Laos Extracts Forced Confessions To Help Silence Hmong Refugees

Friday, February 26, 2010

“The Hmong refugees in Ponkham village, Pha Lak village and elsewhere in Laos are unable to freely and openly communicate to visiting U.S. and Thai officials and journalists today about the true horrific human rights violations inflicted upon them by the Thai and Lao military for fear of severe retaliation when these foreign visitors leave,” said Vaugh Vang, Director of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council.

Washington, D.C., Vientiane, Laos and Bangkok, Thailand, February 26, 2010

On the day that the Lao government is finally allowing limited access to some 3,000 Hmong refugees forced back to Laos, concern has been raised by Lao and Hmong human rights organizations and the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) that hundreds of Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers recently forced by the Thai Army back to Laos have been coerced into signing false “confessions” by authorities in Laos. Lao military and government officials have threatened to severely punish or summarily execute Hmong refugees and their families if they speak out against the Lao regime or their forced repatriation to Laos. Hmong refugees fear retaliation if they speak the truth about their recent plight in Thailand and Laos.

The Lao government is finally allowing U.S. and Thai officials, along with some news media reporters, to visit an estimated 3,000 Hmong refugees in Ponkham village, in Bolikhamxay Province, who were forced back to Laos on December 28 of last year by the Thai and Lao military. Over 4,700 Lao Hmong refugees were forced back to the communist regime in Laos they fled in December of last year. A total of 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers were forced back to Laos by Thai and Lao military officials from 2007-2009.

“Many of the Hmong men were beaten, subjected to food and sleep deprivation, in order to get them to sign the fake confessions that the Communist officials seek in order to intimidate and silence the Hmong refugees in Laos and spread fear in terror among their families,” Vang said. “They Lao officials, for propaganda reasons, want the Hmong to remain silent or say only good things about the Lao government and their treatment.”

“Laotian and Hmong sources in Ponkham and Pha Lak village, as well as elsewhere in Laos, have confirmed that hundreds of Hmong refugees forced by the Thai Army back to Laos have been threatened and coerced into signing false ‘confessions’ by Lao military and security forces who have interrogated, threatened and tortured significant numbers of the refugees, including many of the Hmong elders, veterans and clan leaders,” stated Philip Smith Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.

Smith explained: “Unless the refugees remain silent and compliant, the false confessions extracted under torture and duress, including sleep deprivation and beatings, allow the Lao government to retaliate against individual refugees with the death penalty, as well as their immediate and extended family in Laos, for agreeing that they have conducted alleged subversive capital crimes against the state and communist party.”

“The Lao military, consistent with its historical operation of re-education camps in Sam Neua Province and elsewhere in Laos, is now forcibly extracting hundreds of forced signed confessions from Hmong refugees during reeducation and indoctrination sessions; so the visit of U.S. and Thai officials today at the camp, along with a delegation of journalists, is unlikely to reveal the truth of what is really going on in Laos because the refugees fear retaliation against themselves and their families when the foreign visitors leave,” Smith concluded.

In recent years, Laos has repeatedly stated that Hmong refugees return to Laos would be subjected to re-education camps in Laos. Over half of the 8,000 Hmong refugees recently returned to Laos from 2007-2009 are missing in Laos, including many from the June 2008 mass forced repatriation following a protest march of thousands of the refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao seeking to petition the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Bangkok for political asylum. Many of the Hmong refugees forced back to Laos by the Thai Army have be imprisoned in secret camps and prisons in remote and scattered areas in Laos, others have disappeared or have been imprisoned or summarily executed, including many of the leaders of the June 2008 protest march. ..

Laotians and Hmong suspected of opposing the government in Laos have been subjected to starvation and military attacks in recent years by the Lao Peoples Army and Hanoi supported Vientiane government.


Contact: Maria Gomez or Juan Lopez

Tele. (202) 543-1444

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



Patch Xiong - check him out!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Patch Xiong just published his first book!

Check out the articles at

Hmong Today


Asian American Express

Check out his website


Patch Xiong publishes first novel

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dead Promise

Author: Patch Xiong

Infinity Publishing: $12.95

Inspired by a Hmong folktale, Dead Promise, the first novel from St. Paul resident Patch Xiong is a tragic love story about a young couple torn by family and war.

Xiong learned a tragic love story from his late father, about a young couple during the Vietnam War. An orphan, Cheng, is determined to be with the girl of his dreams, PaNou, the daughter from a wealthy family and outside of his social standing. Their story is of love and pain – two faces of one coin.

Dead Promise follows their budding romance as their world and their lives crumble around them as the Hmong people fight in the Secret CIA War. Cheng must decide to whether to fight or to stay with the love of his life.

Xiong states that as a boy, his father would coax him to massage his calves with stories of Hmong folklore. After he was gone, Xiong said it was his obligation to document this story as his legacy. His father’s stories were what kept him going during his own darkest moments, he adds.

Patch Xiong was born in Laos, and at two months his family escaped to Thailand where they lived at Ban Vinai Refugee Camp until coming to Minnesota as refugees when he was 4 years old. He studied computer programming until his family moved to Alaska following the sudden loss of his father in 2001, where he completed a business degree from Alaska Pacific University.

Xiong is a founding member of Alaska Writer’s Guild, an organization dedicated to helping published and unpublished writers. He returned to St. Paul in 2008, and is currently working on three upcoming novels, Rainflower; ILLUME: Land of Light; and Sweet Toothpaste.

Dead Promise is available online at, and



Patch Xiong: The Power of Stories

Some people call it insanity, some people call it an active imagination but Patch Xiong calls it fate. On a night when he was going to commit suicide he was saved by a woman. This woman was Pa Nou, a character based on a short story he had imagined in his head, a story based on a Hmong folklore his father told him as a child and Pa Nou told him he couldn’t die or her story would die too. Dead Promise was recently published in late December of last year and it is the book based on Pa Nou, the woman who literally saved Xiong’s life.

This is just the story within the story however; a story that has come full circle. And to fully understand it, one has to start at the beginning.

“My father was the greatest storyteller I ever knew,” said Xiong, “He would always tell me Hmong folklores as a child to bribe me to massage his calves.”

And so it was that Xiong grew up with his father’s stories in his mind and writing his own stories for hobby while graduating from Minneapolis Business College with an Associates in Computer Programming.

“I had just graduated and was 20 years old,” said Xiong. “I met a girl and we were going to get married. Her family lived in California and so my father and I went there to negotiate the dowry. The first day we spent in California was all about the dowry negotiation and it went very well. The second day we went to a water park. I remember it was a gorgeous afternoon and so my father told us to take a picture of him and as soon as the camera snapped my father just fell.”

Xiong’s father would later be pronounced dead at the hospital.

“I was so traumatized and I turned to my fiancĂ© and I told her she didn’t have to come back with me if she didn’t want to. But she said she wanted to be with me and so we came back to Minnesota but then nobody would pick us up because of what happened. People labeled us bad luck and we were basically kicked out of the family.”

After being homeless for a brief period after being kicked out, the couple decided to move to Alaska to try to start over. Things wouldn’t end up going well though, as after 5 years of marriage his wife left him and she joined the Army.

“I hit rock bottom after she left me. I was depressed. I thought about killing myself every day. I was seeing two psychiatrists but that didn’t help. One day I decided I was going to finally do it and kill myself. I wondered if I should overdose or shoot myself and then that’s when it happened that I saw Pa Nou. She came to my room and spoke to me. I know it sounds crazy but it happened. She told me I couldn’t die or her story would die too.”

So Xiong decided to live, and he started writing Pa Nou’s story, a story about a young couple torn apart by war, the story that would eventually become his recently released book Dead Promise.

Maybe it’s crazy that Xiong saw a character from his imagination literally talk to him, or just part of an active imagination or fate in some way. Whatever the reason is, it’s pretty amazing the son of a storyteller would have his life saved by the stories he was once told and in turn would become a storyteller too.

To buy a copy of Dead Promise, visit, or visit



Thai, US officials to visit returned Hmong Friday: Laos

HANOI, Feb 24 (AFP) - Thai and US officials will get access on Friday to a newly built village in Laos where thousands of ethnic Hmong have been housed after their expulsion from Thailand in December.

Rights groups and foreign embassies have been seeking access to the returnees to ensure they are being properly treated.

The visit is a way "to show our sincerity in good treatment" of the Hmong, Laos government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing told AFP on Wednesday.

Bangkok sparked outrage in December when it defied global criticism and used troops to repatriate about 4,500 Hmong from camps on the border with communist Laos, including 158 recognised as refugees by the United Nations.

Thailand and Laos both said the Hmong, who fear persecution for fighting alongside US forces in the Vietnam War, were illegal economic immigrants.

Khenthong said officials from the United States embassy will join the Thai military, foreign affairs officials and reporters on the visit to Ponkham village.

The spokesman said that "the Thai government has rendered good cooperation to the Laos government so we should allow them to inspect the site first".

In Bangkok, Thai foreign ministry deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said: "A group of army officials and representatives from the foreign ministry, together with the press, will go to Vientiane and Ponkham on 25-26 February to follow up the sending back."

According to the Vientiane Times, Ponkham village is being built in Bolikhamxay province to house about 3,000 returned Hmong.

Human rights groups have expressed concern for the safety of the returnees but diplomats say there have been no reports of mistreatment. US congressmen earlier visited some of the repatriated group.



The secret army still fighting Vietnam war

Monday, February 22, 2010

Va Ming Lee, 45, with other Hmong fighters and children at their hidden camp in the jungles of Laos. Mr. Lee holds a M-79 grenade launcher given to him by the CIA when he served for them in the secret war against the communists in Laos.

Hired and armed by the CIA in the 1960s, the Hmong remain trapped in enemy jungle, forgotten by America and the world

By William Lloyd George in Laos

Up a winding dirt path through lush mountains comes the sound of whistling from the side of the road. Narrowly missing a passing motorbike, two young boys with machine guns leap out of the dense jungle.

We need to move fast, but as one boy hauls me to the top of a steep, muddy slope his hand flicks to his eyes. He is fighting to hold back tears.

In a tiny clearing they've cut out of the thick bamboo forest four boys, seemingly no older than 18 whisper to each other. Sweating from the quick climb and dense heat, they hang up their torn blue uniforms on bamboo branches and prop up their battered old AK-47s.

These are the remnants of the Royal Laos Army, hired by the Americans to disrupt Ho Chi Minh supply lines during the Vietnam War. Although Laos had been declared neutral, Vietnamese troops were operating there and the CIA saw it as another front against the spread of communism.

For the rest of the world, the capture of Saigon – now Ho Chi Minh City – by North Vietnamese troops in 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War, but for the Hmong, it was just the beginning. When the communist regime, the Pathet Lao took power it announced it would wipe out all Hmong from Laos. Since then the Hmong have been hiding in the depths of the jungle completely cut off from the outside world.

The young soldiers lead the way to their people deep behind enemy lines in the Saysomboun, "special zone". They tread lightly and whisper, because, they warn, the "enemy is everywhere".

Days and nights of trekking, some of it straight up mountains to avoid enemy patrols brings us eventually to the entrance of their camp. The whole community falls on the ground crying hysterically and begging for help. Old women shake with emotion as they speak of the horrors they have witnessed, while young children weep at their first sighting of an outsider. CIA veteran Cho Her lies face down in the dirt, praying for the rescue of his people. "US and world leaders please come and rescue us and stop the Laos government persecuting us for being the CIA's foot-soldiers during the secret war," he says.

More than 30 years ago, when the Vietnam War finished and the CIA pulled their agents out, Cher Fer was a young man. When the Americans left, they took a handful of Hmong fighters with them, leaving more than 10,000 of their allies behind to fend for themselves. Bitter at their betrayal, the Laos government persecuted those who had fought alongside the Americans, forcing the Hmong to retreat deep inside the jungle.

"We had no choice but to take the weapons the Americans gave us and flee to the jungle," said another CIA veteran Chong Pha Thao, wiping tears from his cheeks. "Then the Vietnamese joined forces with the Laos communists and hunted us like animals in the jungle, leaving our people's corpses to rot when they killed them."

Members of the once proud and formidable fighting force now lie on the ground, abandoning all dignity to beg for help, even from a visiting journalist, their personification of the West. Identifying themselves as CIA soldiers, they plead over and over again for the Americans to return, and take them out of their "living hell".

"I am CIA. In 1970 Mr Jerry gave me this M79 and told me to shoot enemy," Cher Fer says in a perfect American accent, as he waves a battered grenade-launcher in the air.

"We have lost thousands of troops for America – when the Laos soldiers kill us they feel like they have killed an America soldier. The CIA must come and save us."

The fantasty that America will one day come and liberate them has motivated the veterans and their families to struggle on through for the last 30 years. But despite the Hmong rebels' alliance with the CIA, the American government has made little effort to extract them from the jungle.

Bill Lair, the legendary CIA agent who co-ordinated the operation to build an anti-Communist resistance army out of poorly educated jungle tribespeople, defended the Agency's actions. Speaking by phone from his home in Waco, Texas, he said that the US originally hired the Hmong and used Thai recruits to train them because the Hmong "were better than anyone else around, every step they took was up or down so they could move a lot faster than the enemy".

But when asked if America should now take steps to save them, he replied: "The CIA owes them nothing. We gave them the choice to leave but they decided to stay, thinking they could go back to how they used to live in the mountains".

In 2007, Vang Pao, the leader of the Hmong rebels appointed by the CIA, who later emigrated to the US and was a Hmong community leader there, was arrested in California and charged by the US with conspiring to overthrow the Laos government. The charges were later dropped, but the message was clear: America was now on the side of Laos, its former enemy, an enemy it trained Vang Pao to fight.

Barack Obama's election to the White House was seen as a beacon of hope for Hmong advocates. He has called for all parties to respect international law and "ensure that displaced Hmong are not placed in harm's way". However, despite an international furore, more than 4,500 Hmong refugees were forcibly repatriated back to Laos by Thailand where they had sought refuge. The US government issued statements saying it was concerned, but took no action.

The Laos government subsequently invited three US congressmen to visit. They later claimed that the returnees were being treated well which ignited anger among Hmong advocates said the trip was orchestrated by the Laos government.

Weeks later, visiting Congressman Joseph Cao said he would like to increase aid to Laos. But Hmong leaders believe US aid has already been funnelled into the Laos government's military efforts to eliminate, as the Hmong call themselves, the "CIA's forgotten allies"

Cut off from the outside world, this is the first time the jungle leaders have heard that the Hmong refugees were being sent back to Laos. On receiving the news their despair is evident.

"At least before, we thought we could escape to Thailand but now we have no place to run to," says Chao Fer as he looks over to a mountain just three miles away. "We can't keep running, soon we will all die here. Just over that mountain is where the enemy is and as we speak they are hunting us down with dogs – it's just a matter of time before they attack us again."

Weeks earlier the Laos army had stormed the Hmong's previous temporary camp in what they believe was part of campaign to prepare for the 25th Southeast Asian Games. In the raid a 14-year-old boy was killed, the leaders say he was unarmed and foraging for food to feed his family.

"My son was shot by the communists last month," the boy's mother says as she prepares food for her other children. He didn't have any gun, just finding food for us but I don't have the ability to do anything – I can only die inside".

Frequent attacks force the groups to change camp every two weeks and break up into small numbers to avoid large-scale offensives by the Laos army. This leaves the community no chance to farm food or forge a proper way of life. With no other choice, boiled tree shrub has become their daily diet and at times they are lucky if they can catch a jungle rat or monkey. The lack of nutrients has left the group visibly malnourished – both young and old have swollen abdomens.

Eating the tree shrub leaves them starving, so like animals, women and children take to the surrounding hills to dig on their hands and knees. Outside the camp, they claim that many women and children have been killed by the Laos army and the "lucky ones" have bullet wounds to show.

"I feel so unhappy to give this food to my kids, but we have no other choice," one mother explains. "It's too dangerous to hunt and we can't reach the villages because the communists will kill us. Sometimes we are too scared to go out so we just starve."

The Lao foreign ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing has denied that the group exists, stating, if anything, they are nothing more than "bandits". However, according to the Hmong, the Laos army has recently increased their campaign with the assistance of the Vietnamese. Hmong leaders report that the intensity of attacks against them has increased and their groups are being driven further and further into the jungle.

A planned trip by Vang Pal to visit Vientiane, the Laos capital, to try and strike a peace deal has been cancelled citing security risks. The Laos government has announced that if he returns he will "face the death sentence for his war crimes during the Vietnam War".

In the jungle camp, fear is written on all the faces, even those of the children. With Thailand apparently turning its back on them, and the US seemingly ignoring their plight, they know their chances of survival are slim.

As the entire group gathers to say farewell, one old lady grabs my hand and whispers in my ear.

"I know the communists are going to kill us all... when they do, make sure you tell the world we were here and what they did to us."



Sacramento agency that aided Hmong has folded

Saturday, February 20, 2010

One of the oldest Hmong service agencies in the nation, Sacramento Lao Family Community Inc., has folded because of financial mismanagement, county officials said.

Lao Family – a fixture on Franklin Boulevard since 1982, and one of 10 Lao Family offices in California originally opened by Hmong Vietnam-era general Vang Pao – lost its county funding in September.

The Sacramento Employment and Training Agency – which gave Lao Family $467,000 in federal funds in 2009 for job training, placement and English language classes – cut off the agency for misspending the money, said fiscal chief Roy Kim.

"They weren't paying their employees, were behind on their payroll taxes and were bouncing checks," Kim said. "Their auditors basically started the fiscal year 2008 audit and walked out saying there's insufficient records, so they had no audit report."

The center will reopen today as Sacramento Asian American Minority Inc., an all-volunteer grass-roots organization. SAAMI – which has three women on its board and a female executive director – represents a new generation of pan-Asian leadership, said President Steve Vang.

Vang said he and other volunteers have spent $30,000 of their own money renovating the old Lao Family headquarters at 5838 Franklin Boulevard.

Lao Family staff were helping about 250 Hmong, Russian and Ukrainian refugees learn English and find jobs, "but weren't getting paid on time," Kim said.

Along with the Franklin Boulevard location, Lao Family's north area office on Palm Avenue, which served almost exclusively refugees from the former Soviet Union, also closed, Kim said.

Lao Family was put on notice in August 2008 "and to date has failed to adequately respond to SETA's fiscal monitoring findings, concerns and recommendations," said County Refugee Services Manager Michelle O'Camb.

Longtime Lao Family Executive Director Kobi Vang could not be reached for comment. Vang – who used to own Sam Thong Meat Market on Franklin Boulevard – is "no longer here," said his step-grandson Matthew Saechao. The last time Vang was heard from was "two or three months ago," Saechao said.

Saeng Her, a 12-year Lao Family employee who has stayed on to help SAAMI, confirmed that Lao Family's leadership "couldn't provide information for auditors, so they shut down."

Over the years, Lao Family helped thousands of Hmong, Iu Mien, Lao and Russian refugees adjust to their new country, Her said. "We helped over 500 people a year with ESL (English as a second language) classes, job training, transportation, translation, paper work, family counseling and healthy marriage classes.

"Even though Lao family closed down, people are still asking for help," Her said. "We can't leave them alone."

At least 20 people a day drop in, said Kathy May Ly, SAAMI's executive director. "They need help making calls, filling out forms, reading their mail, dealing with mental health issues," Ly said. "I have elders that just come in to socialize."

Ly, who is not paid for her work, said the new agency needs about $100,000 a year to stay open.

Community leaders welcomed the new organization. "They have a mix of Hmong, Japanese and Vietnamese," said Hmong radio host T.T. Vang. "The new leaders are more educated and should be more professional."

Neng Vang, who's helped Hmong families battle gang violence and gambling addiction, said the new agency's leaders "are very well-intentioned young individuals who want to change how business was done in the past."

Neng Vang said many of the region's 30,000 Hmong remain isolated and mistrust the upcoming U.S. census. He said he hopes SAAMI will play a role in getting the Hmong counted.

Kim, SETA's fiscal officer, said he's met with the agency's new chief Ly, who has a background in finance and accounting. "We'll certainly take a look at them carefully," Kim said.


Sacramento Asian American Minority Inc. is at 5838 Franklin Blvd. in Sacramento. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information: (916) 392-8010.



Lao Minister Warns Hmong Returnees of Subversion

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lao Defense Minister Warns Hmong Returnees of Subversive Elements

Last Saturday, the Lao Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Douangchay Phichit, paid a special visit to a group of 3000 Hmong returnees resettled in Phonkham village, Borikhan district, Borikhamxay province.

On February 15, the Lao government’s state-controlled newspaper Vientiane Times reported that the Defense Minister had called on faster progress in developing the resettlement village. The paper further stated that the Defense Minister “gave advice on the structure of the village’s administrative body. He called for continuous education of the people on Party and government policy, and to make them aware of the tactics employed by subversive elements.”

The Hmong returnees well understand this type of ambiguous language used by the Lao government. The term “subversive elements” refers to “General Vang Pao Hmong” or those who sided with the United States during the Vietnam War and who the Lao military continues to hunt down in remote jungle areas.
Earlier this year, western journalists had again visited remaining jungle groups in military-controlled Saysomboun Special Zone claiming that survivors reported recent Lao government attacks, which included the killing of an unarmed 14-year old boy who was out foraging for food. The Lao foreign ministry spokesperson continues to deny that any such jungle groups exist or that any such attacks take place. Instead, the government refers to these subversive elements as bandits.

Rather than continue to hunt down the small remaining group of starving Hmong in the jungle and threaten former General Vang Pao with a government death sentence if he ever thinks about returning to Laos, his home country, maybe the Lao government should point its finger at someone else. Instead of secretly kicking around these helpless Hmong and blaming their General Vang Pao for the mass U.S. bombings in Laos, why don’t you target those who should really be held accountable. How about former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the one many believe should be held accountable for the mass bombardment of civilians in Laos. Maybe that wouldn’t be politically correct now for the Lao government to direct its anger at such an obvious target after the U.S. just opened up a new Defense Attache Office there.

The Hmong returnees, many believed to be political refugees with legitimate asylum claims, were forcibly repatriated from Thailand to Laos on December 28, 2009. According to the U.S. Ambassador in Thailand, the Thai government had identified about 800 of these returnees as having legitimate protection concerns. The UNHCR had also recognized a group of 158 as being political refugees. Despite assurances from the foreign diplomatic community that these UNHCR-recognized refugees would have access to the UNHCR immediately upon their return to Laos and be allowed to resettle in third countries, they have been isolated and denied access from the outside world.

The Lao government has quite boldly stated that these UNHCR-recognized refugees are just illegal migrants who have broken Lao law by fleeing to Thailand. The Lao government has also stated that these Hmong have now decided to stay in Laos rather than resettle in a third country. At the same time, the government continues to deny UNHCR access to the group.

The Lao government threatens those who do not tow the government line. If they speak out then they are guilty of being manipulated by subversive elements. A Hmong refugee can just not win against the Lao government, especially when they are the whipping dog for something the U.S. government should be responsible for.



Hmong Buffet: "Rice Palace"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"My new favorite restaurant: the Rice Palace"
By Amy Doeun for Hmong Times
February 01, 2010

Going to a restaurant with three children is always an adventure. Couple that with a wide range of tastes and a limited budget, and we don't end up going out to restaurants very much. It is actually pretty hard for me to get myself psyched up to go out. It has to be a restaurant with food that I can't cook at home and portions that will fill us up and a price that doesn't break the bank. It has to have food that I would like with my veggie tastes and that Proeun would like and that each of the kids with their individual tastes would. Well you get the picture; not very much fits the bill.

On Friday I got an assignment for Hmong Times -- a new restaurant opening. It was at a time when no baby sitters were available so the children went with. The owners are a Hmong couple who have a successful restaurant in Milwaukee. They left their daughter in charge of that restaurant, also called the Rice Palace.

Their new venture in St. Paul's Hillcrest shopping mall on White Bear Ave caters more to Southeast Asian tastes. It focuses on home-style cooking from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is an all-you can-eat buffet.

I was so impressed at the opening that I decided I had to bring Proeun back. So yesterday we went back for a second time and he was really impressed as well. The dishes include Pad Thai, Larb, spring rolls, Southeast Asian-style egg rolls, papaya salad, grilled ribs and tilapia, tri-color dessert, rolls with sweet bean filling, pho (beef noodle soup) and kao poon (curry soup). My favorite was the pho. Not only is it my favorite of the buffet but it is my favorite Pho.

Proeun's favorite was the crayfish.

The hardest part was that the children don't really get the concept of a buffet, i.e. to stuff yourself. They eat until they are comfortable then lose interest and we spend the rest of the time trying to get them to stay still while we continue to sample our favorites.

But anyway, we now have a restaurant that makes all the family happy.
Rice Palace

The Milwaukee restaurant has a Facebook page, but there's no contact information for the St. Paul restaurant yet.

1626 White Bear Avenue
St. Paul, MN



St. Paul Rep. Cy Thao not seeking re-election

Rep. Cy Thao, DFLSt. Paul, a four-term lawmaker representing parts of St. Paul's Frogtown, Summit-University and Rice Street neighborhoods, is not running for re-election, a party official said.

Thao, who has been coy about his plans, recently was fined more than $4,700 for campaign finance-related violations. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Sources told Minnesota Public Radio he was leaving for other opportunities. Thao is one of two Hmong lawmakers in Minnesota.

The DFL nominating convention for his seat, which can be tantamount to winning in heavily Democratic St. Paul, is set for March 7, though DFL officials said an endorsement may be delayed. Senate District 65 DFL chair Bob Spaulding said Thao announced in an e-mail to supporters sent Friday that he is not seeking re-election.

St. Paul Public Schools employee Jeremiah Ellis, former Frogtown Times publisher Tony Schmidt and lobbyist Jessica Webster all have expressed interest in the seat.

— Jason Hoppin



City of Sheboygan incumbents still in the race

With voter turnout lighter than predicted, all three incumbent Sheboygan aldermen competing in Tuesday's Common Council primary advanced to the April 6 general election, though two of them will have uphill battles to retain their seats.

Ald. Mark Hanna, 54, looking for a third term on the council, finished first in his 7th District primary, and will face Joel Hammen, 37, a bar manager at Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center.

In unofficial totals, Hanna got 421 votes, Hammen, 95. Vicky Meyer, 50, a former alderwoman seeking to return to the council after losing her seat to Ald. Tom Bowers a year ago, got 81 votes and was eliminated.

In the 2nd District, Dennis Radtke and Ald. Vang Neng Vue — the city's first Hmong resident to serve on the council — will compete in the spring election. Radtke finished first in the primary with 185 votes, with Vue getting 98. Allen Brunke, 48, the deli manager of Ella's Dela, got 58 votes and was eliminated.

In the 1st District, Scott Versey, 33, an insurance salesman and business owner, advanced along with incumbent Ald. Ed Surek, with Versey getting 214 votes to Surek's 168. Collin Kachel, 32, a technical education teacher at Elkhart Lake High School, got 141 votes and was eliminated.

About 13 percent of the 11,502 registered voters in the three primary districts cast ballots Tuesday. Sheboygan City Clerk Sue Richards had predicted a turnout of around 20 percent.

Hanna, vice president of Maritime Financial Group/Maritime Insurance, credited his primary victory to the hard work he put in on his campaign and the strong reputation he's built as an alderman.

"I pride myself on being a voice of reason and a consensus builder, and I think that message came across loud and clear," Hanna said. "That being said, we're not going to stop the momentum at all."

Hammen, who's never run for elected office before, said he was very nervous in the days leading up the primary, but was excited to be advancing to the general election.

"I haven't slept in two days. I'm going to sleep well tonight," said Hammen, who felt his message of making Sheboygan a great place for families resonated with voters.

"I think I have a good message and some good ideas," Hammen said.

Vue said he was happy to be moving on to the general election and felt minority voters have valued his presence on the council.

"The Hmong community and minorities like being represented," Vue said.

Vue was appointed last year to the Common Council to fill the vacancy created when Bob Ryan was elected mayor.

Radtke believed his emphasis on downtown revitalization and neighborhood improvements connected with voters.

"I think the voters sent a message that they want a new direction with fresh leaders and fresh ideas," Radtke said. "I look forward to the upcoming election with Ald. Vue."

Surek, 68, a retired city human resources director who is seeking a second term on the council, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The low turnout was noticed by some pollworkers, who brought books to read during stretches when no one was voting.

At the 7th District poll inside the Quarryview Center, the vote totals were among the highest in the city, with about 270 people casting ballots by 4:30 p.m., but Wayne Haartman, Ward 13 chairman, described the voting as "pretty light."

Sharon Van Veghel, 65, voted for Hanna, along with her husband, John. They pointed out Hanna's involvement in city and community issues as a reason for their support.

"He goes to our church and he's done a lot for our community already," Sharon Van Veghel said.

In the 1st District, Bernard Dedering, 79, voted for Versey because of his experience as a small-business owner, which Dedering believes will be valuable as the city grapples with budget cuts.

"I want someone with some business sense. That's my main concern," Dedering said.

Thomas Brown, 71, said his vote came down to the candidate that would be most familiar with city issues, so he cast his vote for the incumbent, Surek.

"It's his experience," Brown said.



Hmong: Refugees Said to have Little Food, Supplies in Remote Camp in Laos

Below is an article published by: The Post-Crescent

Vaughn Vang of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council in Green Bay said Thursday a source told him the refugees were placed in a remote resettlement area, where they were left with few supplies and food. Many need medical attention, Vang said.

Refugees were left with a few blankets, utensils and pots and pans, he said. Those who had cell phones are not able to use them in the remote area, he said."They are suffering," he said. "They are waiting on the world and the (United Nations) to help them."

Faida Thao, former president of the Appleton-based Hmong-American Partnership said Sunday he doesn't know of any Fox Cities families whose relatives have been forcibly resettled."But Hmong here and throughout the U.S. have deep concern for those who have been deported to Laos," he said. "Everyone understands that the communists who took over our country say one thing and do another."Thao is particularly concerned about male leaders and elders.

"For now they may not do anything to them, but they may try to do something to them in the future so they die."
Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said returnees had been moved from temporary holding camps to resettlement villages the first half of January.Vang estimated about 1,000 of the nearly 5,000 people removed from Thailand were allowed into other areas of the country. Other families, including some from the jungle area of Laos, were placed in the resettlement villages, he said. Some families can't be accounted for.

The resettlement area is heavily guarded and no one is allowed to enter, Vang said. His source had not heard that people were tortured, but said people were told they could be "persecuted or killed" if they disclosed information about the resettlement area, he said.

Many Hmong fought during the Vietnam War to back a pro-American Lao government. Since the war, more than 300,000 Lao, mostly Hmong, fled to Thailand and for years were housed in camps aided by international agencies. Most were either repatriated to Laos or resettled in third countries, particularly the United States.Nineteen humanitarian and human rights groups, fearing the Hmong could be in danger, recently issued a letter to Lao leaders asking for access to the site.

Lao government officials said the U.N. could visit, but that they might want to wait until April, when a better road to the villages would be complete. But Vang said the area could be reached by helicopter.
"People are hungry, they're sick, they need help," he said.



Yia Mua "The Bull"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'm late in posting this up....but he is not forgotten...

YouTube family announcement

Yia's personal Myspace -

**California IKF Light Middleweight Champion
**California ISKA Superwelter Weight Champion
**USA Sanshou Middleweight Champion
**USA IKF Super Welterweight Champion



Hmong: Thai agency blocked from refugee access

Below is an article published by CathNews Asia :

Thailand’s Catholic Office for Emergency and Refugees which looked after some 4,000 ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers before they were deported to Laos, says that it still has no access to the people or knowledge of their situation.

Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) pledged to continue working with the Hmong after their repatriation but it has been prevented from doing so by the Laotian government even after more than a month, UCA News reports.

“We can’t do anything. We have to wait for the outcome of negotiations between Laos and UNICEF or UNHCR,” said Bishop Joseph Phibul Visitnonthachai of Nakhon Sawan, executive director of COERR.
The Thai government on Dec. 28 repatriated the Hmong from Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Phetchabun province, northern Thailand, despite protests from various international bodies and governments.

It claimed everyone in the camp as “illegal immigrants.”
COERR was the only private organization working with the displaced Hmong before their repatriation, coordinating with UNICEF.

“The Laotian government will not negotiate with us,” Bishop Phibul told UCA News today, explaining that it only negotiates with other governments or with the United Nations on these issues.

“If UNICEF or UNHCR gets permission to work on this issue, then we can ask UNICEF to continue working with them. However we don’t know when will that be.”

Thailand has repatriated 17 groups of Hmong to Laos since 2005.
Many Laotian Hmong who had fought for the US during the Vietnam War fled in 1975 when the communist Pathet Lao took over the country. Thousands have been resettled in the United States.



Hmong refugees said to have little food, supplies in remote camp in Laos

Many Hmong families living in the Fox Valley have lost touch with loved ones who were forcibly removed from refugee camps in Thailand late last year, an advocate says.

Vaughn Vang of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council in Green Bay said Thursday a source told him the refugees were placed in a remote resettlement area, where they were left with few supplies and food. Many need medical attention, Vang said.

Refugees were left with a few blankets, utensils and pots and pans, he said. Those who had cell phones are not able to use them in the remote area, he said.

"They are suffering," he said. "They are waiting on the world and the (United Nations) to help them."

Faida Thao, former president of the Appleton-based Hmong-American Partnership said Sunday he doesn't know of any Fox Cities families whose relatives have been forcibly resettled.

"But Hmong here and throughout the U.S. have deep concern for those who have been deported to Laos," he said. "Everyone understands that the communists who took over our country say one thing and do another."

Thao is particularly concerned about male leaders and elders.

"For now they may not do anything to them, but they may try to do something to them in the future so they die."

Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said returnees had been moved from temporary holding camps to resettlement villages the first half of January.

Vang estimated about 1,000 of the nearly 5,000 people removed from Thailand were allowed into other areas of the country. Other families, including some from the jungle area of Laos, were placed in the resettlement villages, he said. Some families can't be accounted for.

Patti Zarling writes for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Post-Crescent staff writer Kathy Walsh Nufer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Chue's digital art

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For those of you who are into digital art, check out my buddy's Chue's blog.

He is a talented guy.


Laos, Vietnam Peoples Army Unleashes Helicopter Gunship Attacks on Laotian and Hmong Civilians, Christian Believers

"Helicopter gunship attacks have intensified against Lao Hmong villagers and civilians in Laos, including enclaves of Hmong Protestant Christian, Catholic and Animist believers who have fled to the jungle and mountains...," said Philip Smith of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.

( - Washington, D.C., and Bangkok, Thailand, February 10, 2010 - The Lao Peoples Army ( LPA ), backed by troops and advisers from the Vietnam Peoples Army ( VPA ), has launched heavy military attacks to seek to eliminate remaining Laotian and Hmong civilian and dissident groups in hiding in Phou Bia and Phou Da Phao mountain areas, and elsewhere in Laos. Many of those targeted include independent Christian and Animist enclaves of Hmong believers hiding in the jungle.

The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) is a one-party, authoritarian, military regime that still remains largely under the domination and control of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ( SRV ). The LPDR is a close ally of Burma and North Korea. Last year, the LPDR regime in Laos held ceremonies honoring North Korea and its leaders.

“Relentless military attacks against Laotian and Hmong civilians as well as political and religious dissident groups have again been intensely launched at Phou Da Phao and Phou Bia Mountians areas of Laos and in other areas of Xieng Khouang Province, Luang Prabang Province and Khammoune Province with apparently no fear of international interference or consequences,” said Vaughn Vang of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council ( LHHRC ).

“Very intense military attacks by the LPDR regime have occurred since the February 2-10, 2010 against many unarmed Laotian and Hmong groups in hiding in Laos,” Vang explained.

“Reliable sources report that Lao Hmong groups in the remote mountainous areas of Phou Bia, Phou Da Phao, Xieng Khouang Province and Saysamboune Laos have been heavily attacked with significant numbers of LPA and VPA ground troops, mortars, artillery, helicopter gunships and chemical defoliants and other lethal means,” Vang said.

“Currently, the Hanoi-backed Lao government has deployed hundreds of new LPA and VPA troops to launched a merciless and brutal multi-pronged attack against the remaining 4,500-5000 Lao Hmong people who comprise the surviving civilian and religious and political dissident groups still encircled, or in hiding, in the Phou Bia and Phou Da Phao mountain areas of Laos as well as other areas of Saysamboune Special Military Zone and Xieng Khouang Province,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C.

Smith stated further: “In the recent joint Lao - Vietnam military offensive, over 42 Lao Hmong civilians were wounded or killed, with more casualty numbers coming in. Of these people 19 dissident Hmong Protestant and Catholic believers were shot, machine-gunned to death, or slaughtered, by attacking VPA and LPA soldiers as well as helicopter gunships.”

Smith continued: “Helicopter gunship attacks have intensified against Lao Hmong villagers and civilians in Laos, including enclaves of Hmong Protestant Christian, Catholic and Animist believers who have fled to the jungle and mountains because of persecution and to practice their faith and live in freedom outside of the Lao government’s control.”

“LPA and VPA forces are hunting, encircling and attacking Lao and Hmong civilian groups hiding in the jungles and mountains of Laos in an effort to kill, starve them to death, or capture them. Attacks are also now occurring in Xieng Khouang Province, Saysamboune Special Military Zone as well as parts of Vientiane Province, Luang Prabang Province Khammoune Province and elsewhere in Laos,” Smith explained. "Many hundreds of Lao and Hmong people were killed and wounded last year alone by LPA and VPA attacks."

“With the help of more troops and military advisers from Hanoi, the LPA continues to use food, and starvation, as weapons against the Laotian and Hmong people living outside of the government’s oppressive control,” Smith concluded.

“The Lao and Vietnam joint military assault, with its most recent offensive and attacks, is seeking to wipe out, starve to death, kill or capture all of these innocent Lao Hmong women, children, elderly, and other civilians in February and March,” Vaughn Vang continued.

“The Lao military, with the help of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is again using its soldiers and helicopters to attack and kill many innocent people and civilians, including those independent Lao and Hmong Christian, Catholic, Animist and Buddhist believers who have fled religious persecution to live in the jungles and mountains of Laos,” Vang said.

Vang concluded: “These 4,500-5000 Laotian and Hmong people in hiding, who are now under intense military attack, are desperately crying out for what could be their last opportunity to appeal for an immediate end to these military attacks on civilians by the Armed Forces of Laos and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; The Laotian and Hmong people are appealing for assistance from the United States, United Nations, United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Union, and others in the international community to seek to end to the LPA’s military aggression and stop these atrocities and human rights and religious freedom abuses; They are urgently appealing to the international community and human rights and humanitarian organizations to help save their lives-- and to help save them from religious and political persecution, torture, and death at the hands of the Lao Communist government and LPA and VPA soldiers.”

In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed H. Res. 402 urging the LPDR regime in Laos to cease military attacks against the Lao and Hmong people.

On November 26, 2009, the European Parliament urged the LPDR regime in Laos to release all political prisoners, dissidents and prisoners of conscience it has arrested and imprisoned, including Lao student leaders and a group of Laotians arrested on November 2, 2009, for seeking to organize a reform march.

Following the conquest and occupation of Laos in 1975 by the North Vietnamese military and communist Pathet Lao guerillas, Hanoi imposed the East Bloc, Soviet-style “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” on Laos. The SRV military-imposed Treaty was renewed by Hanoi and Vientiane and serves as a pretext for Hanoi’s continued military, security force and economic intervention in the LPDR in Laos.

Vietnam military-owned companies continue to exploit Laos’ natural resources, including large-scale illegal logging in provinces where Hmong and other minority Laotian people live. The LPA and VPA continue to use military force to evict and drive Laotians and Hmong from their homelands, often for the purpose of military-backed illicit logging, illegal mining, agriculture schemes and hydro-electric projects.

LPA and VPA troops were recently involved in evicting and forcing ordinary Laotians from their land and property in Vientiane Province to make way for a golf course project.

In 2009, high-level SRV and LPDR defense ministry meetings were held. The LPA and VPA also held numerous meetings in Vientiane, Hanoi and elsewhere to discuss joint military cooperation and operational activity in Laos. Various military campaigns and operations were jointly conducted by Laos and Vietnam with hundreds of civilians killed and wounded.

The SRV in Hanoi has intensified its attacks on religious believers in Vietnam and Laos, including Hmong Christians and Catholics as well as independent Buddhists.

Vietnamese Hmong Catholics and Protestant believers, with relatives in Laos, have participated in demonstrations against SRV communist party policies in Hanoi. The SRV has violently responded to peaceful protests in Hanoi and Vientiane against reformers and those opposed to the policies of the one-party, Communist ruling elite.

The SRV in Vietnam has used state media to attack Hmong Protestant Christian and Catholic believers.

In a separate incident that drew international condemnation and outcry,on December 28, 2009, Thailand's Army General Anupong Paochinda ( also spelled Anupong Paojinda )and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, forcibly repatriated some 4,700 Lao Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers from Thailand back to the communist regime in Laos they fled.


Contact: Mr. Juan Lopez
( 202 ) 543-1444

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



Government silences, deports thousands

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Human-rights activists alarmed over Thai move

Editor's Note: Journalist and photographer Anthony C. LoBaido, working along with U.S. Special Forces personnel such as Maj. Carl Bernard, the first Green Beret on the ground to train the Hmong during the secret war in Laos, has worked for more than a decade to document the plight of America's Hmong allies in Southeast Asia. In this update, LoBaido pieces together the mystery surrounding the Hmong's latest repatriation from Thailand to Laos.

HUAY NAM KHAO, Thailand – The Hmong of Laos, popularized most recently in Clint Eastwood's film "Gran Torino," once again are making headlines with the forced deportation of thousands from Thailand.

It was Dec. 28 when the Royal Government of Thailand deported more than 4,000 Hmong against their wishes amid a media blackout, with cell phone conduits shut down. An estimated 5,000 Thai soldiers "supervised."

Among the 4,500 Hmong sent back to Laos were 158 recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as meeting the official definition of a refugee. The Netherlands, the U.S., Australia and Canada had offered to accept the refugees.

The Hmong had been held in a camp in Huay Nam Khao in Phetchabun province and inside the Immigration Detention Center in Nong Khai province. Many prayed and wept as they left their temporary homes in Thailand via a convoy of more than 100 buses and trucks. The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge at the border and points beyond were their de facto final destination.

The expulsion of the Hmong has drawn a firestorm of world condemnation against the Thai government, which insists most of the 4,500 sent back were merely economic refugees. The U.S. and U.N., among others, disagree.

Thailand, a vital American and Western ally dating back to the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia during World War II, long has been known for its hospitality. Surrounded by the Pathet Lao, Burmese junta, Khmer Rouge and facing an Islamic insurgency in its own southern region, Thailand has stood as a pillar of sanity amid a sea of extremism. Yet after playing host to uncountable thousands of refugees over the past decades, Thailand's patience with the Hmong seems to have finally run out.

Who are the Hmong?

The Hmong have lived a tragic tale for much of the past 200-plus years. Their odyssey reached its apex under Operation White Star, led by U.S. Maj. Carl Bernard among others, when they fought alongside U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War in a secret front waged in Laos.

The CIA directed, financed and trained the Hmong during the 1960s and 1970s as the Hmong gave up their peaceful way of life, their families and their farms to rescue downed American pilots and take out Soviet and mainland Chinese supply lines loaded with weaponry that would kill U.S. troops.

Sadly, like other Western and American allies such as the Afrikaners, Kampas of Tibet, Montagnards of Vietnam, Nicaraguan Contras, UNITA in Angola and the Karen of Burma, the Hmong were betrayed and left behind to die when America lost the war and fled Saigon in the infamous 1975 evacuation.

Since that time, the Hmong have languished in Thai refugee camps – with occasional resettlement efforts in countries such as the U.S., France or even French Guyana in South America offering a glimmer of hope for the Hmong remnant.

According to Lao officials, the Hmong who have been returned to Laos have been sent back to their original homes or placed in new villages. Laos is still a communist country that maintains close ties with countries such as North Korea. In fact, Laos and North Korea have an agreement to send back North Koreans fleeing the Hermit Kingdom and repatriate them to Pyongyang.

Lao officials claim that none of the 158 Hmong classified as refugees have asked to be resettled to a third country upon their return to Laos. This is viewed as strange, according to many credible sources who have interviewed them, since they didn't want to be returned to Laos in the first place.

Many Hmong watchers around the world are concerned about the recent repatriation, including the American ambassador to Thailand, Radio Free Asia and Amnesty International.

The persecution of the Hmong was brought to the mind of the general public decades ago through the writings of authors such as Jane Hamilton-Merritt and Dr. Charles Weldon; who documented Hmong women being thrown off cliffs in Laos and having the heads of babies bashed against trees.

Persecution and support

Why is the potential return of the Hmong to Laos seen as a concern to friends of the Hmong all around the world? Perhaps because the Hmong are still seen by the Communist Pathet Lao government as U.S. allies who opposed their rule so long ago and might well do so again.

For example, under the titular leadership of Gen. Vang Pao, Hmong factions in the U.S. have sought to carry on with their "secret war" in Laos. In fact, not long ago, several Hmong were brought up on terrorism charges in the U.S. for just that reason. They are a group of bitter-enders known as the "Jungle Hmong."

Author and former CIA agent Roger Warner, who worked with the Hmong, says the U.S. case will have deadly consequences.

"The real tragedy is that, whatever happens or doesn't happen with this misguided federal court case, some innocent tribal people are being killed," he said. "Why? In part because the U.S. government's labeling the Hmong 'terrorists' has given a couple of Southeast Asian governments all the excuse they ever wanted to treat the Hmong as badly or worse than we've treated anyone in Abu Ghraib."

Will the returning Hmong be persecuted in Laos? That is the question of the hour. Amnesty International has cited "enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention" of Hmong who were repatriated to Laos from other countries such as Thailand.

In a rare show of bipartisan solidarity, America's top lawmakers are attempting to stand up for the Hmong. Nine U.S. senators have written to Thai Prime Ministar Abhisit Vejjajiva to argue against the deportation of the 4,500 Hmong.

Dated Dec. 17, the letter stated, "While we recognize that the Kingdom of Thailand is burdened by the large number of refugees it hosts on its territory, we encourage you not to take steps to repatriate any individuals to Laos at this time. We believe the lack of transparency in the screening and repatriation process only exacerbates these difficulties and heightens international concerns regarding these populations."

The letter was signed by Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Richard Lugar, along with Democrats such as Al Franken of Minnesota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Barbara Boxer of California, who hail from states with large Hmong immigrant populations.

The Lao government, a party to several important U.N. human rights conventions, has loudly protested claims that the returning Hmong will be persecuted. The government points to reports by international organizations that the Hmong who returned to Laos in 2008 and 2009 have not been abused. Laos has joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, a formerly U.S.-led, anti-communist alliance that now boasts its own Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights.

Between Jan. 7-9, several U.S. congressmen traveled to Laos and visited with the newly repatriated Hmong at Phalak village outside of the Laotian capital of Vientiene. Eni Faleomavaega, the head of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Global Environment of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, offered testimony at a press conference that the Hmong at Phalak village were not being persecuted.

However, that testimony has not pacified many observers concerned about the status of the recently repatriated Hmong.

Benjamin Zawacki and Brittis Edman of Amnesty International contended Thailand's Dec. 28 deportation of the Hmong "violated [Thailand's] obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which provides that state parties must not send people to countries where they risk torture. The government also claimed, after holding them [the Hmong] for three years in arbitrary detention in constant fear of forcible return, that the Hmong agreed to return to Laos voluntarily. In fact, the Thai authorities told them that they would be resettled to third countries only if they first agreed to go back to Laos."

Zawaki and Edman, writing in the Jan. 9 edition of the Bangkok Post, also stated "Amnesty International visited the refugees in Nong Khai – including around 90 children – and can attest to their strong fear of the Lao authorities and their desire to resettle somewhere safe. The Hmong in both Nong Khai and Phetchabun also expressed their resistance to returning to Laos through hunger strikes, protests and acts of civil disobediences."

Eric G. John, the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, wrote a half page op-ed piece in the Jan. 13 edition of the Bangkok Post in which he stated, "All the refugees we interviewed in Nong Khai told us on December 28th, that they did not wish to return to Laos, clearly indicating that the return was involuntary. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was available to consider referrals of individuals from this community. This was clearly articulated repeatedly by U.S. officials. Both the UNHCR and the Royal Thai Government had, indeed, determined that many among this population were in need of protection. And the United States, along with many other countries, stood ready to provide third-country resettlement as an option, but this course was not allowed."

Desperately seeking the Hmong

The U.N. refugee agency officially stated Jan. 29 that it has "no access" to the thousands of ethnic Hmong expelled from Thailand to Laos. The U.S. report was gathered and disseminated just as Radio Free Asia sensationally reported the Lao government had set up a new secret prison inside Borlikhamsay Province, Laos, for the recently returning Hmong and that some of those Hmong were being held inside the prison.

The Radio Free Asia report in turn led Bouasieng Champaphanh, a brigadier general and the head of the Lao-Thai border security subcommittee, to issue a statement to the Vientiane Times which simply said, "There is no secret jail."

The general also has invited international diplomats to visit the Hmong in Borlikhamsay Province in "two months" because of the preparations needed as the "roads are in bad condition, and there is no appropriate place for helicopters to land at the moment."

Additionally, the Deputy Prime Minister of Laos, Somsavat Lengsavat, has gone on record claiming his government will give all returning Hmong families nine rai of farming land upon their repatriation to Laos. A rai is 1,600 square meters, and there are 2.25 rai in one acre.

For now, the Hmong must await the most recent "final verdict" in their never-ending, complex saga. Pushing matters to a head, 16 watchdog groups including Amnesty International, sent a letter Feb. 2 to Choummaly Sayasone, the president of Laos and expressed "serious concerns for the safety and protection" of the Hmong that had just been repatriated from Thailand. They asked for all 158 UNHCR-qualified Hmong to be immediately sent to third countries.

The letter read in part, "Given the difficulties faced by some prior Hmong returnees, we urge you to immediately allow unhindered and continuous access by UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to all returnees."

Addressing the need for Americans to keep a watchful eye on the most recent deportation of the Hmong, Robert Charette, a full-blooded American Indian and ex-U.S. Army Special Forces operator, said, "I would say our obligations sort of dictate it. The Hmong are a resilient and incredibly stout-hearted people; they will be waiting on patriotic Americans. Meanwhile, commit them to the Lord."

Fran Keck and his wife Shirley of Hmong International Ministries in Atlanta, Ga., have been traveling throughout Northern Thailand over the past few weeks visiting the Hmong people. In an interview with WND, Fran Keck lamented, "People have been killing Hmong for thousands of years. In 1800, the Chinese killed 500,000. No matter what happens now, someone will continue to kill them in the future."



St. Paul legislator Cy Thao fined over campaign spending

Thursday, February 4, 2010

State Rep. Cy Thao, DFL-St. Paul, was ordered Wednesday to pay the state $4,721 to settle questionable spending practices from his 2006 and 2008 re-election campaigns.

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board determined probable cause exists to believe Thao overpaid relatives and friends for campaign literature and office space and falsely categorized lawn sign expenses. As a result, Thao, who served as his own campaign treasurer, was ordered to repay $1,721 in state campaign subsidies and to pay a $3,000 civil fine.

Thao, who is Hmong, contested the finding and said he might ask the state Human Rights Department to look into whether the case reflects any racial bias. He said he hasn't decided whether to appeal.

The finding stems from a complaint filed by Nathan Haase on Oct. 22, 2009. Haase could not be reached for comment.

The complaint, however, accused Thao of paying a brother-in-law $3,000 for literature design purposes, paying $2,000 for office space when one may not have existed and listing expenses for "lawn sign'' that actually were for putting up the signs. The board said some of the office rent went to a corporation owned by Thao and his wife.

Thao disputed accusations he overpaid for the literature, saying he paid less for it than he once paid a white woman for similar work.

"There's one piece the board and I agree on — there is nothing wrong with me paying these people,'' he said. "The disagreement is how



The board said Thao used services such as a fax and copy machine and telephone at the office but that payment for "office rental'' wasn't accurate. It said Thao characterized the payment as being for a package of services.

Thao said he would have provided a more detailed explanation for the lawn sign expenses if he knew one was needed.

"If they want me to be more specific and say, 'labor for lawn sign,' I have no problem with that,'' Thao said. "I am not trying to hide anything.''

Thao has 30 days to make the payment to the board.

He was elected in 2002 and has been re-elected three times. He faces a challenge from within his own party for the upcoming endorsement.

Dennis Lien can be reached at 651-228-5588.



Laos says UN can visit Hmong returnees

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A spokesman for Laos' government said Wednesday that United Nations representatives are welcome to visit thousands of ethnic Hmong who were forcibly repatriated from Thailand late last year.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing told The Associated Press by phone from the capital, Vientiane, that the returnees had been moved from temporary holding camps to resettlement villages in the first half of January.

"There are about 400 houses built for the Hmong, and they have already moved in," he said.

The United States and human rights groups have said the Hmong could be in danger when returned to the country where they fought, unsuccessfully, to keep Laos from falling into communist hands in the 1970s.

Many Hmong, an ethnic minority from Laos' rugged mountains, fought under CIA advisers during Vietnam to back a pro-American government _ Washington's so-called "secret war" _ before the communist victory in 1975.

The Thai government claimed most of the Hmong were economic migrants who entered the country illegally and had no claims to refugee status.

On Tuesday, a coalition of 19 human rights and humanitarian groups including Amnesty International issued a joint open letter to the Lao President Choummaly Sayasone, expressing "serious concerns for the safety and protection of the 4,689 Lao Hmong" who were forcibly returned by Thailand on Dec. 28, 2009.

The letter urged that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations be allowed "unhindered and continuous access" to the returnees to ensure that their treatment is in accordance with international standards.

"The U.N. can visit the Hmong if they want," said Khenthong, who acknowledged receiving a letter from the High Commissioner's office asking for access. He added, however, that the roads to the villages were difficult to travel, and a new better road would be finished around April.

"I think they have to wait for that," he said.

The rights groups' open letter also called for Laos to allow immediate resettlement to third countries of 158 returned Hmong whom the UNHCR had designated "persons of concern" with a well-founded fear of persecution if returned to Laos. They have been offered resettlement in third countries.

However, Khenthong said the 158 had now changed their minds and no longer wished to move to a third country.

"In interviews, they said they thought that the Lao government would arrest and execute them when they came back here, but when they saw how the Lao government welcomed them back to the country and prepared places for them to live, they decided to stay," he said. "They don't want to go to a third country anymore."



Fire victim was first-ever Hmong Ramsey Co. Deputy

St. Paul suffers first fire death in more than a year

Ka Lee Yang Memorial Trust:
Wells Fargo Bank
1379 Phalen Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55106

The man killed in an apartment fire Monday in St. Paul was remembered as a pioneer in law enforcement and a loving father and husband.

Ka Lee Yang, 49, died of smoke inhalation in his apartment on North Sloan Street.

Yang was the first person of Hmong descent to become a deputy in the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office. In nearly 10 years with the agency, he worked as a corrections officer, an interpreter and a liaison between law enforcement and the Hmong community.

Before joining the sheriff's office, he served as a St. Paul police officer for a year.

Yang left the sheriff's office in 2001, but his former colleagues said his attitude and work ethic were unforgettable.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said, "Great guy. Always hard working, very energetic. (He) had a great attitude--one of the most positive attitudes that I've ever run across."

Yang left behind a wife and five children.

His daughter Soumaly Yang said, "He supported us. He loved us. He always led us in the right direction."

Soumaly Yang said the family has just one photograph of their father. The others burned along with everything they owned.

Fire investigators ruled that the fire was accidental, but they haven't determined the cause. They do know that it started on the balcony of the Yangs' apartment.



Fire victim was first Hmong Ramsey County deputy

Ka Lee Yang, 49, who was killed Monday in a fire at his apartment on St. Paul's East Side, was the first Hmong to become a Ramsey County sheriff's deputy and, before that, was a St. Paul police officer, his former colleagues said.

The fire in Yang's apartment at 1615 Sloan St. has been ruled accidental, St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said Tuesday. He said the fire started on the second-floor apartment's balcony and spread to the living room. Firefighters arrived about 7 p.m. Monday and were able to quickly knock down the fire.

They found Yang's body in the bathroom. He died of smoke inhalation, Zaccard said.

Sheriff Bob Fletcher said he worked with Yang in 1991 when both were on the St. Paul police force. Yang had been hired as a community liaison officer to work with the Asian Community Outreach Program.

Yang joined the Sheriff's Office the following year. He worked primarily in the jail but also worked as an interpreter and on some civil process work, the sheriff said.

Yang left the Sheriff's Office in February 2001 to try other business ventures. Fletcher said he doesn't know what his old friend has been doing since then.

The stench of smoke still permeated the halls of Yang's eight-unit building Tuesday afternoon. Neighbors said they didn't know him except to say hello in passing. He lived in the apartment with his wife and children, a resident said.

Yang was the only one home at the time of the fire, Zaccard said. He said investigators can't rule out smoking or cooking as the cause, although "we may never know for sure."



First Hmong Ramsey Co. Deputy Victim Of Fire

Ka Lee Yang, 49, was found in the apartment's bathroom, but investigators aren't sure why he was there.

"Ka Lee was a deputy sheriff for Ramsey County from 1992 until 2001," said Holli Drinkwine, Ramsey County Sheriff's spokesperson. "He was the first Hmong deputy with our department."

Firefighters went to the 8-unit apartment building on the 1600 block of Sloan Street just before 7 Saturday night.

The fire was large, but contained in the eighth apartment and crews were able to put it out quickly.

The fire is under investigation.



Man killed in St. Paul apartment fire was 1st Hmong deputy

The man who died in a St. Paul apartment fire Monday night was a former Ramsey County sheriff's deputy — the first Hmong person to hold that position.

Ka Lee Yang, 49, worked for the sheriff's office for nearly a decade.

"He was an extremely hard worker and had a very positive attitude," Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said Tuesday.

The Ramsey County medical examiner's office determined Ka Lee Yang's death in the Payne-Phalen area was accidental and from smoke inhalation, said St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard.

There were no other injuries in the fire, which was confined to one of eight units at 1615 Sloan St. After seeing billowing black smoke and flames, two workers at a nearby service station ran over to make sure everyone was out.

Matt Peterson, a Parkway BP technician, pushed the buzzers outside the locked building. When tenants came out on their balconies, he shouted that the building was on fire and they needed to get out.

Bob Olson, Parkway BP manager, had been calling 911 and soon joined Peterson. Someone let the men in and they raced up and down the hallway, banging on doors and shouting.

Peterson, 26, and Olson, 41, went in and out of the building two or three times.

One tenant was alone with three young children. Peterson carried a barefoot boy age 2 or 3 who was wearing only shorts to the family's minivan, the father carried another child, and Olson grabbed jackets and blankets for them.

"It got to the point that we could hardly see," Peterson said.
The smoke was thick on the second floor. Still, they pounded on walls and screamed for anyone who might be on that floor, Peterson said. The men paused and listened for anyone who might be calling for help. They said they didn't hear a sound.

When firefighters put out the blaze, they discovered Ka Lee Yang, a second-floor tenant, dead.

"We all wish the best for the family, and we feel really bad for them that there was nothing we could do," Peterson said.

Firefighters found Ka Lee Yang slumped over the rim of a bathtub. The fire had started on his balcony and spread into the living room, Zaccard said. The fire department has not ruled out smoking or cooking, but investigators may never know the exact cause of the fire, Zaccard said.

Residents had reported smelling burned food and hearing the smoke detector go off in Ka Lee Yang's unit, Zaccard said.

Family members have said that Ka Lee Yang's wife had left to pick up their children and that he had been sleeping on the couch. Flames might have blocked his escape, but "we'll never know for sure," Zaccard said.

Ka Lee Yang had told the tenant in the apartment below his, Joyce Darby, he was a heavy sleeper. Darby said she used to see Ka Lee Yang coming home from work about 7 a.m.

The apartment building is too small and too old to have the sprinklers required in newer, larger buildings, Zaccard said. Still, "sprinklers in this building could have made the outcome less tragic," he said.

Ka Lee Yang became a St. Paul police temporary community liaison officer in 1990, working with the Hmong community. He became a St. Paul police officer in May 1991 and a Ramsey County sheriff's deputy in April 1992. He was the fourth Hmong police officer in the state, Fletcher said.

He left the department in 2001 to seek work in the private sector, the sheriff said.

Fletcher said he had many conversations with Ka Lee Yang about his youth and concluded his positive attitude developed from the "very difficult conditions" he had experienced as a boy in Laos.

"As a young teenager, he fought with the Hmong Army against the communists as an ally of the United States," Fletcher said. "He and his family endured a lot of suffering as they fled Laos into Thailand" and he spent time in a refugee camp.

Darby, 56, was in her apartment, on the phone with her daughter Monday night when she said she "kept smelling something. It was like food burning or something. Something icky."

She went upstairs and saw smoke pouring from the top and bottom of Ka Lee Yang's door. Darby pounded on doors in the building, helping make sure other tenants were out.

Outside the building Monday night, Darby said she saw Ka Lee Yang's wife, told her that her unit was on fire and asked where her husband was. She told Darby he was inside.

"I said, 'Are you sure?' " Darby said. "I had a bad feeling right away that he didn't make it."

Other than Ka Lee Yang's and Darby's units, the building is habitable, Zaccard said. Damage was estimated at $150,000, he said. The building is in foreclosure and scheduled to go to auction Feb. 10. A court-appointed receiver has been managing the building.

Ka Lee Yang's death was the first fire fatality in St. Paul since August 2008.

Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262.



Laos Will Welcome Foreign Diplomats To Visit Hmong Returnees

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hmong returnees unloaded their belongings upon arriving in Laos from Huay Namkhao in late December 2009

Lao authorities re-affirm that they will allow foreign embassy and organization representatives to visit the Hmong returnees from Thailand and check on their living conditions upon completion of the arrangements for their resettlement and allocation of lands for their living.

During his recent meeting with ambassadors from the European Union, the United States, and Australia who requested the meeting to seek information on the well-being of the returnees, Lao Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phongsavath Boupha asserted that his government will be happy to take foreign diplomats and representatives of international organizations to visit and check on the living conditions of the Hmong as soon as arrangements for their shelters, allocation of lands for their farming activities, and construction of needed infrastructures have been completed.

Jessica Lee of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives and other US representatives visited Phalak village in July 2009

He added that officials will then respond to any request from foreign diplomats and international organizations with transparency and will take them to visit the Hmong in any province they would like to, in line with the humanitarian policy that the government has consistently practiced regarding the Hmong.

Mr. Phongsavath's comment echoed Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavad Lengsavat's statement stressing that the Lao government's treatment of the Hmongs repatriated from Thailand has been open and transparent and that, since 2008, Lao officials have taken delegations and representatives of international organizations as well as foreign reporters to visit the Hmong resettlement sites many times. And that is because the Lao government considers these Hmong Lao citizens. Therefore, it has to take good care of them even though they had made a wrong decision to leave Laos and enter Thailand illegally, hoping for opportunity to resettle in a third country, especially the United States.

US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega visited Phalak village in early January 2010

The Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently released a statement confirming that the 4,711 Hmong who were repatriated from Huay Namkhao temporary camp in Khaokhor district of Phetchaboun province, in northeastern Thailand, between December 28-29, 2009, have all been returned to their home villages or sent to new resettlement sites. The majority of them chose to settle down in Bolikhamsay province and the new resettlement area in Kasi district, Vientiane province, while the rest went back to their home villages in Bokeo, Xiengkouang, Luangprabang, and Xayabouly and Oudomsay provinces.

As for the 158 Hmongs who were held in a Nongkhai immigration jail and considered "People of Concern" by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Khenthong Nouanthasing said they had changed their mind and chose to return to Laos instead of waiting for resettlement in a third country, as they felt that they would be well taken care of and well provided for by the Lao government.



Laos, Thailand Hmong Refugee Crisis: US Congress Urges UN Access, Resettlement Abroad

WASHINGTON & BANGKOK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), and 11 Members of Congress, have sent a letter to the Lao government asking it to grant the United Nations access to thousands of Lao Hmong refugees recently forced back to Laos from Thailand by the Thai Army. The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), in Washington, D.C., and others, are highlighting the Congressional letter and encouraging policymakers to address this urgent refugee, human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR).

The letter was co-signed by Representatives Dan Burton (D-IN), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Steve Kagen (D-WI), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Ron Kind (D-WI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), and Bill Delahunt (D-MA).

“We are writing to express our concern regarding the nearly 4,700 Lao Hmong refugees who have been repatriated by the Royal Thai Government to Laos in recent days,” the Members of Congress wrote. “We urgently ask the government of Laos to treat all of the returnees humanely, guarantee access to the international community for independent monitoring, and allow those who are eligible for resettlement to be resettled without delay.”

“According to the Royal Thai Army, between 500 and 800 Lao Hmong in Huay Nam Khao camp alone were in danger of being persecuted upon return to Laos… We also ask that you grant the United Nations and other agencies access for independent monitoring…,” the letter said.

“This Congressional letter to the Lao Government is a first step in resolving the Hmong refugee debacle in Laos. Based on past experience, the LPDR is likely to view statements from the House Foreign Relations Committee as only ‘gestures’ which can be ignored because no real actions or penalties will result,” said Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of the award winning book "Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos" and a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

“To get the attention of the LPDR, it will be wise for Congress to hold hearings, requesting international agencies, such as Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch to present their well-researched warnings about the dangers of any forced repatriation of the Hmong in Thailand back to Laos without unfettered, independent, international screening of this population, to identify those who have a well-founded fear of persecution…” Dr. Hamilton-Merritt stated.

"Laos should grant the UNHCR and other humanitarian and human rights organizations access to all Hmong refugees,” said Vaughn Vang of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council.

“Chairman Berman’s letter regarding the plight of the Lao Hmong refugees, is important; Unfortunately, however, after two years, the Lao military junta continues to deny the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and human rights organizations, access to the over 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees brutally forced from Thailand to Laos from 2007-2009,” said Philip Smith, Director of the CPPA.

Smith explained further: “After over a month, the recent group of 4,700 Lao Hmong refugees subjected to mass forced repatriation by the Thai and Lao military on December 28, 2009, have been largely isolated by the Lao army and LPDR regime; Hundreds are imprisoned in harsh conditions in various secret camps and prisons that are off-limits to the UNHCR, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other organizations,” Smith explained. “Most of the refugees, including the 158 from Nong Khai, wish to be resettled abroad despite the Lao government’s denials and propaganda.”

“Beneath thin diplomatic language, Vientiane’s responses, when there is any response at all, are as likely to be perfunctory evasions as honest answers,” said The Honorable Howard Eugene Douglas, U.S. Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs (1981 – 1985). “Vientiane might wish to decide if it wants to be stuck in the rut of a pugnacious post-Vietnam attitude syndrome or behave like the society it pretends to be. The case of the Hmong just might be the catalyst for how the United States will view the Lao government’s true intentions.”



Legislators appeal to Laos to aid Hmong

Deported from Thailand to Laos, ethnic Hmong raise concern among members of Congress

Wisconsin lawmakers and other members of Congress are concerned about the safety of ethnic Hmong recently deported from Thailand to Laos.

Reps. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl joined several of their House and Senate colleagues in signing letters to the deputy prime minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, calling for humane treatment of the returnees.

On Dec. 28, the Thai government repatriated more than 4,000 Lao Hmong who had been living in refugee camps. Human rights groups condemned the deportation, fearing that many of the Hmong would be persecuted by the communist Lao government.

The Hmong aided the United States in the Vietnam War and Secret War in Laos.

"As you know, the United States shares a unique history with the Hmong people," said the Jan. 13 letter signed by Kagen, Kind and 10 other House members. "As such, many members of the U.S. Congress are troubled by the sudden, mass-repatriation of the Lao Hmong."

The lawmakers urged the Lao government to allow the United Nations and other agencies access to the returnees to assess their well-being.

Both the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees and the U.S. State Department have condemned the forced return of Lao Hmong and have urged the Lao government to admit international monitors.

Vaughn Vang, director of the Lao Human Rights Council in Green Bay, said Hmong living in the United States and other countries are afraid that many returnees will be tortured and subject to other abuse. "We are very scared there will be state persecutions," Vang said.

"Not now, because the international eye is watching, but in the next three months, (the returnees) will slowly begin to disappear."

Note: On 14 January 2010, UNPO and 67 global organizations have issued a joint statement calling for Asian states to reaffirm commitment to safeguarding asylum seekers threatened with a return to torture and persecution. To read the joint statement click here.



Rights groups call for access to returned Hmong in Laos

Monday, February 1, 2010

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and 16 other rights groups on Monday urged Laos to give foreign observers access to thousands of ethnic Hmong expelled from Thailand.

In a letter to Lao President Choummaly Sayasone, the organisations expressed "serious concerns for the safety and protection" of the returned Hmong.

They also called for immediate resettlement to third countries of all returned Hmong with a well-founded fear of persecution, including 158 sent back despite being recognised by the UN as refugees.

Bangkok sparked outrage in late December when it defied global criticism and used troops to forcibly repatriate about 4,500 Hmong from camps on the border with communist Laos.

"Given the difficulties faced by some prior Hmong returnees, we urge you to immediately allow unhindered and continuous access by UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations to all returnees to ensure that the treatment of the returnees is in accordance with international standards," said the letter, whose signatories included Sam Zarifi of London-based Amnesty and Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, based in the United States.

Amnesty has alleged that other forcible repatriations of Hmong to Laos from Thailand since 2005 led to "enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention".

Granting international access to the Hmong "would likely help assure the international community and the United Nations about your government's stated intentions to respect their rights," the letter said.

Laotian government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing was not immediately available to comment.

He has said the international community has "nothing to worry about", and all of the Hmong have been returned to their original homes or resettled in new villages.

A diplomatic source said last week there had been no reports of mistreatment, although some returnees had complained about living conditions in the new villages.

US congressmen who visited Laos said they saw no sign the Hmong were ill-treated.

Thailand and Laos both say the Hmong, who feared persecution because they fought alongside US forces in the Vietnam War, were illegal economic immigrants.



Lao govt reiterates policy for Hmong returnees

A senior diplomat has announced that the Lao government will be happy to arrange visits to Hmong returnees requested by foreign ambassadors when they have been properly resettled, while reiterating the government's humanitarian policy to the returnees.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phongsavath Boupha restated the position to ambassadors of European Union countries, the United States and Australia recently when the ambassadors called on him to request information on the situation of the Hmong returnees.

Hmong returnees would be able to live in villages of their own choice, he told the ambassadors, adding that the government had provided them with food, clothing and medicines on arrival in their homeland.

Later, the returnees were transported to their original villages or to live with relatives or in government-resettlement villages.

Mr Phongsavath said the government's long-term plan was to build a house for each family in the resettlement villages and allocate land for farming activities.

The government will also build gravity-fed water systems, toilets, roads and schools as well as expanding the electricity network to include the villages, he said, adding that hospitals would also be available in village groups.

The government will also provide food to the returnees until they are able to make their own living, as well as one year of free electricity use.

The deputy minister reaffirmed to the ambassadors that receiving the returnees reflects the extension of the government's humanitarian policy to its citizens.

During the meeting, Mr Phongsavath thanked foreign diplomats for their concern for Lao citizens and explained that the Lao government was even more concerned about its citizens than foreigners, because these Hmong people had been lured to a foreign country. The Hmong were the concern of Laos and it was the duty of the Lao government to protect them and agree to bring them home.

Mr Phongsavath said the Lao PDR is a party to many UN human rights treaties, and the government took care to implement these treaties as fully as possible, especially those relating to political rights and citizenship.

Being deceived by people smugglers, in 2004 the Hmong began flocking to Thailand . More than 7,000 departed Laos and became economic migrants in Thailand , including 158 who were detained in the Immigration Detention Centre in Thailand 's Nong Khai province.

Most had paid a large amount of money to people smugglers to take them from Laos to a detention camp in Thailand 's Phetchabun province. Many became homeless after selling everything they owned in Laos and their children received no schooling.

The Lao and Thai governments deemed the migrants to be illegal and agreed to address the issue through bilateral channels.

I n 2006, the two governments began cooperating to repatriate them until the last group was brought back to Laos on December 28 last year.

Since then the Lao government has arranged for visits by international delegations and foreign ambassadors to Phalak, the government resettlement village in Kasy district, Vientiane province, to witness the situation first hand.