Center for Public Policy Analysis Calls for Press Freedom in Laos
Laos, Hmong: Press Freedom Crisis
Washington, D.C., (RushPR News)March 18, 2008 – The Center for Public Policy Analysis and a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations in Washington, D.C. called on the Lao government to abide by international law and the repeated calls of the Paris, France-based press freedom organization Journalists Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres) to provide press freedom and unfettered press and news media access to the current Darfur-like crisis in Laos and the persecuted Hmong people. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25655
They also called on the Lao government to abide by recent calls by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regarding calls to cease the mass starvation, military attacks and forced repatriation being directed against the Hmong people in Laos and Thailand. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA26/003/2007
â€œWe laud Journalists Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres) for its tireless work on the deplorable lack of transparency and press freedom in Stalinist Laos, including the designation of Laos and many of its leaders as â€™Press Predatorsâ€™ and highlighting the ongoing jailing of Hmong guides, Mr. Thao Moua and Mr. Pa Phue Khang, who helped St. Paul, Minnesota Pastor Naw Karl Mua and European journalists Thierry Falise and Vincent Reynaud seek to gain access to Hmong civilians and Hmong Christians under attack in Laos by the Lao military some five years ago,â€™ stated Philip Smith, Executive
Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. â€œSince then thousands of innocent, unarmed Laotian and Hmong civilians have been killed by the Lao government, the two Hmong guides are still be jailed in Laos who courageously sought to help the journalists and Pastor Mua from St. Paul, Minnesota get the truth out of Laos about the horrific situation and mass killings.â€ Smith observed: â€œMoreover, the Stalinist Lao regime continues to jail key Lao student pro-democracy leaders and three St. Paul Hmong-American citizens traveling to Laos as tourists and potential investors, including Mr. Hakit Yang who has suffered in the Lao gulag system now for some 7 months.â€
Sweden and Norway recent closed their embassy and diplomatic missions in Laos as a result of the Lao government’s failure to make progress on human rights and transparency.
In recent weeks (February/March 2008), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian-based Al Jazeera news has smuggled journalists into Laos, including Tony Birtley, to document the horriffic plight of Hmong and Laotians under attack by the Lao military. The exclusive video footage and news reports including Hmong civilians and opposition groups pleas for help from the international community, the United States and the United Nations. http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/3901AC50-813C-409F-8F57-BEDF4930C28D.htm
Smith was interviewed by Al Jazeera television on March 14, 2008 regarding the plight of the Hmong in Laos and its implications in Washington, D.C. and internationally for the United States.
â€œThe Lao government is covering up this crisis and its killing and mass starvation of thousands of innocent Lao and Hmong civilians; the international news media is barred from key areas in Laos by the Lao military and not allowed to visit the Hmong people who are under attack in the jungle unless they are smuggled in to the areas where the Lao and Hmong people are under attack, including Saysamboun (Xaisamboun) Closed Military Zone in Xieng Khouang Province,â€ stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. of Wisconsin.
â€œWe want the Lao regime to provide access the international news media and humanitarian and human rights organizations to the peaceful pro-democracy Lao student leaders who continue to be jailed in Laos by the Lao regime as well as Hakit Yang and the Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota who were arrested last year and the Hmong people now under brutal military attack in the jungles and mountains of Laos,â€ stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc.
â€œClearly, nothing has changed in Laos in terms of the current Bosnia and Darfur-like situation, and we would like President President Choummaly Sayasone of Laos to respond to the the June 2006 letter and repeated requests of Journalists Without Borders regarding the dire lack of press freedom under his totalitarian regime,” said Smith. “We are concerned about the ongoing jailing of Lao students pro-democracy leaders as well as the Hmong guides who assisted Pastor Naw Karl Moua of St. Paul, Minnesota and Mr. Hakit Yang and the two other Hmong-Americans from St. Paul arrested in Laos by Lao military and security forces some 7 months ago,” continued Smith.
“The Lao goverment and military are using food as a weapon against the Hmong people,” stated T. Kumar, Advocacy Director of Amnesty International at a recent Congressional Forum on Laos held in the U.S. Congress on January 31, 2008. “Amnesty has documented in many recent reports the plight of the suffering Laotian and Hmong people, including our recent report in March 2007 about the Lao military’s attacks against the Hmong people.”
The Paris-based organization paints a bleak picture about the Lao regimeâ€™s crackdown on journalists, political dissidents and the press in 2008 (and in its annual reports on Laos for the last several years, including 2003,2004. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25655
Currently, in several key provinces of Laos, near the capital of Vientiane, nearly 15,000 Hmong unarmed civilians are surrounded in Laos by the Lao military and are endanger of mass starvation and death, including some 10,000 thousand women and children the regime is seeking to starve to death. Another group of 8,000 Hmong refugees and asylum seekers in Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Provice, Thailiand, who recently fled the communist regime in Laos are in danger of forced repatriation from Thailand back to Laos and are also being denied press freedom and international access http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22846
The New York Times also smuggled cameramen and news reporters into Laos to cover the plight of the Hmong trapped in Laos which included accounts of Lao military attacks on villagers and the indiscriminate killing of Hmong children by the Lao military (â€œOld U.S. Allies, Still Hiding in Laos,â€œ New York Times, Dec. 17, 2007)
â€œWe want the government of Laos to cease its military attacks on the Lao and Hmong people and to open up to the outside world and let international human rights and humanitarian organizations and journalists to have free and unfettered access to the suffering people of Laos that are also being jailed and persecuted by the Lao military regime,â€ stated Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President and Founder of the Lao Veterans of America, Inc.
On February 8, 2008, Radio Free Asian ( RFA ) reported that the Lao Government has announced a special order to kill Hmong groups in hiding with a reward of six million kip ( U.S. $600 ) per head for killing a Hmong fighter.
Hundreds of Lao-Hmong in St. Paul, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states acoss the United States demonstrated in opposition to the Lao governments killing and persecution of their family members last week.
According to Smith: “The Bush Administration’s failure to address the curent Bosnia and Darfur-like crisis in Laos facing thousands of freedom-loving Laotian and Hmong people is a foreign policy and national security disaster that will haunt the legacy of the Bush Administration and U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Mr. Ravic Huso, for years; Clearly, there is the stench of betrayal, appeasement and neglect that hovers over Ambassador Ravic Huso’s head and the Bush Administration that will not be forgotten and will have dire humanitarian, human rights and national security implications for the United States for many years to come as documented by Amnesty International and others.”
U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Mr. Ravic Huso, is slated to visit St. Paul, Minnesota and Wisconsin this week and is being hosted by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) and U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) and others.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum(D-St. Paul) introduced legislation to grant Normalized Trade Relations with Laos, despite wide-spread opposition in her Congressional district in St. Paul, Minnesota and the Hmong-American community as well as the previous positions of former U.S. Congressman Bruce Vento (D-MN) and former U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone in staunch opposition to granting Normalized Trade Relations to the totalitarian regime in Laos because of its brutal persecution of the Lao and Hmong people.
For More Information Contact:
Ms. Anna Jones
Center for Public Policy Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006 USA
Tele. (202) 543-1444
Fax (202) 207-9871
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