many in the Laotian and Hmong-American community in across the United States to thank our Congressmen Cardoza, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Congressman Jim Costa, Congressman George Radanovich Kennedy Congresswoman Zoe Lofgreen and the over 20 Members of Congress who signed this important letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their crucial efforts and support of the Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand and Laos."

“Clearly, the Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand 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 in Laos,” said Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council. “This U.S. Congressional letter is an important step in helping to reverse the current forced repatriation policy in Thailand and the abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees by elements of the Thai Third Army and Ministery of Interior.”

The U.S. Congressional letter was signed in the U.S. Congress by Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ), Howard Berman ( D-CA ), Zoe Lofgren ( D-CA ), Ron Kind ( D-WI ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ( R-FL ), Chris Smith ( R-NJ ), Madeleine Bordallo ( D-G ), Steve Kagen ( D-WI ), James Langevin ( D-RI ), Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ), Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), Jerry McNerney ( D-CA ), Mike Honda ( D-CA ), Doris Matsui ( D-CA ), Tom Petri ( D-WI ), Jim Costa ( D-CA ), George Radanovich ( R-CA ), James McGovern ( D-MA ), Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ), Jim Moran ( D-VA ), Raul Grijalva ( D-AZ ), Gwen Moore ( D-WI ), Bill Delahunt ( D-MA ) and Ed Perlmutter ( D-CO ). Additional Congressional offices reportedly anticipated cosigning the letter even as the deadline for signatures and transmission to the U.S. Department of State approached today.

Last month, Laotian and Hmong-Americans and community organizations from across the United States, including veterans and their families from 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 Congressional forum and policy conference was held in the U.S. 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 Thailand and Laos.



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