Samak’s Hmong, Laos Crisis: Thailand Uses Army, Tear Gas

Washington, D.C., (RUSHPRNEWS)05/24/ 2008 -Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak reportedly ordered Thai Third Army troops to use tear gas and pepper spray mace today to seek to force hundreds of Lao Hmong refugees onto military buses to repatriate them back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled.

On May 16, eight members of the U.S. Senate wrote a letter appealing to Prime minister Samak and U.S. Secretary of State Condelezza Rice to work to grant asylum to some 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees and not force them back to Laos.

The letter was sent to Secretary Rice on May 16, 2008 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

“The Thai military is now using tear gas and pepper spray to try to force hundreds of Lao Hmong political refugees onto eleven buses at Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Thailand to force them back to the brutal communist regime in Laos that they fled,” stated Vaugh Vang, Executive Director of the Lao Human Rights Council. “The Hmong refugees do not want to return to Laos and the Thai military’s use of tear gas, pepper spray mace and military troops to force the Hmong refugees onto the buses is deplorable and constitutes serious human rights violations. The 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees at this camp in Petchabun Province and Nong Khai are political refugees and veterans and their families who served with the United States during the Vietnam War. They do not want to go back to Laos because the Lao government continues to kill, starve to death and persecute the Hmong people as doc umented by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations.”

The Thai troops were deployed prior to fires and protests that rocked the camp after Hmong refugees staged protests and a week-long massive 7,000-strong hunger strike. The protest and hunger strike, which began on May 16, 2008, followed the earlier arrest human rights monitors and the subsequent arrest of Hmong camp leaders . The Lao Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and are staunchly opposed to being repatriated back to Laos, but Thai military officials have forced some 8,000 of the Hmong in the camp to sign papers to send the refugees back to Laos.

“We urge the Thai government and Prime Minister Samak to honor and respect the recent appeal of the U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress and immediately halt the forced repatriation of the over 8,000 Lao and Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai Detention center so that they can be resettled in third countries that have agreed to grant them asylum as political refugees such as France, Canada, Australia and others,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C.


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