US bids to erase its Lao past

Monday, September 28, 2009

By Brian McCartan

BANGKOK - A United States Justice Department decision this month to drop charges against former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) collaborator Vang Pao clears the 79-year-old ethnic Hmong leader from a possible terrorism trial in an alleged plot to overthrow the Lao government.

However, a new indictment issued by a California court against a dozen men - 11 of them ethnic Hmong and a former US Special Forces officer during the Vietnam War - raises new questions about connections between anti-government insurgents in Laos and their ethnic brethren in the US.

The new indictment claims a dozen men - including 10 mentioned in the previous dropped charge - violated the Neutrality Act by giving money, weapons and material support to Hmong rebels in Laos, who have continued their resistance against the Lao government since the Vietnam War. The indictment also contains new charges, including conspiracy to receive and transport explosives through interstate and foreign commerce.

Hmong supporters of Vang Pao and many of his former CIA handlers say the federal government's case lacks substance and reads like the plot of an action movie. The case stems from a tip received by investigators in 2006 by a man the US government termed a "defense contractor", but whose main vocation seems to be selling potions he claims cures chronic diseases, including cancer.

The tip sparked an investigation in 2007 by a federal anti-terror task force in Sacramento, California, which it claimed was a US$26 million plot to overthrow the Lao government.

Vang Pao's arrest, however, sparked at least one mass protest among the Hmong community in the US. Because Vang Pao is not included in the new case, it is not expected to draw as much media and public attention. US Attorney Lawrence G Brown of the Eastern District of California, said the charges against Vang Pao had been dropped "based on the totality of the evidence in the case".

In a court motion, Brown wrote, "The government believes, as a discretionary matter, that continued prosecution of defendant Vang Pao is no longer warranted." And in a news release, he said prosecutors could drop charges for a variety of reasons, including vaguely "other consequences if the person is convicted".

Some believe the decision to drop the case was prompted by a realization that continued prosecution of Vang Pao in court could be embarrassing for the US, particularly as Washington bids to forge closer ties to the Lao government. The US re-established full diplomatic relations with Laos in 1992 and granted it Normal Trade Relations (NTR) status in 2004. A bilateral trade agreement entered into force in February 2005 and the two sides exchanged military attaches in 2008.

In June, US President Barack Obama removed Laos and Cambodia from a blacklist that limited government support for companies doing business in both countries. The move was intended to open the way for more US investment in both countries by allowing American companies to apply for financing through the Export-Import Bank of the United States for working capital guarantees, export credit insurance and loan guarantees.

Laos does not represent a large or high purchasing power market for US companies. American exports to Laos were a mere US$18 million last year, while Lao exports to the US tallied $42 million. United States trade with Thailand and Vietnam, in comparison, amounted to $30 billion and $15 billion respectively. At the same time, the US is keen to counterbalance China's rising influence in the region, including in Laos.

Chinese companies have recently moved into Laos in a big way, with Beijing widely recognized as Laos' biggest economic patron. China has financed the construction of major roads, including the recently completed Route 3 linking China and Thailand through northwest Laos, and other high-profile projects such as the National Cultural Hall in downtown Vientiane and the main stadium for the biennial Southeast Asian Games to be held in the capital city in December.

United States economic initiatives and aid packages grew from $4.5 million over the three-year period spanning 2005-2007 to $18 million last year, according to US State Department figures. However, lingering Lao perceptions of US meddling, both through its assistance to the Royal Lao government during the 1950s-1970s and its perceived support for a continuing Hmong resistance, have hampered a faster expansion in diplomatic and commercial ties.

Former ally, current liability
General Vang Pao's ethnic Hmong rebels were a key component in a CIA-led strategy to prevent a communist takeover of Laos from 1961-1973. In what has become known as the Secret War, Hmong guerrillas interdicted supply convoys, called in air strikes and rescued downed American fliers. Vang Pao's troops suffered heavy casualties in what eventually proved to be a futile effort in repelling communist forces.

Vang Pao and many of his key followers were evacuated in 1975 and over the years tens of thousands of Hmong fled the country for refugee camps in neighboring Thailand, from which most were eventually resettled in the US. Other Hmong chose to remain in Laos to maintain their remote camps in a little known or noticed resistance movement that continues to this day.

For many of the 200,000 Hmong now living in the US, the war has still not ended. Their relatives who never surrendered are still being hunted and killed by the Lao military. Media reports have revealed that groups of men, women and children survive on roots, leaves and whatever animals can be trapped in the jungle while they maintain their hit-and-run resistance.

Through satellite phones received as gifts from relatives in America, they contact their kin in Minneapolis, Milwaukee or Sacramento to tell them of Lao military attacks and their desperate attempts to defend themselves with decrepit Vietnam-era weapons. Support for the so-called "jungle Hmong" began in the 1980s when Hmong began raising money in their own communities to support the resistance in Laos.

Although the assistance violated US law - and the Hmong did little to hide what they were doing - the Justice Department was uninterested in cracking down on a group that were former allies involved in a country that apparently held little geostrategic consequence to US interests. Hmong fundraisers and supporters apparently grew bolder in the absence of US government or law enforcement agency pressure.

According to government documents released as part of the prosecution, Vietnam War veteran Harrison Jack was initially interested in procuring 500 AK-47 assault rifles for Hmong still hiding in the Lao jungle. Attorneys for the accused allege that the sting operation represented entrapment and was conceived by a federal undercover agent who played on the Hmong's hopes to one day return to a more democratic Laos. They have noted that no weapons were purchased and only a fraction of the money for the purchase had been raised.

The biggest losers in the court room drama are the several thousand Hmong refugees languishing in the Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Thailand's Petchabun province. Another 158 Hmong are incarcerated in an immigration detention center in the Thai border town of Nong Khai, across the Mekong River from the Lao capital of Vientiane. Members of the second group were recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as persons of concern in 2005-2006.

Although several countries, including the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and the US, have said that they are willing to accept the refugees, Thailand has yet to allow them to leave for resettlement. The Lao government claims they must first be returned to Laos before they can travel to any third country. The refugees say they fear for their safety from Lao authorities if they are repatriated, a claim backed by several human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The Lao government clearly would like to see the refugee problem disappear before the start of the Southeast Asian Games in December. The US government claims it is pressing the Thai and Lao authorities for a transparent screening process, monitoring and guarantees of protection for returned refugees. There have been several congressional and embassy visits to the Lao government's repatriation site and the refugee camp in Thailand.

Critics say Washington is only paying lip service to the problem and that officials have done little to raise publicity over the issue, as they have done for refugees on Thailand's border with Myanmar. With Vang Pao removed from the indictment in the alleged plot to overthrow the Lao government, the US government has removed the one defendant who could attract sufficient attention to the US's shoddy treatment of its former allies after they have outlived their usefulness.

At the same time, the US gains credence with the Lao regime that it is finally acting to end Hmong-American support for anti-government resistance and pave the way for closer ties to a country that is once again strategically important in the US's new contest against China for regional influence.

Brian McCartan is a Bangkok-based freelance journalist. He may be reached at



A new generation of Hmong women pursues college

Thursday, September 24, 2009

by Kao Choua Vue, Minnesota Public Radio,
Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio
September 24, 2009

St. Paul, Minn. — The number of Hmong women pursuing college is growing in Minnesota. But a college education can be hard won in families that traditionally encourage daughters to marry young and raise families. Kao Choua Vue of our Youth Radio Series shares her story.

Kao Choua Vue, 20, is breaking away from her Hmong culture's expectation for women by attending college and pursuing a career. Most Hmong women, even those in America, typically marry at a young age and work in the home. (MPR Photo/Sasha Aslanian)

My parents were farmers in Laos. They had never spent a day of their lives in school. When they came to America, they didn't know how to begin to help their eight children in school.

My mother's dream for me was not to get a college education. Because I am a Hmong daughter, she teaches me to be a good housewife so I won't bring shame on the family when I am married.

At the age of 5, I began cooking rice and washing dishes for my family. In keeping with the traditional Hmong culture, my five brothers had no chores.


I didn't question it until I was 7, and started going to an after-school program led by Raeann Ruth called The Portage for Youth.

"I didn't want to change their culture," said Raeann. "I just wanted to show them that they could do more than babysit and cook rice, for Pete's sakes."

The Portage for Youth was not just for Hmong girls, but we took it over. We came every day and stayed until we were teenagers. Raeann gave us a fun Americanized childhood to remember. It was something we craved.

"You had sewing, you had car repair, you had swimming, canoeing, rock-climbing, gardening. There wasn't anything you didn't take," said Raeann.

The Portage for Youth was where I first experimented with filmmaking. I discovered I had a voice. I had something to say.

The Portage for Youth opened my eyes to possibilities beyond what my parents dreamed for me. But back home, I was still busy cooking, cleaning, and helping raise children.


My older sister had gotten married at 15 and had three kids. When she divorced, I took care of my nieces and nephews. I was 7.

My sister warned me not to get married young like she did.

Now when I look back at the time that I got married, I don't think it was true love," said my older sister. "I think it was just puppy love." She wanted me to take my time and continue my education and not rush into marriage like she did.

But in my environment, many Hmong women married young. It was almost like it was something for me to think about. My mother always reminded me to practice cooking and cleaning in order to be a good wife and daughter-in-law.

When I was 13, my parents tried to get me to marry a Hmong boy. I was outraged. I remember thinking I had a long life ahead of me. But many of my friends did follow the traditional path.

My junior year in high school, my friend Yia Lor got married. It was a surprise because I remembered she and her cousin had made a bet in the school lunchroom. Whoever got married first had to pay the other one $200.

Married in high schoolYia said the bet was supposed to help them postpone marriage. "And it worked for a while," she said with a laugh. "But I dated a lot of guys and I just got caught up in the moment. I just got married and so I paid her the money!"

Today, Yia is 20 years old, and married with two children. She lives with her in-laws and cooks and cleans. There are 13 people living under one roof.

Even though Yia's life looks different than mine, she feels the same hunger I do to go to college. She is enrolled at St. Catherine University, studying to be an occupational therapist.

"Just because I'm married and I have kids doesn't mean I can't go to college," said Lor. "I go to school because I want a better job. And I want my kids to know that when they grow up, they want to go to college because mommy did it too."


One of the biggest destinations for Hmong students in Minnesota is Century College in White Bear Lake.

"If you look at the demographics of Century College," said Pakou Vang, acting academic dean, "you'll see that number of Asian students, most of whom are Hmong, has almost quadrupled -- with the biggest growth in the last six to seven years."

Pakou VangVang herself went to the University of Minnesota, Duluth and graduated a little before this boom.

She remembers growing up poor and on welfare, and thinking that wasn't the life she wanted to lead. Her father had bigger dreams for her too.

"When I was in junior high, my father once said to me, 'I know that you are female and Hmong. Many people will say you won't make it. You won't finish high school because you'll get married, have a lot of kids and be living on welfare. That's the path for you because you are a Hmong female,'" Vang recalled. "And you know what my father said? 'I know you are not going to be that. I know you are going to be something better.'"

Pakou Vang made it through graduate school. She had her father to encourage her, but I didn't have anyone in my family to support my education. I had to find my own role models.


One moment in middle school sticks with me. State Sen. Mee Moua visited Cleveland Middle School when I was in eighth grade, to speak about her life story. She's the first Hmong person elected to legislative office in the United States. When Mee Moua shared her story, I felt like I wasn't alone.

Seven years later, when I went up to her office at the state Capitol to interview her for this story, I told her she was my inspiration for going to the University of Minnesota.

Meeting Sen. Mee Moua"You're making me really emotional," said Moua. "It's not like every day I get to have these conversations."

It's emotional for both of us. We sit on the couch in her office, and I try not to cry. I can't find the words to say to describe what she has meant in my life. She reaches over and pats my shoulder.

Moua was the first Hmong woman I knew who was educated, successful and not married -- yet. She showed me that as a Hmong American woman, I could get a college education and be more than a housewife. I tell her I didn't get that kind of encouragement at home, but I felt it from her.

"When you sensed the sense of nurturing from me, it's because I have been a parent all my life," said Moua. "Even before I had children, I parented not only my younger brothers and sisters but I parented 60 other first cousins."

Moua described getting her driver's license and borrowing her uncle's conversion van to drive 16 of her first cousins to the movie theater. She bought them all tickets with the money she had earned from caddying.

Through the encouragement of her parents and her uncle, Mee Moua ended up graduating from Brown University and going to law school.


I tell her that growing up, my parents made me do a lot more chores than my brothers. It didn't feel fair.

Moua nodded. But she told me that it might have been to my advantage. Hmong girls learn to be hardworking and responsible at an early age.

"Parents, by that differential treatment, have stoked and created a slow sense of anger among the young women about the injustices, of the differences in treatment," said Moua. "That sense of injustice, actually, has created and has energized the young women to become so successful."


Hmong women, married or unmarried, are finding ways to get a better life, and increasingly, that means college.

The Hmong tradition and culture challenged me to be the person that I am. My education has given me the tools to do something my ancestors couldn't imagine. I want to be a filmmaker, to preserve Hmong history and stories. My parents now highly respect me for the choices I have made.

They say I've made them proud to have such a daughter.


About Kao Choua Vue

Kao Choua Vue, age 20, is a junior at the University of Minnesota. She was born in St. Paul to parents who fled Laos in 1983. She's the sixth of eight children. She's majoring in urban studies and wants to be a filmmaker.



Hmong UNHCR Refugees in the Immigration Detention Centre Nong Khai, Thailand

Monday, September 21, 2009

I have gotten permission to use these photos from Yvonne. She lives in Thailand and visits the Hmong people at the Immigration Detention Center in Nong Khai, Thailand, when given the opportunity.

1-3 Feb 2009
I went to visit the 158 Hmong UNHCR Refugees in the Immigration Detention Centre Nong Khai, Thailand.

They have been there for 800 days - waiting to be relocated to a Third Country.
158 people including 91 children, who are locked up for 22 hours a day.



Leaders, Zhong Lee and Blia Shoua Her, eager for all news and information. Begged me to tell the world of their plight and to Please Please get them out of their detention.

They are weary, and constant harrassment from Thai and Laos Officialdom are taking a heavy toll on mental and physical well being. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

Silent, her eyes convey the concern and fear for her children's future.LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

Just some of the 91 children who are allowed out into fresh hour for only 2 hours a day, seven days a week. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

Queueing quickly and quietly the children gathered for the small gift of milk that I brought with me. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

The children gather to see who has come see them during their two hours of precious play time. Today it was me. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

Toys are the leaves from the trees, and the fence is barbed wire. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.
Young men who deserve a future. Intelligent and questioning. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

A little toddler, in awe of his milk box and toy koala. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

These children have no immediate family in the camp and are cared for by an 18 year old girl. They keep close together at all times. LOCKED UP 22 HOURS A DAY.

Bla Zang Fang is 86, and often sits apart from the others, gazing into the distance - what does he remember, and what does he hope for?
He was the first to welcome me on my brief visits, and the last to say goodbye as I left the barbed wire behind and I walked down the road in tears.


Feds drop charges against Hmong leader Vang Pao

Friday, September 18, 2009

The federal government has dropped its charges against Hmong leader Vang Pao, who was indicted along with 10 others more than two years ago for allegedly plotting the violent overthrow of the communist regime in Laos.

U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown of Sacramento announced today that a federal grand jury returned a sealed superseding indictment Thursday omitting Vang as a defendant.

The indictment charges the other 10 who were named in the first indictment and adds two new defendants.

Brown noted that federal prosecutors have wide charging discretion and may consider, among other factors, a person's culpability, history and consequences of a conviction. He was not more specific as to which of these may have come into play with respect to the 79-year-old Vang.

"In our measured judgment, and based on the totality of the evidence in the case and the circumstances regarding defendant Vang Pao, we believe that continued prosecution of this defendant is no longer warranted," Brown said.

He declined to comment further.

A storm of protest spread through the Hmong community, both in the United States and abroad, as well as among veterans of the Vietnam War, and even some members of Congress, over the indictment of Vang, the most influential leader in modern Hmong history.

He rose from a 13-year-old runner to a major general in the Royal Lao Army - the highest rank ever attained by a Hmong tribesman. He led a CIA-sponsored guerilla army against the Pathet Lao, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese between 1960 and 1975, before the fall to the communists of South Vietnam and then Laos, native country of the Hmong.

Vang's units suffered heavy casualties and are credited with saving uncounted thousands of American lives.

William Colby, former head of the CIA, once called Vang "the biggest hero of the Vietnam War."

The charges in the new indictment are much the same as those in the first indictment. All 12 defendants - 11 Hmong men and a retired Army lieutenant colonel from Woodland - are charged with conspiring to violate the Neutrality Act by scheming to topple the government of a country at peace with the United States.

They are also charged with conspiring to "kill, maim and injure" persons and to damage property in a foreign country, to export military grade weapons to Laos without a license from the U. S. Department of State, and to receive and transport explosives in interstate and foreign commerce.

Finally, all of them are charged with actually violating the Neutrality Act.

The 10 holdovers from the first indictment are Harrison Jack, 62, of Woodland; Lo Cha Thao, 36, of Clovis; Lo Thao, 65, of Sacramento; Youa True Vang, 72, of Sanger; Hue Vang, 41, of Fresno; Chong Vang Thao, 56, of Fresno; Seng Vue, 71, of Fresno; Chue Lo, 61, of Stockton; Nhia Kao Vang, 50, of Rancho Cordova, and David Vang, 50, of Fresno. New defendants are Jerry Yang, 58, and Thomas Yang, 47, both of Stockton.

They all face a maximum life plus 18 years in prison if convicted on every count.



Conspiracy Charges Dismissed Against Gen. Vang Pao

SACRAMENTO, CA - Federal prosecutors have dismissed charges against Gen. Vang Pao in a two-year-old case involving an alleged plot to overthrow the government of Laos.

Read Motion to Dismiss

The stunning revelation came in a superceding indictment unsealed Friday. The new indictment adds two names to the case, but removes the general as an alleged conspirator.

In a formal motion to dismiss, the U.S Attorney's office said that "based on the totality of the evidence in the case ... prosecution of defendant Vang Pao is no longer warranted."

Gen. Vang is a hero in the Hmong community for his role in fighting the communists alongside U.S. forces in southeast Asia. His court appearances were marked by peaceful demonstrations featuring thousands of Hmong outside the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento.

News10 spoke to Hmong leaders Friday afternoon who said they were ecstatic to learn of the dismissal of charges. They said the general is a father figure to their people. However, they're puzzled why two additional Hmong would be indicted.

The two new defendants, Jerry Yang and Thomas Yang, both from Stockton, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Hollows Friday afternoon.

They face conspiracy and other charges. They pleaded not guilty and were released. Bail will be set at a later date, according to the court.

That brings to 12 the number of men indicted in the case that dates back to spring 2007.

The original 10 defendants still charged in the case remain free on bail pending trial.

by George Warren,
by Suzanne Phan,



Cop who who shot Fong Lee fired

Jason Anderson, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006, was fired following an internal investigation -- of something. It's not clear whether the internal investigation had anything to do with domestic assault charges that were brought against Anderson recently, and then dismissed, or whether there was some other reason for the firing the officer, who was awarded a Medal of Valor by the department after shooting Fong Lee.

Attorneys for Anderson, reports the Star Tribune, said they will appeal the firing, and that other officers accused or even convicted of domestic abuse have not been fired.

Take Action Minnesota Hmong Organizing Project leaders Dai Thao and Amee Xiong said in a statement released to the press:

The Hmong community is relieved that Officer Jason Anderson has been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, apparently as a result of an internal investigation. Since Fong Lee’s shooting death in July 2006, the Hmong community has been fearful of the Minneapolis Police – the very people who are supposed to protect us. That is why since Fong Lee’s death, our community has been united in working to bring significant change to the Minneapolis Police Department so this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone in our community again.

News with attitude, mostly from MN but with occasional forays abroad. News Day summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to Minnesota news.



Hmong music

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just discovered this Hmong Music Streaming site


Jungle Hmong under attack

PRESS RELEASE – September 16, 2009

Jungle Hmong under attack

On September 5, 2009, the Lao military attacked a small group of jungle Hmong in Saysomboun Special Zone’s Phu Bia area. Five Hmong were reportedly wounded during the attack.

This latest incident is just one of many ongoing attacks carried out against Hmong descendants of the CIA’s secret army. It is believed that only about 100-200 Hmong remain trapped inside the Phu Bia jungles but they are hesitant to surrender due to the fact that the Lao government does not officially acknowledge their existence, nor the continuing military attacks against them.

The recent attack occurred near Nam Gia Nam Gan, about 1 kilometer east of Pha Dong (LS 05) village, where the CIA had originally recruited the Hmong some 50 years ago to fight against the communists. A CIA propaganda film “Journey from Pha Dong” (1967) shows lots of footage of young Hmong boys being trained to fire weapons. Now their children and grandchildren remain the ongoing target of the Lao military because of this past allegiance with the U.S.

Due to these ongoing attacks many jungle Hmong have risked surrendering but have not been allowed freedom of movement. A group of 63 had surrendered to Lao authorities in mid-August but are being held at a camp in Muang Om not far from where the fighting’s going on. The group wanted to resettle in an area less secluded and dangerous as it is very easy for them to take the blame for those holding out in the jungle.

Joe Davy
Hmong Advocate



Thailand’s General Anupong, PM Abhisit to Force Return of 500 Laos Hmong Refugees

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Despite repeated U.S. Congressional and international appeals to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, shockingly and tragically, under the apparent direct orders of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as well as Army Commander-in-Chief Anupong Paojinda and Defense Minister Prawit Wonguwon, elements of the Thai Third Army and Ministry
of Interior (MOI) troops are aggressively threatening and secretly preparing to engage in the mass forced repatriation
of hundreds of Laotian and Hmong refugees to the Stalinist regime Laos they fled.

September 15, 2009, Washington, D.C. and Bangkok, Thailand

Thai military and security forces are actively preparing for the mass forced repatriation of some 500 Lao Hmong refugees in the coming days and weeks according to sources in Thailand and Laos. This despite repeated appeals by international human rights
and humanitarian organizations and advocates, including prominent Members of the U.S. Congress and
diplomats, who have appealed to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, to stop the brutal forced repatriation and instead resettle the Lao Hmong refugees in third countries that have already agreed to sponsor and take them.

“Multiple sources from inside the Lao Hmong refugee camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, Thailand, have reported that between September 15th and 25th, or sometime soon, thereafter, the Thai government and Thai military will likely force at least 500 Hmong Refugees in Huaj Nam Khao back to Laos,” said Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council, Inc. “Reportedly, the Red District is the district in Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp, that the Thai authorities and military are now focusing on, or will be the first district to be forced by the Thai authorities back to Laos on, or about, September 15-25, 2009.”

The Paris, France-based humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Doctors Without Borders, has issued repeated reports and statements detailing the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees from the refugee camp in Petchabun Province, Thailand back to Laos. MSF departed the camp in protest in May of 2009 because of the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees and issued a major report about the crisis in Thailand and Laos. ..

“Despite repeated U.S. Congressional and international appeals to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Congressman Frank Wolf, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and many others, under the apparent direct orders of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as well as Army Commander-in-Chief Anupong Paojinda and Defense Minister Prawit Wonguwon, elements of the Thai Third Army and Ministry of Interior troops are aggressively threatening and secretly preparing to engage in the mass forced repatriation of hundreds of Laotian and Hmong refugees from Huay Nam Khao in the coming days and weeks back to the horrific communist regime in Laos that the these political refugees fled,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director, of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C. “Royal Thai Ministry of Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul is also a part of this serious misguided and unfortunate policy disaster.”

“His Majesty, the King of Thailand, has often voiced his extraordinary compassion for the suffering Lao Hmong highland peoples and opposition, on many occasions, to the repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the brutal and Stalinist communist regime in Laos where they have fled political and religious persecution and repeated attacks by the Lao military in recent years,” Smith continued. “General Anupong, and Prime Minster Abhisit Vejjajiva’s brutal moves to seek to force these Lao Hmong political refugees back to the communist regime in Laos is deplorable and has the stench of betrayal that is uncharacteristic of Thailand and His Majesty’s important legacy. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s kind and merciful tradition of repeatedly intervening in seeking to allow Lao Hmong refugees political asylum and protection in Thailand, and resettlement in third countries that have agreed to take them, including France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others, is a tradition of compassion and honor that should be immediately applied once again, consistent with the international appeal, to the Lao Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai by Prime Minister Abhisit, General Anupong, Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon and MOI Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul. ”

A Lao Hmong refugee camp leader in Ban Huay Nam Khao who wishes to remain anonymous stated “We also appeal to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to stop his force repatriation policy of sending us, the Hmong refugees, back to Laos. We will be faced with persecution, torture and slow killing by our enemy, the Laos Communist government that we have fled from religious and political persecution. We will not go back to Laos. If the Thai Government does not allow the international community, the United Nations, or the United States to help us, the Hmong Refugees, Thai government should just kill us all here at Huaj Nam Khao, rather than going back to be tortured and slowly killed by our former enemies the Laos Communist Government, the continues to attack and kill our people in Laos.”

Mr. Vaughn Vang of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council concluded with the following statement: “Lao Hmong refugees are also appealing to the United Nations, the United States and the world and international community, to stop the Thai government’s forced repatriation policy, which is forcing the Hmong refugees back to the Communist Laos Government. They came to Thailand because Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that is a democratic country that they can trust to save their lives.

Over the years, the world community, including the United States and the United Nations, as well as many international journalists have been eye witnesses to the fact that the Lao Communist government has hunted, killed, tortured and persecuted the Hmong people as well as many Laotians, including the beloved King and Queen of Laos…

Tragically, these Hmong have been running for their lives in Laos for years. The Lao Government are currently surrounding the Hmong in hiding, chasing, hunting and killing Hmong in hiding in Phou Bia, Phou Daphao, SunNoi, Luang Prabang Province and elsewhere in Laos.

Certainly, many of these Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand, if repatriated back to Laos, will be persecuted, tortured and slowly killed, over time, by the Lao Communist Government, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. These Hmong refugees need the Thai Government’s protection to save these many Hmong people’s lives from the LPDR regime in Laos and the Lao military and security forces who are corrupt and brutal.”

Independent human rights organizations, advocates, scholars, diplomats, authors and journalists have documented the persecution of Lao Hmong political and religious dissidents and refugees in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) in recent years and their forced repatriation from Thailand to Laos. These include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Foreign Prisoners Support Service, U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, International Christian Concern, the New York Times, Time Magazine, the BBC, Al Jazeera, Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas (US-Ret.), Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Edmund McWilliams (US Department of State, Ret.), B. Jenkins Middleton, Joe Davy, Kay Danes and others.


Contact: Maria Gomez

Center for Public Policy Analysis
Tele. (202) 543-1444



Remembered in stone — at last

Monday, September 14, 2009

The small graves of six young siblings slain by their mother in 1998 went unmarked — until now

By Nick Ferraro
Updated: 09/13/2009 11:49:45 PM CDT

Eleven years ago today, six St. Paul children slain by their mother were laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Maplewood.

Their graves were unmarked — despite being the victims of the worst mass murder in St. Paul history. But the children — ages 5 to 11 — were not forgotten.

On Sunday afternoon, about 100 people gathered at the cemetery to memorialize the children and mark their gravesites with tombstones. The mourners included the children's father and other family and friends, Hmong community leaders and St. Paul police officers who worked the case.

The ceremony was the culmination of nearly a year's worth of planning by a group of local residents, people who did not know the family but who last October read Pioneer Press columnist Rubén Rosario's story about the unmarked gravesites.

Six 2-by-1-foot flat, gray stones identify the graves of Koua Eai Kong, 11; Samson Kong, 9; Nali Kong, 8; Tang Lung Kong, 7; A-ee Kong, 6; and Tang Kee Kong, 5 — all of whom were systematically strangled by their mother, Khoua Her, then 24, on Sept. 3, 1998, at their North End apartment.

"These graves have been unmarked, but today we mark them for the family and the community," Pat Hogan, the cemetery's superintendent, told the gatherers. "They will be marked forever, and we will never forget."

Billy Leepao Xiong, a family friend, said financial hardship of the father, Tou Kong, was the reason grave markers were never bought. Speaking through Xiong, Tou Kong called the tombstones "the most valuable thing in his life."
The stone markers, which include each child's name and dates of birth and death, were donated by Schoenrock Monument, a nearly century-old, family-operated monument business in St. Paul.

"Everybody should have some kind of marking after they pass away," said owner Chester Schoenrock, 84, who attended the ceremony with his wife, Ann. "And I certainly feel those kids needed something, so when somebody tries to find them, they have some identification. They deserve it."


Shelia Larson and fellow St. Paul police officer Tony Chaffee, now retired, were the first officers to respond to the call from Apartment G at 1541 Timberlake Road at McDonough Homes, a public housing complex.

The call came in as a 911 hangup, but a dispatcher updated it to a possible suicide. The officers got no response at the front door, Larson said. After forcing open a screen door, they found the grisly scene: Two kids strangled on the main floor, two more in the basement and two on the second level.

Larson, who had been a patrol officer for about three years at the time, said it was the hardest call she has been on. She has since been promoted to sergeant.

"Being a police officer, you're supposed to be tough," Larson said before the ceremony, at which she spoke. "But nothing could prepare someone when you see six little kids."

According to court records, Khoua Her told investigators she separated the children by getting them to play hide-and-seek with her. She said that with the children hiding throughout the apartment, she went to each separately and, wrapping a strip of cloth around their necks, strangled them. She said none of the children resisted.

Khoua Her then tried to strangle herself with an electrical cord. She was found semiconscious.

Khoua Her, who once lived in a refugee camp in Thailand, pleaded guilty to the murders and is serving a 50-year sentence at the state women's prison in Shakopee.

The first two years after the murders, the split-level apartment sat empty. There were some concerns in the Hmong community that the spirits of the six children remained in the house, said St. Paul officer David Yang, who also responded to the call.

"People went in and out of there because nobody wanted to live there," Yang said Sunday.

In November 2000, the city's housing agency and police department transformed the apartment into the headquarters of a community-based police outreach program.

Larson said she visited the gravesite about a year after the murders and was surprised there were no headstones. But she thought maybe unmarked graves were common in Hmong culture and let it go.

"These kids are not forgotten and forever will be in our hearts," she told the crowd.


For Hogan, Sunday was also a personal anniversary he wishes he could forget.

On Sept. 13, 1998, Hogan dug the massive hole at Lot 134, Block 33 in the cemetery's northwest corner.

"Many people have walked these graves and not even realized they were there," Hogan told the crowd.

About a week after the children were buried, Hogan cleared the site of flowers and a few other personal items that were left. But one item — a small Wilson football — stood out, he said.

"So I kept it safe," Hogan, 38, of North St. Paul, said. "And I taught my kids to play catch with it, and I remembered those children."

On Sunday, Hogan, who helped plan the event, presented the football to the children's father "as an example of how the memories live on."

Tou Kong said a few words in the Hmong language before breaking down and receiving a hug from Tziaeng Vang, who served on the planning committee and led the ceremony.

"Grief is something that you cannot translate," Vang said. "But I think you all know his message."

In July, planning committee members Cindy Xiong, a community corrections aide for Ramsey County, and her older sister, Ong Xiong, a St. Paul charter school teacher, met with Khoua Her.

The committee agreed to include the mother in the ceremony. On Sunday, Ong Xiong read her prepared statement.

"I love you," Khoua Her wrote. "Thank you for giving me a chance to be a mother. It had been a great gift to share the experience with you. Thank you for being a blessing to me. You are my strengths, my hope and motivation. You are my everything and all that I have and treasure. I am truly sorry you had to pay the price in which you didn't deserve."

Ka Houa Yang, chairman of the Lao Family Community of Minnesota, told the crowd to think about what the children could have become.

"One day, they could have been the president, or a doctor, lawyer and wealthiest leader of our community," he said.

After the markers were unveiled, the children's family and friends and community members placed 66 white roses — to mark the 11 years since the six deaths — on the headstones.

Then a bell tolled six times — once for each child.

Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173.



Thailand to repatriate remaining Hmong to Laos by year end

Friday, September 11, 2009

BANGKOK, Sept 11 (TNA) – Thailand affirmed Friday that it will repatriate the remaining 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to the neighbouring Lao PDR by the end of this year.

Thai Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Lao Deputy Prime Minister Lt- Gen Douangchay Phichit met in the 17th Meeting of the joint Sub-Committee for Cooperation on Security along the Thai-Lao border held in the Thai capital on Friday.

Both sides hailed strong bilateral relations and cooperation through the exchange of government and military visits which help strengthen border security and solve border problems, especially cooperation over the ethnic Hmong who have entered Thailand illegally.

Gen Prawit said Thailand has allowed the Lao officials to visit the Hmong camp in Petchabun province and explain to them its government policy to welcome back the ethnic Hmong to their birthplace.

He said so far Thailand has repatriated 3,095 Hmong to Laos, while the remaining 4,505 Hmong will be sent back to the neighbouring country as early as possible by the end of this year.

Gen Douangchay said that the Lao government has facilitated the ethnic Hmong who returned to their land and provided them assistance to give them a better living.

The Laotian deputy premier stated that there is no anti-government movement in Laos which is now peaceful and has political stability.

The neighbouring countries also agreed to extend for another five years an agreement on security cooperation which expired last October.

They also agreed to strengthen close border cooperation to tackle drug trafficking along the Thai-Lao border.

The Laotian deputy prime minister is on an official trip to Thailand to boost the relations between the two countries. He met Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Government House early Friday.

The Thai premier reaffirmed Thailand's intention to repatriate the ethnic Hmong to Laos as many as it can within this year, but he added that there should be flexibility on the period of time and good understanding between the two countries will help solve the problem successfully. (TNA)



Thailand firm on sending Hmong home: government

ri, Sep 11, 2009

BANGKOK - Thailand's prime minister reassured officials from neighbouring Laos Friday that his country is pushing forward with plans to repatriate 6,000 ethnic Hmong refugees by the year's end, a spokesman said.

The ethnic minority Hmong live in camps in northeast Thailand and are seeking political asylum, claiming they face persecution from the communist regime at home because they fought alongside US forces during the Vietnam war.

On a visit to Thailand, Lieutenant General Douangchay Phichit, the Laotian deputy prime minister, discussed the issue with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in Bangkok, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

"The Thai government stands firm in line with the agreement that Thailand will complete its repatriation of Hmong from Phetchabun and Nongkhai provinces within this year," Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

Since May 2008, Thailand had repatriated 3,059 Hmong, he added.

"We will expedite the repatriation of the remaining 6,000 Hmong within this year, but we have to take readiness of both sides into consideration and the repatriations are voluntary," Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

Paris-based Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, in May pulled out of a camp where it fed some 4,700 Hmong, accusing Thailand of trying to forcibly repatriate them to Laos.

Thailand says the Hmong refugees are economic migrants seeking work.

Bangkok has lately cultivated Laos as a key regional ally, with energy-hungry Thailand buying increasing amounts of electricity from its northeastern neighbour.



Sick animal delays flu vaccine test

Of the first batch of 24 volunteer candidates for the human trial, two were selected on Wednesday out of four applicants. Wichia said he expected all 24 candidates to be available by September 24, when the human trial was scheduled to begin.

Meanwhile , a small 2009 influenza outbreak in Nan province has left 135 people ill, including a twoyearold baby, but caused no fatalities.

Most patients are Hmong people living in two villages in Muang province. They were screened and examined out of a total of 3,000 people in a recent investigation. This is a new outbreak following an earlier one which saw 71 people infected and treated.

Of 135 patients detected in the latest examination, 24 are being treated at Nan hospital while the remainder, with less severe symptoms, are at local public health offices.

The provincial public health office was conducting an awareness campaign in areas where the majority of Hmong people live to educate them further about preventive measures.

In the earlier outbreak, most of the 71 patients were women, and 55 students at secondary and university levels.



Hmong rapidly adapt to US

Thursday, September 10, 2009


FITCHBURG — Thousands of people from the Hmong population across the country gathered at Saima Park for the Hmong New Year Festival this weekend and to remember the sacrifices the Hmong people made for the United States during the Vietnam War.

The festivals are held all over the United States from August to January on staggering dates to allow Hmong families and vendors to participate in as many as possible.

Local and state officials welcomed Hmong families for the celebration, which was filled with food, music, traditions and family activities.

Speaker Paula P. Yang is CEO and founder of the Hmong Sisterhood in Fresno, Calif., where the largest Hmong New Year celebration is held each year, with over 120,000 people turning out. She explained to the crowd why many Hmong people are in the U.S.

Most people don’t know that the Hmong played a huge role in the Vietnam War, she said, and are refugees from Laos as a result.

“Our people fought against communism on behalf of the United States, defending our country during the Vietnam War, known as the secret war,” she said. “The loss of 60,000 American lives for a no-win war in Vietnam was a tragedy to the huge nation of America, but it was a relatively small percentage of the nation compared to the loss the Hmong people suffered.”

She added that when the U.S. pulled out of the war in 1973, thousands of Hmong were left fighting against communism on their own in Laos.

“By 1975, Laos had fallen completely to communism,” she said, “and the lives of all Hmong people who helped fight the communists were in jeopardy.”

An estimated 100,000 Hmong lives were lost as a result of the war, she said. Today the 350,000 Hmong living in the U.S. celebrate the New Year to help wash away the old and celebrate the new, she said.

Speaker Roger S. Warner, a historian and filmmaker from Ipswich, said the gathering of the young Hmong with the old ones who fought as soldiers and worked as farmers was a display of accelerated culture change.

“I think it’s one of the great stories of rapid culture change in history and it isn’t finished yet,” Mr. Warner said. “Fifty years ago, some Hmong hadn’t seen the wheel and now their grandchildren are walking around with iPods.”

Peter V. Hanks, semiretired from working on space programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was invited by the United Hmong of Massachusetts, which put on the event.

Mr. Hanks, from Lexington, said he spent years growing up in Laos with his anthropologist parents. He also lived in Thailand for two years, where many Hmong sought refuge during and following the Vietnam War.

He said he attended the festival to take photographs for his mother, Jane R. Hanks, who is 101 and studied tribes in Thailand for 50 years.

“It is nice to see a revival of the culture in America,” Mr. Hanks said. “It has updating and modernness to it, but it’s still quite traditional.

Mayor Lisa A. Wong, the second Asian-American elected mayor in Massachusetts, encouraged children at the festival to pursue higher education. Her family moved to the U.S. from China 40 years ago, Ms. Wong said, and she is proud to be a product of the state’s public school system.

“It’s one of the reasons my parents moved from China, and I want to see more Asians succeed and get involved in politics,” she said.

Mai Ker Vang, 25, from Providence attended the festival with her family.

She is one of nine children ages 16 to 34 still living in the family home. Her parents don’t want her or her siblings to move out until they are married, she said. She is attending college for dance performance and wants to become a physical therapist. Her family tries to attend several Hmong New Year festivals every year, she said.

“People don’t see each other often until the festival,” Ms. Vang explained, donning traditional Hmong dress. “It gets all our friends and family together. Our only holiday that I know of is the New Year.”



Porge Xiong family five years later

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The tears start for Mai Vang Yang when her husband Porge Xiong describes a language barrier as their biggest struggle as they attempt to make Oshkosh their home..

As refugees from Laos, this obstacle is certainly the most difficult part of making a good life in the city.

"The language is not too bad for me but for her it is bad," Xiong said.

Yang takes English as a Second Language classes through Fox Valley Technical College and she has had one-on-one tutoring, but still she finds it difficult to grasp a new language. Her children, who attend Oshkosh public schools, have mastered English. They accompany her when she goes on appointments but they are busy with school and homework and have little time to practice language skills with their mother, Xiong said.

Xiong, whose job is stacking large slabs of wax at Blended Waxes Inc., works all week with people who speak English. Due to interaction with co-workers Xiong's skills are advanced beyond those of his wife. But he, too, has a ways to go before he can be considered fluent.

Xiong spoke to a reporter Friday through Phang Xiong, an interpreter who works for Advocap as a refugee specialist, at the family's Murdock Avenue apartment. His wife occupied the couple's two youngest children, Leah Xiong, a 4-year-old daughter, and John Xiong, a 2-year-old son, who played and rode on small plastic bicycles.

Yang dabbed at her eyes and spoke in her native tongue in a tremulous voice when her husband uttered the words about her difficulty with the language barrier.

Later in a phone interview, the couple's 16-year-old son Cha Lee Xiong, a student at Oshkosh North High School, agreed that language is the most difficult part of assimilating into a new culture and a new country. But it's not enough to make him yearn for the refugee camp. "It's OK here," the boy said.

Xiong and Yang, both 42, came to the United States in 2004 from Wat Tham Krabok, a refugee camp in Thailand. They were sponsored by Catholic Charities of Green Bay, an agency that helped them get on their feet financially. They moved to Oshkosh in 2006 for Xiong to take a job after first settling in Manitowoc for two years. They are among the more than 300 Hmong who arrived in the Fox Cities from 2004 to 2006 as part of what likely will be the last major resettlement of Hmong refugees in this country.

hey were among 3,258 refugees flown to Wisconsin from Thailand after the U.S. government agreed to absorb one more wave of the Lao people who secretly helped the CIA and military fight communists during the Vietnam War.

Apartment life in Oshkosh is a far cry from the life Xiong remembers in Laos where existence centered around a simple agrarian lifestyle and not getting into a car and driving to a job miles from home. He felt more independent in Laos where he was free to raise his own animals and crops. He was self-sufficient. He was his own boss.

"I didn't have to worry about bills, paying rent. I didn't have a supervisor," Xiong said, smiling.

In Laos Xiong operated a small food store in addition to his farming work. He made sticky rice, noodles, chicken and sauces. He has been able to put those old skills to use here from time to time as a food vendor at soccer tournaments and other events. He continues gardening too, raising peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces for the family kitchen.

Some things remain the same, but so much has changed for Xiong. He traded a bamboo hut for a two-story apartment close to a street busy with traffic. Though the family has had to make many adjustments Xiong knows the move was a good one for him, his wife and their eight children. If he can save the money Xiong would like to go back to visit his homeland but he is not interested in living there anymore, he said.

"Here we find more education for the children. This is the most important thing for the future," Xiong said.

Their children – five daughters and three sons - range in age from 19 to 2. Their two oldest daughters are married and live in their own homes. Mai Kauo Xiong, 19, already is the mother of three children. Some of the younger children are planning to go to college.

Xiong and Yang were on a waiting list to come to the United States for a long time. They eagerly anticipated the opportunity to come but admit it has been a struggle. Life in the United States is so different from life in the Thai refugee camp. Hmong families value close relationships with extended family. A typical Hmong family in Laos consists of a family made up of multiple generations. Not here. Xiong and Yang feel a sense of loss about this. Many of her relatives live nearby but some of Xiong's relatives are in California.

"In the camp we lived with relatives together. Here we are separated. It is difficult to see relatives," Xiong said.

Each year the struggle to fit in eases a bit. "It was hardest at first, but it gets easier," Xiong said.

Xiong and his wife look forward to the day when they become U.S. citizens. But even that poses a hardship because the application requires a $675 fee for each one.

"If you have eight kids that's a lot of money," said Phang Xiong.



Thailand repatriates 110 ethnic Hmong to Laos

Thursday, September 3, 2009

BANGKOK, Sept 3 (TNA) - A total of 110 ethnic Hmong from 29 families in the Lao PDR were repatriated to their places of origin Thailand’s neighbour to the north, from Ban Huay Nam Khao shelter in the northern province of Phetchabun, according to Lt-Gen. Nipat Thonglek, Chief of the Royal Thai Army's Border Affairs Department.

Gen Nipat said the Lao border department chief headed the team to receive the repatriates.

Thailand has previously repatriated 17 groups of Hmong to Laos and has so far sent back 3,059 people from the ethnic minority group to their homeland to date.

Many men among the Hmong helped the United States fighting against the communist Pathet Lao (Lao Peoples' Army) during the Indochina War in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the communist victory, many Hmong fled their places of birth and settled in the US and other Western countries, while many remain in Thailand and are reluctant to return to their homeland for fear that the Lao government might persecute them. (TNA)



Cha Mee Xiong concert in Georgia!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My mom wanted to post this on my blogs, so I scanned the flyer for her.

Cha Mee Xiong coming to Georgia on October 3rd, 2009


PM has done absolutely nothing to bolster human rights

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Published on September 2, 2009

Re: "Abhisit surrounded by treachery and cronyism", Letters, September 1.
In the past I had the same expectations about PM Abhisit as CM Philips has. I also had some expectations about his sensibilities on human rights issues, but that has turned out to be a big disappointment to me.

His evasive remarks about the junta in Burma, his cover-up of the plight of the Rohingya boat people, his refusal to investigate crimes committed in the South by the security forces, his lack of involvement in the Hmong refugee issue, the execution of the death penalty after a moratorium of six years, the creation of a powerless [Asean] human rights commission and so on; none of these show any "Western sensibilities" to me, in spite of his Oxford education.

Up until now, what has he achieved except the removal of Thaksin as PM - a great achievement thanks to the yellow PAD movement.

Is he merely a puppet of the snakes and traitors?


Recovery will not be sudden or soon

A "V-shaped" economic recovery has now been quoted so often as to convince our population that when recovery comes, it will be sudden and swift. This idea is popularised by our PM and is now used freely by many financial executives.

I can assure your readers that, outside Thailand, no respectable economist or financial regulator ever dares to refer to the coming recovery as a V-shape. The shape that has been often referred to is a U-shape or, if one is pessimistic, a W-shape.

I guess those V-shape believers must have in mind a V by distorting the way one draws out a diagram with the horizontal line showing a short space for time span so that the recovery in 2010 or 2011 will appear as a sudden jump. (That is why statisticians are sometimes blamed for lying). But if one draws a diagram fairly with a reasonable space for time span, a recovery in 2010 would end up as a U-shape and, if it dips and rises again, then a W-shape. Hope of a jump within the next few months is far-fetched.

The current recession started in December 2007. Historically, recovery to a previous level takes at least three years. For the Great Depression after the stock crash of 1929, recovery took a period of twenty years. Does anyone think that Thailand is now in a peak situation to warrant a jump in economic recovery? Come on, wise guys, stop misleading the public!

Songdej Praditsmanont

Security procedures serve a practical purpose

I fail to understand the commotion about taking off one's belt going through the scanners at the airport. A few months ago there were complaints about lack of security, and now they're whinging about the opposite.

I would have thought it fairly obvious that the reason we are being asked to do this is that security personnel are trying to get people through the scanner without it setting off the alarm - to minimise the time taken. I'd guess that a minimum of 70 per cent of trouser belts cause the scanners to go off.

If every twit who lines up in the queue for the scanner can see this and prepare themselves to have everything "beep-able" in the basket beforehand, then we will all get through without a beep and the lines will flow more easily without the manual scan having to be performed at the other end.

The problems arise when you have the mentally-challenged going through the scanners with phones in pockets and so much bling on their bodies, and yet they still fail to understand why they are being stopped and asked to remove the property and go through again.

Try travelling through Dubai airport where, depending on which connection you have to make, you can go through up to three scanners before getting to your plane.


Signs of goodwill from North Korea?

North Korea sent a delegation to attend the funeral of South Korea's former president, Kim Dae-jung. As South Korea mourns the death of this democracy campaigner and Nobel Prize winner, North Korea's decision was spot-on and could be one of the preliminary steps in the reconciliation efforts. Following months of conflict and negotiation, this move seems to have, more or less, eased tensions along the border and showed signs of a brighter future.

By also freeing a detained South Korean engineer and releasing two American journalists earlier this month, North Korea has displayed some friendly and welcoming signals. With this, hope of a possible resolution has stepped up to a new high and is a sign of a peaceful outcome, rarely seen in today's world of conflicts.

Sirinthra Malhotra