Fong Lee verdict sparks protest in front of the Hmong Professional Building in St. Paul

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More than 200 rally after jury clears officer
By David Hanners
Updated: 05/30/2009 10:59:25 PM CDT

The Hmong kid was young, perhaps 10 or 12, and the hand-lettered sign he held up as he stood along University Avenue was meant to get motorists' attention.

"Fong Lee = Me," read the sign.

More than 200 people gathered Saturday afternoon for a rally protesting this week's finding by a jury that a Minneapolis police officer didn't use excessive force when he shot Fong Lee eight times and killed him in 2006.

"The verdict said the police officer did nothing wrong. Do you guys believe that?" Fong Lee's cousin, Cha Yia Lee, asked the group.

His question was met with shouts of "No!"

The rally, sponsored by a coalition of community groups, took place in a parking lot at the corner of University Avenue and Marion Street in St. Paul. Many carried signs as they stood along the street, and the air was filled with the sound of car horns as passing motorists honked their support.

A St. Paul Fire Department ladder truck blew its air horn as it went past.

The group was protesting not just the verdict, but what they claimed was an unfair trial that ended Thursday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul. They claimed the judge added insult to injury by reading the verdict without waiting for Fong Lee's parents, siblings or other family members, who had sat throughout the weeklong trial, to return from lunch.

They learned of the verdict from a reporter.

Fong Lee's mother and father, Youa Vang Lee and Nou Kai Lee, were among those at the rally. Youa Vang Lee wore a sandwich sign and stood on the median in the center of University Avenue as cars, trucks and buses whizzed by or stopped at the stoplight.

"If we can't trust cops, who can we trust?" one of her signs read.

Fong Lee, 19, was shot and killed July 22, 2006, by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen. The officer had chased the teen on foot and claimed Fong Lee was carrying a gun in his right hand and was starting to raise it in the officer's direction.

Andersen, 32, shot Fong Lee three times while he was running, then shot him five more times after he had fallen to the ground. He testified that the teen had refused his orders to drop the gun, which was later found lying three feet beyond Fong Lee's outstretched left hand.

But lawyers for Fong Lee's family argued the teen was unarmed. Among the evidence they presented were photos from a surveillance video that caught the last seconds of the chase. Even though Andersen is farther away from the camera, his gun is clearly visible, but there is no obvious gun or dark object in Fong Lee's right hand.

The family lawyers contended that the gun — a pistol reported stolen in a 2004 burglary — was planted by police.

But under the law and legal precedents, the all-white jury of eight men and four women didn't have to consider whether Fong Lee was armed or not. It was a matter of what Andersen perceived the threat to be, and Judge Paul Magnuson instructed the jurors that if a "reasonable officer on the scene, without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, would have used such force under similar circumstances," then the force wasn't excessive.

Al Flowers, a longtime community activist and current Minneapolis mayoral candidate, told the rally that members of the family had had a conference with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and asked for a federal inquiry.

Flowers said the Minneapolis Urban League would take public testimony at a couple of hearings in June to provide to Ellison, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis.

After the verdict cleared Andersen, Minneapolis Police Chief Timothy Dolan issued a statement calling the allegations of wrongdoing "inflammatory" and said he hoped "that we can all move forward and heal as a community."

But many at the rally said Dolan's comments were insulting and that they believed police had long mistreated minorities, including the Hmong.

"I felt that justice failed us, and I feel there ain't nothing going to happen with it," said Jon Xiong, 28, of St. Paul. "I got little brothers and cousins and nephews, and it could've easily have been them. From my point of view, as a minority, it really ain't no good. That's all I can say. It ain't no good."

David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516.



Jury says Minn. officer's use of force 'within the law'

By Rochelle Olson
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006 acted within the law, a federal jury decided Thursday, rejecting a lawsuit's allegations that police planted a gun and orchestrated a coverup.

After nearly six hours of deliberations the jury answered a single question: Did officer Jason Andersen, who claimed Lee had a gun, use excessive force when he shot Lee eight times during a foot chase? The jury said no, so there was no need for it to consider further questions, such as how much money would compensate the slain man's family.

The verdict brought at least some closure to a painful chapter in Minneapolis police-community relations, in which police and supporters who said Andersen behaved heroically were pitted against segments of the Hmong community and neighborhood activists who decried the killing. Their arguments rested in part on a video of part of the foot chase randomly captured by a school security camera that didn't appear to show a gun in Fong Lee's hand.

Defendants in the suit maintained the gun was there but couldn't be seen clearly because of the video's grainy quality.

Police Chief Tim Dolan said he was relieved by the verdict and hoped it would relieve some of the strain endured by Andersen and his family.

"The allegations were basically about how law enforcement does business throughout this country and what we feel is reasonable and fair," he said. "This was something we needed to win." He said the department will work to heal some of the rifts the lawsuit's well-publicized allegations caused between the department and the Hmong community.

The verdict upset family members, who were plaintiffs in the suit against Andersen and the city.

"Our quest for truth doesn't end today; we will continue to seek answers," Fong Lee's older sister Shoua Lee said to reporters. Lee and her mother, Youa Vang Lee, hugged as they cried outside the courthouse.

For weeks leading up to the trial, Lee family lawyers Michael Padden and Richard Hechter were vocal in their accusations that Andersen gunned down Lee without justification, and that Andersen or other officers then planted a gun at the scene to save the officer from the consequences.

But at trial, Padden stumbled early, incurring U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson's wrath for projecting on courtroom televisions -- mistakenly, Padden claimed -- a photograph of Lee's bullet-riddled body.

Expert impeached

And as the five-day trial progressed, assistant Minneapolis city attorneys Jim Moore and Greg Sautter picked apart key plaintiffs' witnesses, for example, using a video recording to force one to admit that Andersen's squad car didn't knock Fong Lee off his bicycle, as the witness first claimed.

In cross-examining Philip Corrigan, the plaintiffs' expert on the use of force, Moore elicited that although Corrigan spent 20 years on the Tucson (Ariz.) Police Department, he was not certified to teach the use of force. Corrigan also acknowledged that until Moore told him, he had been unaware of the main U.S. Supreme Court case on deadly force.

In contrast, the city's expert, Michael Brave, has taught deadly force and cited many Supreme Court cases. He testified that "officers do not have to be shot before they return fire. ... The relevant factor is whether officer Andersen perceived a gun, not whether or not I can speculate he could see a gun."

Both Andersen and his partner that night, state trooper Craig Benz, testified they saw a gun in Lee's hand.

A low point for the city, however, was the testimony of Lt. Mike Fossum, whose handling of a gun found in a snowbank in 2004 raised questions.

A .380-caliber Russian-made Baikal handgun was found near Lee's body. The gun was reported stolen in February 2004 by North Side resident Dang Her.

Her testified Fossum called him in 2004 and told him the gun had been recovered. But the city said misunderstandings and paperwork mistakes by Fossum only made it later appear to be in custody. The city said the gun recovered from a snowbank in February 2004 was a 7.65 caliber FNH, not Her's gun.

Fossum's testimony was confusing at best.

Magnuson read the verdict shortly after 1 p.m., before the many Lee family members had returned from lunch. Neither Andersen nor the lawyers were in the courtroom.

Lee family members expressed anger and sadness at the jury's decision and how it was read without them.

Tou Ger Xiong, a member of the Coalition for Community Relations, which he described as a group of concerned citizens, angrily said he had many questions. He called the verdict "beyond disappointment and beyond disbelief."

The message, he said, is "Watch out. If a cop thinks you pose a threat, you will be shot and you will be killed."

He questioned the lack of diversity on the jury. Although there were racial minorities in the jury pool of 77, all 12 jurors appeared to be white.

Xiong said he wants a "federal, independent" investigation of the shooting.

In 2007, a Hennepin County grand jury cleared Andersen of criminal wrongdoing. Then, in a move critics said could be perceived as bad public relations, the Minneapolis department in July awarded him the Medal of Valor, one of the department's highest honors for bravery, for his actions in the shooting.

Lt. John Delmonico, head of the police federation, said he wasn't surprised by the verdict. He said Andersen was doing his job. "When somebody confronts somebody with a gun, the police chase after him to get the gun and the bad guy off the street," Delmonico said.



Protest of Lee verdict draws crowd in St. Paul

Tou Thor, 12, of Centerville, was among the protesters gathered Saturday in St. Paul, voicing their frustration with a verdict finding that excessive force was not used in the shooting death of Fong Lee.

Two days after a jury cleared the officer who shot Fong Lee, about 200 people demonstrated.

By JENNA ROSS, Star Tribune

Last update: May 30, 2009 - 10:12 PM

The trial is over. But protests over Fong Lee's death continue.

About 200 people gathered Saturday at the corner of University Avenue and Marion Street in St. Paul to discuss and demonstrate against Thursday's verdict that the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed the 19-year-old in 2006 acted within the law.

Holding signs, talking with passersby and chanting in Hmong, the demonstrators vowed to continue fighting against this verdict in particular and injustice in general.

"Fong Lee just happened to be Hmong," said Joseph Hang, a 27-year-old St. Paul designer and architect. "We're fighting for everyone."

The civil trial that ended this week focused on whether officer Jason Andersen used excessive force in fatally shooting Lee during a foot chase. The 12-member jury unanimously agreed with what the city has maintained all along: The officer acted within the law.

At Saturday's rally, grandmothers, children and activists questioned that verdict, holding signs that read "Where is the gun?" "Investigate the Mpls. police!" and "I am Fong Lee."

Some community groups are scheduling two meetings in June for the public to offer testimony. They hope that with information gathered there, federal officials will launch an investigation into Andersen's actions.

Following Thursday's verdict, people with those groups and Lee's family said "unanswered questions" remain. "Our quest for truth does not end today," Shoua Lee, Fong Lee's sister, said then. "We will continue to seek answers."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168



Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer on May 22, 2009

“In the isolated mountain villages of their Laotian homeland, cooking was… the stuff of tradition, not the written word. Good Hmong cooks learned from their elders which ingredients to use, and how much of each, by sight, feel, and taste. Recipes were never written down and followed ‘to the letter.’ Cooking, like other Hmong arts and crafts, came ‘from the heart.’”
(From Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America by Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang, published this month by the University of Minnesota Press ($29.95; 248 pages, hardcover with color photos, available at Hmong ABC Bookstore at 298 University Ave. W in St. Paul).

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Sheng Yang, and her parents and four siblings, immigrated to the United States — first to Kentucky, then Oklahoma, and then, Oregon — in 1979, when she was nine. Sami Scripter, married and tending to her growing family, was Sheng’s neighbor in Portland, OR. Sami worked as an educator at Sheng’s elementary school. Speaking to a small audience at the Hmong Cultural Center in St. Paul on Thursday, Scripter recalls, “One year you didn’t know what Hmong was, and the next year a quarter of the children in school were Hmong.”

Yang says that over the years their “two families have become almost one.” Scripter adds, “We got to know each other the way neighbors know each other.” They gardened together in the Scripter’s backyard using seeds Sheng’s mother had carried from Laos and Thailand. Sami taught Sheng and her mother how to preserve raspberry jam.

As a sixth grader, to improve her English, Sheng lived with the Scripters, rooming with Sami’s daughter, Emily, in a bunk bed Don Scripter built for the two girls. “Sami learned to cook rice the Hmong way using an hourglass-shaped pot and woven basket steamer, and Sheng learned how to make… meatloaf, baked potatoes, and peach pie,” the authors write.

Out of their friendship and years of cooking together and jotting down ingredients grew Cooking from the Heart, which is as much a “celebration of Hmong culture as it is lived in the United States” as it is a cookbook, Yang says. “We wanted to remember who we are… to store the heritage and cooking and pass it down to our children to keep and treasure for years to come.” Scripter adds: “There are many ways of remembering: the Hmong oral tradition is one way; the paj ntaub [Hmong embroidery, pronounced "pa dao"] that women sew is another way. And a cookbook is a way.”

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

In their book, Scripter and Yang touch on eating etiquette and table settings; herbal medicine and healing traditions; and weddings, New Year’s, and funeral customs, and the role food plays in each. Of funerals, the authors write: “The haunting notes of a Hmong bamboo pipe, called a qeej [pronounced keel, pulling your lips tight and speaking almost from your throat], and the rhythmic tum, tum, tum of a special wooden drum constructed exclusively for the service pervade the atmosphere of a traditional funeral.” (Txu Zong Yang plays the qeej and performs the complex dance movements in the photo to the right).

“Three times a day a gong signals meals for all attendees. The deceased is symbolically fed. Then everyone attending the funeral is also fed… It is common for a family to have one or more cows or buffalo butchered and cooked each day to feed the crowd. Cauldrons of boiling meat… are prepared. Mountains of rice are steamed… As with many rituals and events, food is an essential component contributing to the solidarity of Hmong people.” The authors devote an entire chapter, “Cooking for a Crowd,” to dishes commonly served at Hmong gatherings.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The book is sprinkled with Hmong poetry and essays, such as May Lee-Yang’s “The Year My Family Decided Not to Have Papaya Salad and Egg Rolls for Thanksgiving,” that convey the joys and challenges of growing up Hmong in America.
One side-bar, Ka’s Journal, tells the story of a Hmong woman who, unbeknownst to her family, painstakingly recorded the events of her life, including drawings of Hmong cooking tools, in a spiral-bound notebook she kept in a basket under her bed, wrapped in a skirt. Her children discovered Ka’s journal only after her funeral.

Rather than try to document Hmong cuisine in general, Scripter and Yang focused on “what individual Hmong cooks do,” coaxing recipes out of family and Hmong cooks around the US. Recipes include Saly’s (Yang’s mother-in-law) Rice and Corn Pancakes; Der’s (Yang’s sister) Egg and Cucumber Salad; and Chee Vang’s (a woman who lives in Denver, CO) Stuffed Chicken Wings.

“We wanted to write about Hmong cooking everywhere,” says Scripter. “We cooked in other people’s homes.” The dish that everyone loves, in spite the “startling array of differences” in the ways it’s prepared, says Scripter, is Chicken Curry Noodle Soup or Khaub Poob (pronounced kah-poong). “Some put quail eggs in it. Some make it with garlic, some without… It’s all very good.”

The book includes an extensive discussion of cooking tools, packaged ingredients, and vegetables and herbs used in both cooking and healing. Rather than trying to gloss over ingredients that may seem out of favor, such as MSG, or unfamiliar to non-Hmong or Hmong who have grown up in America, Scripter and Yang take the challenge head-on. Of Traditional Beef Soup, “cow-poo soup,” made of beef stomach, intestines, and organ meat, they write: “Contradicting its name, the soup is made of healthy ingredients and is very nutritious. However, this dish may not be for people who are one or more generations away from having to eat whatever is available in order to live.”

“We wanted to write about Hmong cooking everywhere,” says Scripter. “We cooked in other people’s homes.” The dish that everyone loves, in spite the “startling array of differences” in the ways it’s prepared, says Scripter, is Chicken Curry Noodle Soup or Khaub Poob (pronounced kah-poong). “Some put quail eggs in it. Some make it with garlic, some without… It’s all very good.”

The book includes an extensive discussion of cooking tools, packaged ingredients, and vegetables and herbs used in both cooking and healing. Rather than trying to gloss over ingredients that may seem out of favor, such as MSG, or unfamiliar to non-Hmong or Hmong who have grown up in America, Scripter and Yang take the challenge head-on. Of Traditional Beef Soup, “cow-poo soup,” made of beef stomach, intestines, and organ meat, they write: “Contradicting its name, the soup is made of healthy ingredients and is very nutritious. However, this dish may not be for people who are one or more generations away from having to eat whatever is available in order to live.”



Hmong caught in repatriation trap

By Brian McCartan

- The pullout under protest of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) from the Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Petchabun in Thailand
is a slap in the face to Thailand and Laos, both of which claim their repatriation of Hmong refugees is voluntary. To be sure, many of the refugees are actually economic migrants, but without a transparent screening process it is impossible to tell refugees with serious concerns for their safety from migrants.

MSF's departure is another human-rights embarrassment for Thailand's Abhisit Vejjajiva government which earlier this year came under intense international criticism over revelations its military had pushed Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar back out to sea. Thailand's military, however, appears undeterred and has announced a September 30 date for closing the camp. Critics allege the date was set to make sure all the Hmong were repatriated well before the start of the 2009 Southeast Asia Games in Vientiane, Laos, in December.

Huay Nam Khao camp was set up in 2005 after several thousand Hmong began arriving in Thailand in 2004 claiming persecution from the Lao government. MSF began working in the camp in 2005 providing food and medical relief. The original refugees were later joined by others and the camp population eventually reached a peak of 7,800 people. Thailand had believed the Lao refugee situation had ended with the closure of the last camps in the late 1990s and the agreement of the United States in 2003 to accept remaining Hmong refugees sheltering at Tham Krabok monastery in Saraburi province.

MSF, which remained the single independent non-governmental organization working in the camp, announced their pullout on May 20 at the same time they released a report detailing their reasons for their actions. In their report, MSF alleges that the Thai military is using increasing restrictions and coercive methods to pressure some 4,700 ethnic Hmong refugees to renounce their claims of protection and return to Laos.

Among the tactics MSF alleges the military is using against the refugees are the arbitrary imprisonment of leaders to pressure other refugees to "volunteer" to return, temporary halts in food distribution and the forcing of refugees to pass through a military checkpoint before entering the MSF clinic. The checkpoint, the MSF report says, intimidates refugees and restricts access to health care. These claims are echoed by US-based Hmong human rights organizations including the Hmong International Human Rights Watch and independent researchers who have been documenting the situation of the refugees for several years.

Heightened anxiety, psychological distress and fear among the refugee population as a result of these measures were noted by MSF in their report. Increasing desperation among the refugees has resulted in hunger strikes, self mutilation and arson in attempts to call attention to their plight.

In June 2008, some 800 people were forcibly returned to Laos after around 5,000 camp residents staged a protest march to bring attention to their plight. Among those repatriated were MSF staff members and several Hmong leaders who disappeared until an October 2008 Human Rights Watch report critical of their detention resulted in their release by the Lao authorities.

Repatriation of Hmong increased this year with approximately 200 being sent back per month with a peak of 500 in March. Over 1,500 Hmong have been forcibly repatriated since December 2005.

Although the Lao government claims it is providing for the returnees and documents their trips home on the Internet image hosting site Flickr, several have been arbitrarily detained and human-rights groups say there are credible reports of torture. Many Hmong cite the disappearance in 2005 of a group of young boys and girls sent back by the Thai authorities as a major source of their fears. The girls later resurfaced with stories of being detained and sexually abused while in custody - the boys have still not been heard from.

Lao Army Deputy Chief of Staff Brigadier General Buaxieng Champaphan announced this year that no criminal charges will be brought against returning Hmong. Laos who have left the country illegally to seek work in Thailand have in the past been detained by Lao authorities on their return.

Hmong refugees say that they will be punished and even executed should they be returned because the Lao government is still angry with them for siding with the US during the "Secret War" in Laos in the 1960s and early 1970s. They claim that while Hmong who sided with the communists live free, those who supported the US are discriminated against, arbitrarily arrested and sometimes executed. Some Hmong have chosen to continue the fight against the government living on the run in the jungle-clad mountains of northern Laos. They have become known as the "jungle Hmong".

The Lao and Thai governments maintain that the refugees are economic migrants and as such have no real fears. The Lao government further claims that Huay Nam Khao camp acts as a magnet for Hmong who have heard that by claiming persecution they will be allowed to resettle in the United States. Many advocates for the Hmong agree that there are many in the camp who never fought for the US, are connected with anyone who did or where ever "jungle Hmong".

A spokesman for the Lao government showed this correspondent last year dossiers collected on some of the returnees indicating that they were not Hmong and that at least one woman came from a coastal region in Vietnam. They are believed to have been persuaded to come to the camp by brokers who arrange for a fee to go to the camp promising that a stay there will lead to a good life in the US. Others have been convinced to go to the camp by relatives already in America.

Although many may be simply seeking a way out of poverty, others have credible stories of persecution which have been backed up by reports from international human-rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as independent journalists. According to the MSF report, many of the refugees tell related stories of "fleeing violent attacks and persecution, witnessing the murder of family members, suffering rape, surviving bullet and shrapnel wounds and enduring malnutrition and disease".

To back up their claims, refugees have displayed scars from bullet and shrapnel wounds and MSF says they have documented at least 181 refugees with physical scars. The aid group says their mental health program admitted 286 patients, most of whom talked of witnessing the death of a family member or friend, suffering torture and enduring starvation in the mountains.

Various estimates put the number of Hmong still on the run in the mountains of Laos at between several hundred and a thousand. Researchers and journalists who have been able to visit the groups say that they have been reduced to living on whatever can be scavenged in the forest including insects, tree bark and roots.

Photos show many of them dressed in little better than rags and carrying weapons that are leftovers from the "Secret War". They have kept fighting partly for survival, but also at the behest of Hmong groups in the US and elsewhere who encourage them while living comfortably in exile. Critics within the Hmong community note with irony that the jungle Hmong have been provided satellite phones to report their situation to supporters in the US, but yet are bedraggled, sick, malnourished and fighting a struggle they cannot hope to win. No one has told them to stop.

Until recently, the US government has largely looked the other way and allowed the situation to happen. A change only occurred in June 2007 when agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested former Hmong guerrilla leader General Vang Pao and several of his associates along with a former US Army colonel on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government of Laos. Vang Pao's defense team, former Central Intelligence Agency officers who fought with the Hmong and the American-Hmong community have come together to denounce the charges claiming they are a budget justification tactic by an agency that at the time was finding it difficult to locate real terrorist conspiracies.

Human-rights groups and MSF say that there is no way to tell Hmong with legitimate fears of persecution apart from economic migrants without a transparent screening process overseen by a third party. The Thai and Lao governments have refused to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or any other independent third party to assess refugee protection claims in Huay Nam Khao camp. Instead they have said that the Hmong should go back to Laos and apply for resettlement from there.

An advocate for the Hmong says that at least 414 Hmong originally from the camp were recognized by the UNHCR as refugees in 2005-2006, but only after making the risky move of leaving the camp and coming to Bangkok. Other cases, he says, have been registered, but Thai pressure has meant no final decisions have been made.

Screening processes conducted by the Thai government in December 2007 and January 2008 were closed and, despite repeated requests, the UNHCR was not permitted to monitor the process. Under international norms, the repatriation of refugees should be voluntary and cannot be forced on people fearing for their safety. There must also be guarantees of safety on their return. MSF and human-rights groups say that neither the Lao nor Thai governments have followed these standards and violate the standards of non-refoulment where in individuals fleeing persecution must not be sent back to countries where their lives or freedom is threatened.

In an attempt to ease international fears, the Lao government has arranged several trips by foreign diplomats and UN officials to a village it has set up for returnees at Phalak near Kasi in northern Vientiane province. Critics say the visits are stage managed by the government and do not accurately reflect the situation. Other than these visits the Lao government has not permitted independent monitoring of returnees by the UNHCR or any other organization leaving it open to accusations of disappearances and persecution.

The group with the clearest claims to refugee status is the 158 Hmong locked up in an immigration detention center in Nong Khai in Thailand across from Vientiane. The refugees had previously been granted "person of concern" status from the UNHCR prior to being arrested and shipped to the center.

In April, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya announced that Thailand would assist the Hmong in Nong Khai to be resettled in third countries. Thailand earlier promised to resettle these refugees in 2006 after the US, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands had agreed to accept them only to later renege on the agreement. This time was no different. After Lao protests, Kasit was forced to backtrack on his statement and announced that the Hmong would first have to go back to Laos and then apply for resettlement in another country.

In its report, MSF accused the UN and Western governments of inaction over the Hmong refugee situation. "Despite more than two years of efforts by MSF, the UN, US, France and other regional powers have failed to take any concrete steps to ensure the protection of the traumatized and vulnerable refugee population confined in Huai Nam Khao camp." It requested that countries such as the US and France which have already resettled Hmong refugees or have said they are willing to should offer alternatives in accordance with international laws to repatriation.

Indeed the US, France and other Western nations have kept strangely quiet about the Hmong issue although they were very vocal in protest over the Rohingyas. Sources close to the situation say that there are some behind-the-scenes negotiations, but they caution that since there is no overt public pressure being placed on either the Thai or Lao governments, little is likely to be achieved. Many believe the US has some responsibility to refugees from a conflict it helped create and whom it promised to protect.

The Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) agreed this week to replace MSF in the camp. The Thai and Lao governments have made it clear that the Hmong will be repatriated no matter what, a situation that will leave COERR in the role of simply ensuring that the returnees are as healthy as possible for an unsure future back in Laos.

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



Hmong Refugees Not Worried About Swine Flu

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday, 28 May 2009, 2:23 pm
Press Release: Joe Davy

Hmong Refugees Not Worried About Swine Flu

Against all odds, 158 Hmong refugees, mainly young innocent children, have survived over 30 months of captivity in two tiny 9 by 9 meter cells at Nong Khai jail. They have been held under 22-hour lockdown 7 days per week. They have been gassed by Lao authorities and forced to live in mosquito-infested cells suffering from all sorts of illnesses and being told on a regular basis that they will never be released unless they agree to return to Laos, the country they fled persecution from. The Hmong refugees claim they are being treated like animals with no rights whatsoever.

Now, due to a strong outpouring of compassion by local Thais and foreigners alike, Thai authorities at Nong Khai jail are forbidding foreign visitors access to the refugees. Authorities say this new precaution has been put in place because they're worried about the health of the refugees and their being exposed to swine flu.

The one thing these suicidal Hmong refugees really need at this point is some human compassion, not some lame excuse to break their spirit and reinforce the idea that they are just animals. The United States and other countires who have agreed to resettle these Hmong need to take a much more vocal stance in advocating for these poor defenseless refugees.

One woman has already suffered from a cerebral aneurysm due to the severe stressful conditions and will never be the same. Many of the other adult refugees suffer from chronic migraine headaches, the same symptoms she had before she fell unconscious last year and was rushed to the hospital.

The last thing these poor suicidal refugees need at this point is to be socially ostracized from some caring foreigners due to "swine flu" precautions.

Joe Davy
Hmong Advocate



Washington, D.C. Observes National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day Events

"Today is the 12th year that we, Lao, Hmong and Americans, from all over the country, come here to Arlington National Cemetery to honor our fellow veterans, their family members, our American advisers, and to remember our fallen warriors and American advisers who paid with their lives in Laos for the freedom that we enjoy today," said Col. Wangyee Vang of the Lao Hmong Veterans (LVAI).

( - Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C., May 25, 2009 - National Memorial Day ceremonies honoring Lao Hmong veterans of the U.S. Secret Army in Laos, and their Laotian and Hmong refugee families, will cap nearly two weeks of National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition events in Washington, D.C. Events marking National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day, and honoring the Lao and Hmong veterans and their families and communities across the United States have been held in recent days at the Vietnam War Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Congress and U.S. Capitol Building.

On Memorial Day, from 8:30 A.M.-9:30 A.M., a special memorial service and vigil is planned honor Lao Hmong Veterans at the Iwo Jima U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial Monument ( East Area of Iwo Jima Monument, Arlington Blvd., Arlington, Virginia ). The 78 foot tall, Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of America's esteem and gratitude for the honored dead of the U.S. Marine Corps.

“U.S. Marine, Navy, Air Force, Army and Air America pilots courageously engaged in countless air raids, and combat sorties, over Laos during the Vietnam War in coordination with Lao Hmong and U.S. clandestine and military forces; This Memorial Day, the national ceremonies in Washington, D.C., honoring the Laotian and Hmong community, and National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day events, are important in the context of the crucial sacrifices made by the Lao Hmong veterans, their refugee families and American advisers, in defense of the United States and the Royal Kingdoms of Laos and Thailand during the Vietnam War,” said Philip Smith Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C.

The CPPA, Lao Veterans of America, Inc. ( LVA ), the Lao Veterans of America Institute ( LVAI ), Counterparts Veterans Association, Hmong Advance, Inc. ( HA ), Hmong Advancement, Inc. of Washington, D.C. ( HAIWDC ), United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. ( ULDL ), retired U.S. intelligence community, and military, officials and others are invited cosponsors, or invited guests/participants.

Participants and invited speakers include: Lt. Col. Wangyee Vang, Founder and National President, LVAI; Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director, CPPA and Washington, D.C. Liaison, LVA; Dr. Grant McClure, Liaison Counterparts organization; Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Laos Hmong scholar and author of the book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos” ( Indiana University Press ); Mr. B. Jenkins Middleton, Esq., Former Vice President, U.S. Export-Import Bank; Mike Benge, Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer and others.

in Washington, D.C. , on the morning of May 21, a Vietnam Veterans War Memorial commemorative service was held at the Vietnam War Memorial "Wall.”

The official wreath-laying ceremony by Lao Hmong veterans of the U.S. Secret Army in Laos, honored Laotian and Hmong veterans, their refugee families and American advisers who served in Laos during the Vietnam War. Led by the LVA and its Lao Hmong veterans members, a memorial wreath of flowers was laid at the apex of the Vietnam War Memorial by Lao and Hmong veterans, and a delegation of their former U.S. Special Forces, Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA ), and U.S. Foreign Service Officer ( FSO ) advisers at the conclusion of the ceremony.

In cooperation with Members of the U.S. Congress, a special U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos and U.S. Congressional Briefing was held in the afternoon of May 21, 2009. Issues regarding Lao Hmong veterans, especially the plight of Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand detailed in a recent report by Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ), were discussed at the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos.

During the morning of Friday, May 22, a Lao Hmong veterans memorial ceremony was held in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., ( Grant Avenue, Arlington National Cemetery, at the Lao Veterans of America monument and commemorative tree in Arlington National Cemetery ) . National Lao Hmong Veterans Day Recognition Ceremonies in Arlington, included an official wreath-laying ceremony by the U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Army, to honor Laotian and Hmong veterans, their refugee families and American advisers who served in Laos during the Vietnam War.

U.S. Department of Defense honor guard soldiers participated in the National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day ceremonies along with an U.S. Army color guard and wreath bearer; A wreath was laid by the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Army at the LVA monument in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. A U.S. Army officer played “Taps” to conclude the wreath laying ceremony.

Traditionally, National Lao Hmong Veterans Recognition Day events have been organized annually each year since 1991 during the week of May 15-22… prior to, and during, the U.S. Memorial Day holiday. Many thousands of Laotian and Hmong veterans and their refugee families fled Laos after the communist takeover during the end of the Vietnam War starting on May 14-15, 1975 when the U.S. and Lao Hmong base a Long Chieng was evacuated.

Laotian and Hmong veterans and community delegations from Maryland, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Colorado, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Hawaii are expected to participate and attend the events. Many Lao Hmong participants were dressed in traditional ethnic clothing and military uniforms for the national events.

Excerpts of the statement by Lt. Col. Wangyee Vang, National President and Founder of the LVAI at Arlington National Cemetery on May 22, 2009, are as follows:

“On behalf of the Lao and Hmong veterans and their families, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to come to join us for this tribute to our fallen fellow soldiers and Americans advisers who served in Laos and Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

Moreover, on behalf of the Lao Veterans of America Institute, Lao and Hmong veterans and the Lao and Hmong community across the United States, I want to thank Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, Grant McClure of Counterparts, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Laos Hmong Scholar, B. Jenkins Middleton, Esq. and Mike Benge, U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Ret., for your important efforts at today’s ceremonies.

We also wish to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt’s important book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars or Laos.” and honor her for her important human rights and humanitarian work on behalf of the Lao and Hmong people.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, this living monument was placed on this historical location by the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. and was authorized by Arlington National Cemetery in cooperation with distinguished historians on 15 May 1997. Today it is the 12th year that we, Lao, Hmong and Americans, from all over the country, come here to Arlington National Cemetery to honor our fellow veterans, their family members, our American advisers, and to remember our fallen warriors and American advisers who paid with their lives in Laos for the freedom that we enjoy today.

It is important to point out, that during the past 34 years, since the pull-out of the United States in 1975 from Vietnam and Laos, our veterans, their families, relatives, and friends, those we left behind, are still fighting for their survival against the brutal Lao communist regime just for their day-to-day existence and against persecution and military attacks. On Wednesday, Medecins Sans Frontiere ( MSF ) announced its protest withdraw from, and discontinuation of humanitarian and food assistance to, the Lao Hmong refugee camp at Ban Houi Nam Khao ( also sometimes known as Huay Nam Khao ), Petchabun Province, Thailand because of Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva and his… Third Army’s abuses and forced repatriation of the refugees.

Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Medecins Sans Frontiere ( MSF ) for their sincere and critical humanitarian help to the Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Houi Nam Khao, Petchabun, Thailand over the last several years.

Clearly, the Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Houi Nam Khao Camp, Petchabun, Thailand are the victims of the Vietnam War. If they, and their parents and grandparents and family, were not fighters for the Americans during the Vietnam War, they would not be in this Camp or refugees in Thailand or Laos.

Many in the Camp, at Ban Houi Nam Khao in Thailand are orphans and descendants of those Lao Hmong soldiers who were killed in the battlefields of Laos, and that is why they had no chance to flee the current Lao regime during the last three decades, they were left behind and become targets for the current regime in communist Laos, a one party Stalinist regime that seeks to exterminate many of its own people, especially the Hmong people.

These Lao Hmong refugees are political refugees and asylum seekers who have fled political and religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in Laos.

Once again, we sincerely thank, His Majesty, The King of Thailand, his Thai people and the Royal Thai Government ( RTG ) for their past generous help toward our fellow Laotian and Hmong refugees. We respect and admire Thailand’s past wonderful humanitarian stance toward those Lao Hmong refugees which once flooded Thailand. Now in the eyes of international community, we would like to request that the Thai authorities, especially, elements of the Royal Thai Third Army, and the Thai Third Army at large, to respect human rights by not using their guns’ point, or psychological tactics, to force the Lao Hmong refugees back to where they do not want to be., the brutal Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ).

Sadly, Laos under the LPDR regime has a long history of very poor and terrible human rights violations against its own people.

The LPDR Communist party leadership and LPDR military has also been denying that they are carrying Communists Vietnamese’s yoke and serve as Hanoi’s proxy regime; the LPDR regime denies the fact that the military generals in Hanoi continue to violate the human rights, territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Laos and the Laotian and Hmong people. Laos, under the LPDR, must start loving their own people of a hundred different ethnic minorities as if they are its fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children as their own family; and stop imprisoning, persecuting and killing the Lao-Hmong who are part of its family. The bogus LPDR propaganda that it loves its own people, and the Laotian and Hmong minorities, is false, since it continues to engage in military attacks against civilians, ethnic cleansing and large-scale human rights violations against its own people.

Now, it is time, after 34 years have passed since the end of the Vietnam War in Laos, for the international community members who respect human rights and love freedom, to immediately help stop the brutality of the one party control of Laos by the corrupt LPDR dictatorship and military junta. The international community should impose severe economic sanctions on the LPDR regime in Laos and withdraw their diplomatic relationship of the military junta in Vientiane.

With regard to the Lao, Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand, the Thai Army should immediately stop forcing the Lao and Hmong refugees back to Laos, and open the door for the international community and those nations, like Canada, France, Australia and the United States, who want to take the Lao Hmong refugees to their country. The Thai Army and Royal Thai government should immediately open the door to the Lao Hmong refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao Camp and Nong Khai so that third countries that are mentioned above can have a chance to go in there to screen and interview these refugees.

Indeed, the United States of America, especially, must take actions to help those victims of the Vietnam War right away by negotiating with the Thai government to open the door and send food, medicine and other necessary humanitarian aid to the refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai Thailand and support those countries who accept the Lao Hmong refugees to take them out of Thailand… to be reunited with their families.”

( excerpts of statement Lt. Col. Wangyee Vang, President, LVAI, at Arlington National Cemetery, given on Friday, May 22, 2009 )


Contact: Jose Gomez

Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444

Center for Public Policy Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Suite No. #212
Washington, D.C. 20006



Laos Ethnic Cleansing Task Force Kills 12 Hmong Children

""At this very moment.. the Hmong and Laotian civilian and dissident groups in hiding in Phoua Da Phao are under heavy attack by Laos military forces of the LPA. There have been already been 12 children slaughtered and 31 additional Hmong civilians, including women, who have been captured and, or, killed," stated Philip Smith, of the Center for Public Policy Analysis.

( - Washington, D.C., and Bangkok, Thailand, May 27, 2009 - On May 22, 2009, at 8:00 am in Laos, Communist Party and military officials of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) launched a special military task force, of the Lao Peoples Army ( LPA ), which departed from Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province in Laos, on a special mission to target, capture and kill thousands of Laotian and Hmong civilians and political and religious dissidents in hiding in Laos.

“The special LPA ethnic cleansing Task Force, is a hunter-killer unit, reportedly led by Colonel Boun Soun of battalion number 827, has been tasked with the mission to attack and eliminate Lao Hmong in-hiding by the end of this year, 2009, in an effort to wipe out all Laotian and Hmong civilian and political and religious dissident groups seeking to live independent of LPDR authoritarian control,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C.

In recent years, Amnesty International and other independent human rights organizations and journalists have documented the Lao military and LPDR regimes attacks on Lao and Hmong civilians and dissident groups hiding in the mountains and jungles of Laos.

Smith continued: “At this very moment, according to reliable sources inside Laos, the Hmong and Laotian civilian and dissident groups in hiding in Phoua Da Phao are under heavy attack by Lao military forces of the LPA. There have been already been 12 children slaughtered and 31 additional Hmong civilians, including women, who have been captured and, or, killed in the jungle in Phou Da Phao. The whereabouts of many of those Lao Hmong captured are unknown. Many of the remaining Lao Hmong people in-hiding are starving, ill, and wounded by these attacks.”

“The Lao military is targeting for military attacks, starvation and extermination Laotian and Hmong civilians currently in-hiding, who wish to live freely and independent from the Lao government’s control, in Phou Da Phao, Phou Bia, Sannoi, Luang Prabang and Borikhamxai and other locations in Laos," Smith concluded.

“The LPA ethnic cleansing Task Force’s mission and strategy is to hunt and attack the Hmong and Laotian civilians in-hiding by surrounding the people, in encircling operations, including Hmong veterans who served with U.S. military and clandestine forces during the Vietnam War in Laos, and their remaining descendants and families,” stated Vaughn Vang of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council.

Vaughn Vang continued: “Orders have been issued by the LPDR and LPA for this special ethnic cleansing LPA Task Force to torture and execute all Hmong that are captured from these jungle and mountain areas and to not spare any of their lives.”

According to Vaughn Vang: “Three ( 3 ) high ranking Laotian military officials of the LPA, who wish to remain anonymous, have reported to the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. that the Lao Government has launched this deadly mission to eliminate all dissident Laotian and Hmong civilians and political and religious groups in-hiding in Phou Da Phao, Phou Bia, Sannoi, Luang Prabong and Borikhamxai and other locations by the end of 2009.”

“The LPDR regime has persecuted, tortured, and killed the Lao and Hmong people for over 30 years but has failed in killing these particular Lao Hmong groups in-hiding. Now, they are adamant and determined to kill or capture all remaining Hmong and Laotian groups in-hiding and will not spare their lives. They will be persecute or execute them,” continued Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council.

Vaughn Vang concluded: “Mr. Nhia Lue Vue, Mr. Tong Pao Yang, Mr. Cher Tong Thao, Chee Nou Vue, Nao Long Lee and Teng Chang are reportedly appealing to the United Nation, the United States, Amnesty International and the world community to intervene to seek to immediately stop the Lao PDR government’s crimes against humanity and urge the LPDR regime to withdraw all its LPA military personnel, tanks, aircraft as well as stop the chemical attacks against these Hmong and Laotian civilians and political and in-hiding; Many of the remaining approximately 6,300 Hmong former veterans and their descendants, including women, children, elderly, and civilians, who are currently hiding these key locations are likely to be captured, tortured, raped, persecuted or killed by these Lao government troops in the next few weeks.”

A spokesperson for the Laotians and Hmong civilians and dissident groups under attack at Phou Da Phao, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated: “We are Laotian and Hmong civilians, women and children; we are only wish to live in peace from persecution, torture and death by the Laos LPDR government and military.”


Contact: Juan Lopez

Center for Public Policy Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Suite No.# 212
Washington, D.C. 20006 USA

Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444



Hmong Refugees in Thailand at Risk of Humanitarian Crisis as Medecins Sans Frontieres Withdraws

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors without Borders as they are otherwise known, runs the risk of creating a humanitarian crisis if it goes ahead with plans to withdraw from a Hmong refugee camp in Northern Thailand in protest at the Thai governments treatment of Hmong.

This warning was sounded yesterday by Yap Swee Seng, director of Forum-Asia, a regional human rights organization with 42 member-organisztions across the region.

MSF announced earlier in the week that due to ongoing difficulties and barriers put in its way by the Thailand government, it was discontinuing its work at the Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchabun province.

MSF said it will withdraw the medical and other aid it has been providing more than 5,000 Hmong refugees to protest what it describes as "coercive tactics" and action by the Thai military against the Hmong.

At a press conference on Wednesday, May 20, MSF Thailand director, Gilles Isard, said the group is working with UNICEF to hand over responsibilities of caring for the camp's residents to another NGO, but so far no replacement had been found.

MSF claims to have had continual problems with Thai military officials and the Thai Army's psychological operations unit in Phitsanulok.

However, Mr Yap said protesting in this manner and withdrawing services will hurt the very people MSF are supposed to be helping and will cause the Hmong greater difficulties and discomfort and could result in a humanitarian crisis.

Mr Yap said he had, "personally never heard of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) protesting working conditions imposed by a host country by withdrawing its services before. Usually it is a government telling an NGO they are no longer welcome.

"It's a matter of grave concern... it will be very unfortunate if the assistance supplied to this camp is cut off. The community will suffer and with the wet season now underway they [Hmong refugees] will be more in need of medical care than in the dry season. Their protest action could result in a humanitarian crisis," he said.

A similar view was expressed by Steve Gumaer, head of Partners World, an NGO that runs programs for orphaned and displaced children, provides emergency relief, development, and capacity building with other minority groups under the name of Partners in Thailand's northern and northwestern provinces.

Mr Gumaer said he had "never heard of an NGO protesting in a manner like this before. "It's just going to make it worse for the Hmong refugees. It's not going to shake the Thais. It sounds like the wrong way of going about making their point".

MSF claims, "the Thai military's scare tactics to pressure ethnic Laos Hmong refugees to accept a forced return to Laos and its intensifying restrictions on MSF's activities, such as trying to force MSF to temporarily cutting (sic) food distributions to the refugee population and forcing patients to pass through military control to obtain medical care, have compelled MSF to terminate its medical relief program."


Hmong lobby US for emergency aid in Thailand

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hmong refugees at a Thai detention centre in Nong Khai province near Thai-Laos border

By Shaun Tandon

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Hmong activists urged the United States to provide emergency aid to thousands of refugees in Thailand, saying they faced starvation or forced repatriation after the sole charity left their camp.

Paris-based Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, said Wednesday it no longer felt it could operate in the camp where it fed 4,700 Hmong, accusing Thailand of trying to force the refugees to return to Laos.

Many Hmong, a hill people, fought alongside the United States during the Vietnam War and Laos' communist government continues to hunt them down. MSF said refugees who fled to Thailand recounted killings, gang-rape and malnutrition inflicted by Laotian forces.

The Lao Veterans of America, which represents Hmong and other Laotians who supported the United States, went door-to-door in the US Congress seeking aid for the refugees at the Huai Nam Khao camp in Thailand.

Both the veterans and MSF charged that the Thai military was trying to intimidate the refugees in hopes they would leave the four-year-old border camp.

"We don't want them to have to go back to Laos so the current government can butcher them," said Colonel Wangyee Vang, head of the veterans group.

"We want those who have come out of Laos to be able to settle in third countries, especially the United States of America," Vang said in Congress before aging Lao and Hmong veterans, some clad in US military fatigues.

Philip Smith, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, which promotes Hmong rights, called on Congress to act or for President Barack Obama to tap emergency funds to help the refugees.

"This is a crisis and we are calling today on the Obama administration and the US Congress to intervene with emergency food and medicine," he said.

Smith said he had already heard that some refugees were attempting suicide rather than risk repatriation.

"MSF was the only group at the camp so with their departure, the Lao Hmong refugees will either starve to death or be forced back to a country that pursues them in the jungles and has persecuted them and killed their families," he said.

The Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian group said it was leaving the camp after unsuccessfully appealing to the United States, France and the United Nations to try to improve the refugees' plight.

MSF said Thailand and Laos wanted to close the camp by year-end. It estimated more than 1,500 Hmong have already been forced back to Laos since December 2005 and said there were credible reports that some were tortured.

It also complained that outside groups including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees were denied access to the camp.

Four US senators earlier this year wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to look into the camp and to press Laos, with which the United States restored normal trade relations in 2004.

The senators said Thailand should not deport Hmong who have fears of persecution and called for a transparent screening process that meets international standards.

The senators who signed the letter included Democrats Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl of the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, one of the major homes of the nearly 250,000 Hmong in the United States.


Thailand 'gets tough' with Hmong

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

"[The Thai authorities] have been trying to get MSF to stop food distribution to the people in order to punish them "
Gilles Isard, MSF

Hmong women cry after being told they will be sent back to Laos

For the past four years, thousands of ethnic Hmong, who have fled from their homes in the mountains of northern Laos, have been living a precarious existence in the Thai province of Phetchabun.

After initially trying to survive in the forest, they were moved by the Thai military into a camp, to which access is strictly controlled.

Almost all outside agencies are banned from entry.

Repeated requests by the UN refugee agency to be allowed to screen them and assess their claims that they face persecution or death if sent back to Laos have been refused by the Thai authorities.

Extreme stress

Every now and again groups have been forcibly repatriated to Laos; the rest remain trapped, living in constant fear.

One group of 158, which includes many children, has been held for two and a half years in a cramped detention centre in the border town of Nong Khai. Others are being held in jail.

The only international organisation allowed to help the almost 5,000 Hmong in Phetchabun has been Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has been their sole source of food and healthcare. Now MSF has decided to pull out, citing unacceptable pressure from the Thai military.

"We can no longer work in a camp where the military use arbitrary imprisonment of influential leaders to pressure refugees into a 'voluntary' return to Laos," said Gilles Isard, head of the MSF mission in Thailand.

"Also there are pressures on MSF. For instance they have been trying to get MSF to stop food distribution to the people in order to punish them."

MSF staff describe the Hmong as living under extreme psychological stress, because of the constant threat of repatriation. Some have threatened to kill themselves, rather than return. Many carry bullet wounds; they say they fear retribution by the Lao communist authorities if they go back.

MSF has been running a health clinic just outside the camp, but says the Hmong stopped coming after they were forced to report to a Thai military checkpoint first.

The checkpoints are where the Thai authorities sometimes whisk Hmong away for deportation.

More than 1,500 have already been forced back over the border. Their fate is still uncertain, as the Lao government refuses to allow international agencies to monitor the returnees.

According to Amnesty International, 20 women and girls sent back to Laos in December 2005 were detained for 18 months, and some were tortured.

Other returnees have vanished.

Joua Va Yang holds a photo of Ruhi Hamid, who made the BBC film


The Hmong are a large hill tribe, who inhabit mountainous areas of south-east Asia.

During the Vietnam War, many of them were recruited into a secret army run by the CIA, to help fight against the advancing communist Pathet Lao forces. When the Americans pulled out, the Hmong found themselves on the losing side.

They were subjected to harsh treatment by the new communist government. Some started a desperate armed campaign against the government, which they have kept up intermittently until now. Lao forces have responded in kind, at times bombarding Hmong areas from the ground and air.

Among the Hmong leaders is Joua Va Yang, who in 2004 helped guide a BBC team into a rebel area to make the first TV documentary about the plight of the Hmong who were trapped there.

He is now being held in jail in Phetchabun, after being arrested at the camp.

The Thai military say he has volunteered to go back to Laos, despite an obvious risk of retribution over his role in the documentary. No-one has been allowed to see him to hear his own views.

Little information has come out from those already sent back to Laos

Fate sealed?

So why is Thailand taking such a hard line against the fleeing Hmong? Many would be eligible for resettlement in the United States, if only they could be screened by agencies like the UNHCR.

There is no easy answer. Over the years Thailand has had to host millions of displaced people from conflicts in neighbouring countries. Some have been allowed to stay. Others have been kept in camps, like the Hmong, where access to international agencies is tightly restricted.

The army, a very powerful player in Thai politics, routinely demands a big say over how they are treated.

Earlier this year military units were accused of towing asylum-seekers from Burma's Rohingya minority out to sea, and casting them adrift with little food and water.

The military appears to view some groups as a security threat, or as an unwanted complication in their ties with neighbouring armies.

But the fate of the Hmong seems sealed.

The Thai Foreign Minister, Kasit Piromya, told the BBC that he had already agreed with his Lao counterparts to send them back soon.

On a recent trip to Washington DC, the famously loose-tongued Mr Kasit said one Hmong group would be allowed to go to the US - only to back-track after the Lao government protested.

When asked why no international screening or monitoring of the Hmong was being allowed by Thailand, Mr Kasit would only say that such screening was unnecessary, and that he was prepared to trust the assurances of the Lao government.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, the UNHCR and many other agencies strongly disagree.



Medics close Hmong refugee camp

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thai authorities insist the Hmong in Thailand are economic migrants

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres says it is pulling out of a relief effort in Thailand for about 5,000 ethnic Hmong asylum seekers from Laos.

The organisation cited pressure and intimidation by the Thai military.

Some members of the Hmong have been involved in an armed insurgency against the communist government in Laos since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975.

Hundreds have been forcibly returned by the Thai authorities, and face almost certain persecution, MSF says.

MSF says this was a difficult decision to make.

It is the sole international organisation allowed to work in the camp in northern Thailand which still houses nearly 5,000 ethnic Hmong who fled from Laos four years ago.

It provides most of the food and medical treatment for them.

But, says Gilles Isard, who heads the MSF mission in Thailand, the increasing restrictions imposed by the Thai military on its activities and the army's harassment of the Hmong have forced it to pull out.

"More and more, the Thai army is trying to use coercive measure to force the people to return to Laos. Also they are pressuring MSF.

"For instance they have been trying to demand MSF stop providing food distribution to the people in order to punish them," he told the BBC.

Secretive state

The Hmong have been engaged in an intermittent insurgency against the communist government in Laos ever since the Vietnam war when many of them were recruited into a secret CIA-run army to combat the advancing communist forces.

Some of those in the Thai camp have bullet wounds and most, say MSF staff, are terrified at the prospect of being sent back.

Yet that is what the Thai government insists it will do despite protests by the UN refugee agency and others.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya insists no international monitoring is necessary.

"If there is a problem we need to review our own process first and the international people could be in the advisory capacity that could be done," he said.

If the Hmong are being held in overcrowded jails by the Thai military, journalists and most international organisations are barred from entering the camp.

The Thai government says it alone will ensure those Hmong who are repatriated are well treated, but in a secretive authoritarian state like Laos it is not clear how it can do that.



MSF Hmong, Laos Refugee Effort in Thailand Lauded By Dr. Hamilton-Merritt, Congress

"From my years spend in Thailand, I know the Thai to be caring, good-willed people who would be pleased to see this crisis resolved by allowing those Hmong determined to be political refugees to be re-united with their families or re-settled in third countries," stated Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt in Washington, D.C.

( - Washington, D.C., May 20, 2009 - The Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in cooperation with Members of the U.S. Congress, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and a coalition of Lao and Hmong non-profit organizations, including the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., the Lao Veterans of America Institute, the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. and the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council, are co-hosting events in Washington, D.C. and Capitol Hill this week to seek to develop awareness about the emergency plight of Lao and Hmong political refugees in Thailand and Laos who are facing mass starvation, food-cut offs, forced repatriation and persecution. Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt is a keynote speaker at the events, including a U.S. Congressional Forum and Briefing on Laos on May 21-22, 2009 entitled: “Mass Starvation Fuels Lao Hmong Refugee Crisis in Thailand and Laos.”

“The current humanitarian, human rights and policy implications of The Doctors Without Borders' [Medecins Sans Frontieres ( MSF )] protest withdrawal from Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp, in Petchabun Province, Thailand, is a critical issue of discussion,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C.. “Over 5,500 Lao Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers, including many Lao Hmong veterans who served with U.S. clandestine and special forces during the Vietnam War, will soon be without food and medical care as a result of Thailand's forced repatriation policy and MSF's planned withdrawal from the refugee camp.”

Other keynote speakers include Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President and Founder of the Lao Veterans of America Institute and others.

Dr. Hamilton-Merritt and her colleagues will also provide an update on the plight of some 158 Lao Hmong political refugees in Nong Khai Thailand, a topic which will also be discussed at the evemts in the U.S. Congress and Washington, D.C. Recent large-scale attacks, and a campaign of mass starvation, by the Lao military on unarmed Lao and Hmong civilians in the provinces of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Khammoune and Xieng Khouang will likewise be discussed as well as increased religious and political persecution in Laos.

Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt is the author of Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos and a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her work on behalf of the Lao and the Hmong.

MSF issued a major report today on the Hmong refugee camp in Thailand entitled; “Hidden Behind Barbed Wire: The Plight of Hmong Refugees Held in Detention Camp in Northern Thailand Ignored Amid Ongoing Deportations to Laos”

The following is the statement released today in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Congress, by Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt on the protest by Doctors Without Borders on the forced Repatriation of Lao Hmong political refugees from Thailand to the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ):

“Thank you, Doctors Without Borders for the courageous stand your agency has taken to protect the vulnerable Lao Hmong refugees in northern Thailand from forced repatriation back to Laos where they have survived military attacks, gang raping of children, extreme torture, starvation, and the maiming and killing of men, women, and children by the Lao government

Doctors Without Borders deserves another Nobel Peace Prize. Its May 20 briefing paper ”Hidden Behind Barbed Wire” reports horrendous brutalities suffered by the Hmong held in Huay Nam Khao camp. They huddle in fear behind razor wire, guarded by armed soldiers, and denied access to journalists and the United Nations.

Doctors Without Borders does not take such a bold protest action lightly. Renowned for its humanitarian, non-political assistance to those in grave danger and need, Doctors Without Borders protest to champion the cause of the voiceless, suffering Hmong is a call to all of us-- to unite to stop the forced repatriation and to allow independent, professional agencies to interview those in this camp for political refugee status.

While our media carry numerous stories on Darfur’s suffering, the U.S. main stream media has been quiet on the Hmong humanitarian crisis. The U.S. did not cause Dafur, but the U.S. and Thailand are largely responsible for the plight of the Hmong. .

The Hmong were recruited by the U.S. and trained by the Thai to fight the North Vietnamese in Laos during the Vietnam War. The Thais feared that the fighting might spill over in Thailand. To keep that from happening, the Hmong, Lao, and Thai “volunteers” fought the battles against the communist armies on Lao soil, protecting Thailand from the fighting.

From my years spend in Thailand, I know the Thai to be caring, good-willed people who would be pleased to see this crisis resolved by allowing those Hmong determined to be political refugees to be re-united with their families or re-settled in third countries.

Many international crises are so complicated that resolution is difficult. In this crisis, the resolution is simple: stop the forced repatriation, allow independent professional screening teams into the camp to determine refugee status, and the majority of these 5,000 people will be given life, hope, and granted asylum by countries of good-will such as Australia, Canada, France, and the United States.”

( End Statement of Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Washington, D.C., February 20, 2009 )

Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt is the author of Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos and a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her work on behalf of the Lao and the Hmong people.



Maria Gomez
Tele. ( 202 )543-1444

Center for Public Policy Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Ave.
Suite No.#212
Washington, D.C. 20006 USA



Disgruntled medics to quit Hmong refugee camp

Published: 21/05/2009 at 09:03 AM

The Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) yesterday announced its withdrawal from the Hmong camp in Huay Nam Khao, Phetchabun province, after operating there for nearly four years.

The reason, they say, is the Thai military's restrictions and coercive tactics.

The withdrawal is a further embarrassment for the Abhisit adminstration, which recently suffered a bruised image due to the Navy's inhumane push-back of the Rohingya boat people.

Gilles Isard, MSF's head of mission in Thailand, said the Thai military's scare tactics to pressure ethnic Lao Hmong to accept a forced return to Laos and its intensifying restrictions on MSF's activities, such as trying to force the organisation to temporarily cut food distribution to the refugee population and forcing patients to pass through military control to obtain medical care, have compelled his organisation to terminate its medical relief programme in the Huay Nam Khao camp.

The MSF, as the sole international presence in the camp since 2005, has made a final appeal to the Thai and Laotian governments to immediately stop deporting the Hmong currently in Huay Nam Khao and to allow an independent third party to review the refugees' claims for protection and to monitor any repatriation, noted Mr Isard.

The message, however, is unlikely to deter the Thai-Lao agreement to clear the camp by the end of this year. The two countries earlier planned to send back the then 8,000 Hmong to Laos within 2008, despite the international outcry.

Incentives such as rice and other staples and allocation of a small plot of land were given by the Lao government to those returning to their domiciles and to the government-designated Kasi province. Still, a majority of the camp residents were not persuaded.

The efforts were strengthened this year with a promise from Lao deputy chief-of-staff Brig Gen Buaxieng Champaphan that no criminal charges would be brought against the Hmong.

Despite an allegedly heavy-handed approach by the overseeing military unit, the Khao Kho Task Force, some 4,750 Hmongs still reside in the camp.

Unicef, which has been approved by the Interior Ministry to conduct humanitarian services for the Hmong, is in close consultation with the Thai government to find a new ``service provider'' to replace the MSF by the end of this month.

``The MSF withdrawal has no impact on the camp's operations. After all, the Thai government has to thank them for taking care of these illegal immigrants. But they are well aware that we set a target for closing the camp on Sept 30, so sooner or later the MSF had to go. They might not want to witness the camp-clearing operations,'' said a senior military officer from Bangkok.

Col Kit Kimwongsa, deputy head of the Khao Kho Task Force, said initially that the MSF threatened to pull out its operations on Tuesday but Unicef intervened for the sake of smooth humanitarian operations.

Col Kit conceded that there were differences in work approaches towards the Hmong but there were reasons for the military restrictions, such as asking the Hmong to get medical service from the front door of the main building and not through the back door, which has been used for Hmong escapes.

As field officer, Col Kit suggested that a majority of the Hmong want employment opportunities. Thailand and Laos, therefore, should work out a plan to re-send the capable Hmong back to Thailand as a work force.

``Out of the 4,750 remaining, there are some 1,500 potential Hmong workers. We can provide a month-long training for them as well as a pledge to accept them back through legal channels. This will be a persuasive measure for them to return to Laos first and apply for work back in Thailand legally,'' he said.

Col Kit believed that the incentive would save the 50-million-baht humanitarian budget and some 13 million baht which the MSF and the Task Force, respectively, have been spending on the camp annually.

However, high-level Thai and Lao authorities do not want to hear any fresh ideas as they are firmly adhering to the agreed accord that the remaining Hmong must to be repatriated to Laos.

``The shorter the Hmong stay, the better for Thailand since they are linked to illicit activities such as the illegal lottery and drug trafficking,'' remarked a lieutenant-general from Bangkok.

A senior foreign ministry official conceded that the international NGO's withdrawal would put Thailand back in the international spotlight.

``But there is no other way. We either have to back away or move forward on the Hmong

[both from Phetchabun and Nong Khai]. It's the status quo. Hopefully, quiet diplomacy will gradually move things forward along the lines of what we've agreed with Laos,'' the source said.

Thailand has already been strongly criticised by UN refugee officials and Hmong advocacy groups in the United States over its treatment of 158 Hmong, who have been stuck in crammed cells at Nong Khai's Immigration Detention Centre for nearly three years.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had to back-track on his statement given to the press after a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April that the Hmong in Nong Khai were eligible for resettlement in third countries.

Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nouanthasing bluntly told the Thai minister that no ethnic Hmong from Laos should be regarded as ``political asylum seekers'' eligible for resettlement and that both governments had previously agreed that the Hmong Lao held in both Nong Khai and Phetchabun were considered illegal migrants and not refugees.

Mr Kasit later admitted that the fate of the 158 people from Laos detained at Nong Khai was up to Vientiane.

The UNHCR and recipient countries including the US, Australia, the Netherlands and Canada wanted to process the resettlement of the 158 Hmong since the Surayud administration, but Thailand has somewhat complicated the matter by promising Vientiane that they would be sent back to Laos.

A bid to forcibly deport the group _ all of whom have UN refugee status _ caused a near riot last year, when they strongly resisted efforts to be repatriated. Lao officials have been urging the group to return home as well, but the Hmong leaders have repeatedly refused, saying they would rather commit suicide than be forced to return.

Thanks to the renewed Hmong fiasco, the living conditions of 158 Hmong seem to have eased up a bit.

``The kids are permitted to run around within a small playground. The parents can breathe more easily in the crowded detention rooms,'' a foreign ministry official said.

Vientiane still insists that if any resettlement of these 158 Hmong needed to be done, the third countries must seek official permission from them and that the Hmong must be returned first to Laos.

Now the military has been working quietly to convince the 158 Hmong to return to Laos.

They claimed that some 30 of them pledged to abandon the PoC (person of concern) status in exchange for a safe return to Laos and a promise that their application to third countries would be later granted by Vientiane.

No matter how it turns out, the fate of the 158 Hmong in Nong Khai and the remaining 4,750 in Phetchabun will remain Thailand's headache.

Any fallout resulting from their plight could lead to more shame and possible condemnation for the country.

The Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Phetchabun province, which once held 8,000 Hmong refugees. The military is very keen to send the remaining 4,750 Hmong people back to Laos and shut down the camp.

Hmong people taking refuge in Phetchabun's Huay Nam Khao of Khao Kho district perform a traditional ceremony begging for a peaceful life. They claim that sending them back to Laos would only mean death.



No dismissal in case against accused general on day when thousands show support

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bryan Patrick/
A rally outside the federal courthouse in Sacramento on Monday in support of Gen. Vang Pao. The rally is taking place as oral arguments are heard on the defense motion to dismiss the Hmong case because of outrageous government conduct.

By Denny Walsh and Stephen Magagnini

Published: Monday, May. 11, 2009 - 9:56 am
Last Modified: Monday, May. 11, 2009 - 1:38 pm
As thousands of Northern California Hmong gathered in downtown Sacramento today, the legal issue that attracted them to the federal courthouse ended without resolution.

Defense lawyers argued before U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. that the case against Gen. Vang Pao and 10 other people charged with plotting to overthrow the communist government of Laos should be dismissed.

After a 90-minute hearing, Damrell declined to rule on a defense motion to dismiss the case. The defense contends that the defendants had been denied due process because of outrageous government conduct.

Damrell said there was not enough on the record before him to rule. The judge said he would wait to rule until all material that the government is going to give the defense has been turned over and there is a complete and final record. Then he will decide on merits of the motion argued by the defense today.

The arguments revealed sharp differences in the interpretation of the evidence supplied by the prosecution to defense attorneys.

Defense attorneys say that the hundreds of pages of reports and dozens of hours of wiretap recordings turned over to the defense team by prosecutors reveal the dishonesty of charges against the 11 men.

Lawyers in the U.S. attorney's office say the defense allegations are a selective reading of seemingly supportive facts from the record -- frequently out of context -- and omit other pertinent, nonsupportive facts.

The next scheduled conference before Damrell is Oct. 5. In the meantime, Damrell told both sides that differences they have over what should be disclosed by the government -- and when -- should be taken up with the magistrate judge assigned to the case, Dale A. Drozd.

Demonstrators rallied in support of Vang, nine other Hmong men and a retired U.S. Army officer from Woodland who are all charged with conspiring to purchase scores of weapons to arm insurgents and to hire mercenaries, all designed to oust the Laotian regime.

They held signs indicating they were from Alaska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas. Some said they came from as far as Australia and France to join the protest. Also visible were signs with the general's picture and hundreds of American flags.

The throng unleashed the loudest chant of the morning -- "Free Vang Pao!" -- as the general made his way into the courthouse surrounded by security guards in yellow T-shirts.

It was the emotional climax of a protest that began at 7 a.m. at the state Capitol and wound its way to the federal building, where the intersection of Fifth and I streets was jammed with protesters. Speakers at the federal building included Hmong leaders and Colonel Bill Lair, a CIA officer who recruited Hmong -- including Vang Pao -- to battle the communists.

Sacramento police Lt. Mike Bray estimated the crowd at the federal building swelled to 8,000 people, the largest he's seen in 20 years on the job.

"They chartered 59 buses from the Central Valley alone, and others came in by train and light rail," Bray said. "Fortunately, they are very orderly and very respectful.

"This is a good group to deal with," he said.

Since the case against Vang and the others was revealed, there has been a groundswell of support among Hmong Americans, Vietnam veterans and others who regard Vang and his followers as heroes.

Vang was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1961 to lead a secret army of Hmong soldiers against the North Vietnamese.

For the next 14 years, until the communists came to power in Laos, his troops disrupted movement on the Ho Chi Minh trail, the Viet Cong supply line to the south that traversed Laos, and flew combat missions as back-seat spotters.

Some of the defendants fought under Vang's command.

Bee staff writer Bill Lindelof contributed to this report.



Laos Military Kills 9 Hmong Children In Attack

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tuesday, 5 May 2009, 12:03 pm
Press Release: Center for Public Policy Analysis

Laos Military Kills 9 Hmong Children In Attack

Bangkok, Thailand and Washington, D.C. , May 5, 2009, For Immediate Release

The Lao military killed at least nine (9) Hmong children in an April 3, 2009, attack on Lao Hmong civilians hiding in the Phou Da Phao area of Xieng Khouang Provice, Laos.

"Multiple sources in Laos, including Lao government and Hmong sources from within the Lao Peoples Democractic Republic (LPDR) regime as well as refugees, have recently confirmed the bloody April 3, 2009, attack by the Lao military that left dozens of civilians dead and wounded, including 9 Hmong children who were confirmed killed, whose bodies were recovered and buried by their families," said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C

Smith continued: "On April 3, 2009, Lao military forces deliberately targeted for ethnic cleansing three Lao Hmong civilians groups in the jungle and mountain area of Phou Da Phao who they brutally attacked and began slaughtering with machine guns and other weapons, the victims included many innocent Lao Hmong children, and villagers. The confirmed Hmong children's names and ages killed by Lao military and security forces in the April 3rd attack against unarmed Hmong civilians groups at Phou Da Phao, Laos, include: Ker Lee, 10 years old; Xue Thao, 8; Thong Thao, 7; Ka Lee, 6, Moua Thao, 3; Yer Thao, 4; Thao Houa, 2 ; Kao Lee, 1; and Chia Thao, 15 years old."

"Many more Laotian and Hmong women and children have been captured, or have disappeared, or else killed in the jungle of Laos, as a result of additional attacks that have been launched in recent weeks and months by the Lao military; However, we have the confirmed deaths and bodies of nine (9) Hmong children in Laos that were the result of the Lao government's military attack of April 3 at Phou Da Phao, " Philip Smith concluded.

Recently, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the BBC, New York Times, Al Jazzera, Time Magazine and other independent human rights organizations and journalists have documented the Lao military's attacks and atrocities against Lao Hmong civilians and political and religious dissident groups seeking sanctuary in the jungles and mountains of Laos.

"Cher Tong Thao, Nom Long Lee and Tong Pao Yang are leading unarmed Lao Hmong civilians groups in-hiding, composed of mostly sickly women and children survivors, trying to protect them from LPDR ethnic cleansing operations and military attacks in Laos, as well as the Lao military's cruel efforts to starve them to death," stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council.

Vaughn Vang continued: "The unarmed and defenseless Lao Hmong civilians, especially the women and children who are so very hungry, are crying out and pleading for emergency help from the United Nations and world community as well as the United States, Amnesty International and human rights organizations, to please immediately put pressure on the Lao Communist government, the LPDR, to withdrawal all its military forces, and to stop attacking, and ambushing all locations of Hmong civilians in-hiding in the jungle of the Phou Da Phao mountain area."

"They are only civilians, women and children; Their only wish is to live peacefully, free from persecution, torture and killings of the Lao Communist regime," Vaughn Vang observed.

A spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity, in Laos for three of the surviving Hmong groups in hiding, that have been under attack in Laos in the Phou Da Phao mountain area of Xieng Khouang Province in recent weeks and months, issued the following statement describing the situation: "We the Hmong civilians in-hiding in the jungle of Phou Da Phao currently are surrounded by the Lao communist government military forces. The Lao PDR military are ambushing us everywhere in the mountains; hills, rivers, and where ever natural food is growing that we can try and eat. Water and food are currently cut off, we are starving, while our people are being hunted and being killed daily. All of us will likely be killed in the next few weeks without help."

The Lao Hmong spokesperson who witnessed the attack of April 3, and other recent LPDR attacks and atrocities against the Lao Hmong civilians continued: "The Lao military is surrounding and launching heavy attacks and ambushes with troops and artillery from everywhere in the mountains, hills, and river valleys around the mountain area of Phou Da Phao,"



More to celebrate: Hmong may get their own day

Hmong dancers perform in traditional dress at the Hmong New Year celebration at Hickory American Legion Fairgrounds on Nov. 23.

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry is working toward the creation of a national Hmong Recognition Day to recognize the contributions of the group to the United States during and since the Vietnam War.

"My support of Hmong causes is rooted in the positive contributions the Hmong continue to make in our local communities," McHenry said. "I consider the Hmong to be great patriots whose sacrifice on behalf of the United States during the Vietnam War is well-documented."

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) joined McHenry in introducing the resolution, requesting President Barack Obama issue a proclamation calling for the U.S. government and citizens to observe such a day.

"The time has come for the Lao-Hmong community to be recognized for the all the tremendous contributions it has made to our democracy and our nation," Moore said. "The very name Lao-Hmong means 'free people' and we should honor the Hmong community for their commitment to the U.S. and its ideals."

"Their participation and leadership in communities across this country continues to enrich America and all its citizens. The shared ideals of the Hmong and American people are a bond that will be formally recognized with this resolution," McHenry said.

The Hmong fought along with American military against the North Vietnamese army from 1960 to 1975. During that war, more than 35,000 Hmong lost their lives while participating in tactical guerrilla action, combat and rescue missions and intelligent operations.

Many of the Hmong faced retribution by the Laotian government for helping America and fled to Thailand and the United States.

"The actions taken by the Hmong for America cannot and should not be understated and the time for recognition is long overdue," Moore said. "There is no way that America can repay the Hmong for the lives lost and the sacrifices made. However, we can recognize the Hmong for their sacrifices and make sure that their deeds are never forgotten."

Attempts to reach representatives of the local Hmong population were unsuccessful.