Laos Students Urge Thailand’s Gen. Anupong, PM Abhisit To Release Hmong Refugees Prior to SEA Games

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2009-10-15 20:26:04 - Laos and Hmong-American Students from across the U.S. are urging Thailand’s General Anupong and Prime Minister Abhisit To Release 5,000 Lao Hmong Refugees Prior to to the Start of the Southeast Asia Games (SEA) Games in Laos.

Lao Hmong Students Give Voice to Laos Hmong Refugee Crisis in Washington, D.C. & Honor 15th Anniversary of "Tragic Mountains" & author and humanitarian Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt (Photo Credit: Courtesy Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt )

Laotian and Hmong students across the United States are urging the U.S. and Thailand’s government to help release some 5,000 Lao Hmong political refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai prior to the SEA games in Laos. The students are active with Laos Hmong scholars and advocates as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Lao and Hmong human
rights and humanitarian organizations, seeking to grant political asylum to the refugees in Thailand and resettlement in third countries.

“With the approach of the SEA games in Laos, many Members of the U.S. Congress and Lao and Hmong student organizations in America are deeply concerned about the recent brutal crackdown and egregious human rights abuses directed against innocent Lao and Hmong refugees in Thailand said Philip Smith of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA )

Mr. Smith concluded: “In recent days, from October 6-10th, as the opening of the SEA games approach, more groups of heavily-armed special Thai troops have been mobilized and violently deployed by Prime Minister Abhisit and General Anupong to the Lao Hmong refugee camp to beat and coercively use their weapons and machine guns against the political refugees and their families who do not want to return to Laos, in an effort to force the Lao Hmong to volunteer to return to the horrific Stalinist regime in Laos they fled. The use of live-fire M-16 weapons by elements of the Thai Third Army and MOI soldiers against women and children in the refugee camp, as well as Lao Hmong clan and camp leaders, is very serious."

In February of 2009, many Lao and Hmong-American students participated in national policy events at the National Press Club and U.S. Congress.

The events included special sessions of the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos and a series of national policy conferences and meetings in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate organized to discuss current issues regarding the plight of the Lao and Hmong refugees and political and religious dissidents as well as to honor Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt and the 15th anniversary of the publication of Tragic Mountains: The Hmong the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos (Indiana University Press).

Key speakers, participants and policy contributors, cosponsors included: U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Members of the U.S. Congress and staff; Dr. Jane Hamilton Merritt, Laos Hmong scholar, Nobel Prize Nominee and author; T. Kumar of Amnesty International; B. Jenkins Middleton, Former Vice President of the Export Import Bank; Distinguished U.S. Foreign Service Officer Edmund McWilliams, U.S. Department of State, retired; U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, Former U.S. Ambassador; Schuyler Merritt, public policy research director; Lao and Hmong student leaders and organizations, including Oudong Saysana of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy and representatives of the Hmong Human Rights organization; Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council; Pamela Xiong and Lia Vang, of the Lao Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council; Colonel Wangyee Vang of the Lao Veterans of America Institute; the Lao Veterans of America, Inc.; Mr. Bounthanh Rathigna and Thongchanh Boulum of the United League for Democracy in Laos; Lao Community of Minnesota; Survive, Inc.; Indiana University Press; the Center for Public Policy Analysis and many others. ..

Members of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy of October 1999 are still being imprisoned in Laos for peacefully protesting in Vientiane for change and an open society in Communist Laos.

"This generation of Hmong American college students is most impressive," said Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Nobel Peace Price nominee for her work on Hmong human rights issues. "Not only are these students exemplary academics, but many are dedicating themselves to finding justice for their fellow Hmong in jeopardy in refugee camps in Thailand and those suffering in Laos."

"Plaudits to the Hmong Human Rights organization at the University of Wisconsin Madison. These students important and tireless efforts in engaging Wisconsin's Senator Russell Feingold, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the entire Wisconsin Congressional Delegation, might well make the difference between life or death for some of those trapped in Ban Huay Nam Khao Camp in Thailand who face forced repatriation to Laos."

"Those who work on human rights issues in Asia know well how difficult it is to rescue people from injustice and terror. The energy, discipline and commitment to make known the plight of the Hmong political refugees in Thailand who face imminent forced repatriation place these Hmong American students on an international stage," explained Hamilton-Merritt, author of the prize-winning book, Tragic Mountains, The Hmong, The Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos. "Facing formidable opposition from the governments of Thailand and Laos, these students represent a spark of fire and dedication that could ignite appropriate action to rescue these Hmong refugees. Clearly stopping the forced repatriation of relatives of former American allies -- the Hmong -- during the Vietnam War who fear for their lives if forced back to Laos needs urgent resolution."

“As the Hmong Human Rights facilitator of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I am requesting immediate action to resolve the atrocities afflicting Hmong political asylum refugees in Thailand and the innocent Hmong people being persecuted in Laos said Lao Hmong-America student leader Ms. Ger Yang from Wisconsin who participated in the national policy events in Washington, D.C. and U.S. Congress earlier this year.

Ms. Ger Yang said further: “We, the Hmong American student community, want the repatriation to stop now. It is unacceptable that the 158 political refugees in the Nong Khai Immigration Detention Center have not yet been resettled in third countries. We want an independent third party to screen the refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao for political refugee status. We want the screening process to utilize only Hmong-speaking translators who are impartial and to provide anonymity and protection for the Hmong refugees who are speaking out. The Hmong refugees have been slowly deported back starting from a population of 8,000 ending with fewer than 5,000. The Hmong refugees should be resettled as soon as possible. The Hmong community including the Hmong Human Rights committee is very willing to assist in any way possible."

From Madison, Wisconsin, Ger Yang observed in conclusion: “I had the opportunity, along with fellow colleagues and Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, to advocate for the Hmong refugees in Washington D.C. earlier this year in February. At that time, my colleague, Soua Pha stated that her cousin, Me Vang, is still in Nong Khai. His father died fighting with the United States which left Me orphaned. Me Vang was taken in by another family. Eventually, Me was thrown into Nong Khai along with many others who fear they will be persecuted if sent back to Laos. She gave an emotional speech during our Washington D.C. visit about reuniting Me Vang with his brother who resides in California. It is time to address the persecution of the Hmong and to close a chapter of the Vietnam War that is still being written."


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