Monday, August 10, 2009
2009-08-09 18:23:54 - "U.S. Secretary of State Clinton's engagement on this matter, demonstrates a new and very welcome U.S. senior level commitment to protecting the human rights of Hmong in Thailand," said Edmund McWilliams, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer who served in Thailand and Laos and worked for many years to assist Laotian and Hmong refugees. "This concern should also extend to Hmong facing brutal repression within Laos which forced the flight of the thousands of Hmong now in Thailand in the first place."
Bangkok, Thailand and Washington, D.C., August 9, 2009
United States’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her recent visit to the meeting in Thailand of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASASEAN), has raised the plight of nearly 5,000 Lao Hmong who have fled brutal repression in Laos and sought refuge in Thailand. The move by Clinton in opposition to the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong political refugees back to the communist regime in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) that they fled was again lauded in Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill by policy experts, scholars and advocates. The diplomatic and U.S. Congressional action precede U.S. Senator Jim Webb’s (D-VA) visit to Thailand, Laos, Burma and Southeast Asia nations in the coming days.
Senator Jim Webb, in addition to raising high-level security, trade and others issues, is expected to raise concerns about human rights violations in Laos and Thailand against Lao Hmong refugees and political and religious dissidents. Many of the Lao Hmong refugees fleeing persecution in Laos to Thailand served with U.S. military and clandestine units during the war with Vietnam.
The LPDR regime in Laos is a staunch ally of North Korea and other authoritarian and rogue regimes, including Burma.
Laos has held recent rallies in support of North Korea.
McWilliams, a distinguished retired U.S. State Department official, is active on human rights, environmental and refugee issues.
"It is certainly good news, and a huge step forward, that Secretary of State Clinton has personally expressed to the Thai foreign minister her concern for the plight of Hmong refugees in Thailand who are threatened with forcible repatriation to Laos,” said B. Jenkins Middleton, Esq., in Washington, D.C. Mr. Middleton is active on human rights and refugee issues regarding Laos and the Hmong people and has presented testimony in the U.S. Congress and Capitol Hill on the current Lao Hmong refugee crisis.
Mr. Middleton stated further: “To date the efforts of lower-level officials of the State Department have failed to persuade the authorities, in both Thailand and Laos, to permit transparent screening, under UNHCR auspices, of the refugees to determine whether they are entitled to political refugee status under international law. Those of us in the international human rights community who have been urging this course are grateful to Secretary Clinton, and will watch further developments with cautious optimism."
Laos, Hmong scholar and author Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt has repeatedly raised concerns about the plight of Lao Hmong refugees in the U.S. Congress and internationally. Hamilton-Merritt is the author of “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos” (Indiana University Press)
Nobel peace prize nominee, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt has frequently testified in the U.S. Congress and Washington, D.C. regarding the plight of the Hmong in Thailand and Laos. www.tragicmountains.org
According to media reports, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton specifically raised the issue during talks with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. She reportedly expressed concern about the repatriation process and whether it was being conducted on a truly voluntary basis. She also reportedly suggested a screening mechanism to identify refugees by neutral parties such as the UN refugee agency.
Subsequent to this discussion, Samuel Witten, principal deputy assistant to the secretary of state in charge of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, discussed the Lao Hmong refugee issue with the head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry's International Organisations Department, Anuson Chinwanno, and held talks with Thawil Pliensri, the new secretary-general of the National Security Council. Mr Witten reportedly also planned to visit the Phetchabun camp. He is the most senior U.S. official to visit the camp, which houses nearly 5,000 Hmong.
“As Senator Jim Webb prepares to visit Laos and Thailand in the wake of Secretary Clinton’s meeting with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva about the Laos, Hmong crisis, many in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Congress are growing increasingly concerned because, as an example, in late July, ninety-seven (97) Hmong were sent back to Laos as part of the Thai-Lao agreement to repatriate all volunteer Hmong to Laos this year,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C.
“Unfortunately, there were absolutely no assurances that this return of Lao Hmong refugees was voluntary, because the Thai military is running out of volunteers; Clearly, the Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand do not want to return to the Stalinist military regime in Laos that continues to persecute, starve to death, attack and massacre their families as well as political and religious dissidents,” Smith continued. www.live-pr.com/en/laos-lpdr-gulag-foreign-prisoners-dissidents- ..
“It is important to note, that the Center for Public Policy Analysis, along with many other prominent organizations and policymakers, strongly welcomes this unprecedented level of U.S. Government attention to the long standing problem of Hmong refugees in Thailand which reached crisis proportions this year as the Thai and Lao Government reached an accord which would forcibly repatriate the thousands of Lao Hmong to Laos,” Smith continued further.
Mr. Philip Smith concluded: “In June, some thirty-two (32) Members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton in staunch opposition to the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees. The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Frank Wolf (VA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Jim McGovern (D-MA) Steve Kagen (D-WI), and other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”
“Today, I want to take this opportunity to thank our Members of Congress for their letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding our Lao Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand,” said Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President of the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI). The non-profit veterans’ organization represents thousands of Lao and Hmong veterans and their refugee families in the United States. Many have relatives still suffering persecution in Thailand and Laos.
Speaking from his desk at the national offices of the LVAI in Fresno, California, Colonel Wangyee Vang further observed: “ I would also thank you Secretary Clinton for her high-level diplomatic approach to the Thai government and Thai Prime Minister concerning the Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Houi Nam Khao, Petchabun Province and Nong Khai, Thailand, to prevent them from forced repatriation back to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic…The Lao Hmong refugees do not want to return to the horrific and brutal Communist regime in Laos that continues to persecute and kill them. The want to be reunited with their families in the United States or resettled in third countries such as Australia, Canada, France that have agreed to take them.”