Washington, D.C (RUSHPRNEWS)06/14/2008- In response to the humanitarian crisis facing Lao and Hmong refugees in Southeast Asia, on Thursday evening June 12, 2008, on Capitol Hill, bipartisan legislation opposing egregious human rights violations and military attacks in Laos as well as the forced repatriation of Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the Lao regime they fled was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislation was introduced and spearheaded by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to seek to urge the Lao government and military to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and mass starvation of thousands of unarmed Lao and Hmong civilians as well as to appeal to the King of Thailand and the Royal Thai government to work to stop the forced and involuntary repatriation of nearly 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled.
"This historic and important legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress, which details the current crisis facing the Hmong people in Laos and Thailand, represents the seriousness of the situation and the need for international intervention to help save the lives of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who will face persecution, starvation and a cruel death if sent back to Laos," stated Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Southeast Asia scholar and historian. Dr. Hamilton-Merritt is the author of the highly acclaimed book Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos. She has frequently testified in the U.S. Congress regarding human rights issues and the plight of the Lao and Hmong refugees in Southeast Asia. http://www.tragicmountains.org
“We are very pleased that this bipartisian legislation was introduced urging the Lao government to cease its military attacks on the Hmong in Laos and appealing to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, to halt the forced repatriation of the over 7,000 Hmong refugees in Thailand who do not back to Laos and whose refugee camp was recently set ablaze in apparent opposition to forced repatriation back to the communist Lao regime they fled,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Policy Analysis.
“Clearly, it is very historic and important that the legislation also appeals to the King of Thailand for his assistance to help to urge Prime Minister Samak and the Thai Third Army to stop pressuring and forcing Hmong refugees and asylum seekers back to Laos,” Smith continued.
The legislation, H.R. 1273, also urges the military regime in Laos, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) to release the leaders of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy jailed in October of 1999 for their peaceful, pro-democracy protests in opposition to one-party rule and systemic corruption in Laos by the communist regime.
“This new legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress sends a powerful and symbolic message of hope and truth regarding the terrible killing, mass starvation and persecution of innocent and unarmed Hmong people in Laos and urges the Lao government to immediately cease its massacre and attacks against the Hmong hiding in the jungle and mountains of Laos,” stated Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council. “It also urges the government of Thailand to halt and stop the forced repatriation of 8,000 Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchabun Province as well as Nong Khai, Thailand, back to the cruel and brutal communist regime in Laos that continues to persecute and kill its own citizens, especially the Hmong people.”
Smith continued: “In a broader human rights sense, especially regarding the terrible ongoing plight of low-land Lao political dissidents and opposition groups jailed by the Lao regime, it is important to note that the legislation introduced by Congressman Patrick Kennedy and a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives urges the Lao government to address the issue of Lao student dissident, pro-democracy leaders who continue to be jailed following their peaceful protests in the capital of Vientiane in October of 1999.”
“We worked very hard with Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Members of Congress to seek to educate them about the terrible crisis facing the Hmong people under intensified military attacks and mass starvation in Laos as well as the urgent need to stop the forced repatriation of the Hmong refugees in Thailand,” stated Schuyler Merritt, Research Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C.
Smith concluded: “Given the recent Hmong refugee camp fire in Thailand and hunger strikes by the Hmong in the camp who are opposed to returning to Laos, we are very hopeful that this will send an important message and appeal from the U.S. Congress to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, as well as Thai Prime Minister Samak and elements of the Thai Third Army, to seek to grant asylum to the Hmong refugees in Thailand until they can be resettled in third countries like Canada, Australia, France and others who have agreed to grant them political asylum.
“I would like to take this occasion to thank Congressmen Kennedy, Wolf, Rohrabacher, and Congresswoman Baldwin for introducing the bill H. Res. 1273 in the United States House of Representatives regarding the Lao government’s human rights violation in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR),” stated Lt. Colonel Wangyee Vang, Founder and National President of the Lao Veterans of America based in Fresno, California.
Lt. Colonel Wangyee Vang continued: “For over 33 years after the Vietnam war ended, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) government continues to persecute the Laotian people continuously to the present time, especially the Hmong ethnic minority who had been the closest allies to the United States and Thailand during the Vietnam War. Now it is time for the LPDR to stop acting in such an inhumane manner against its own people, including the Hmong ethnic minority. It is time for LPDR to focus on how to improve the life of the Laotian people as a whole, not just for the remaining politburo members of the communist party.”
Regarding the plight of the Hmong refugees in Thailand, Colonel Wangyee Vang concluded: “I would also like to thank His Majesty King Bhumibul Adulyadej, His Majest the King of Thailand as well as his Government and the people of Thailand for their warm hospitalization for the Laotian refugees to stay temporary in the refugees camps in Thailand while they are seeking freedom abroad to begin a new peacefully life. We appeal to the current government of Thailand to stop the force repatriation the Lao-Hmong refugees at Ban Hauy Nam Khao back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled; and allow third countries and NGOs to enter into the Ban Hauy Nam Khao refugee camp to interview and screen the Hmong refugees so that they can be resettled in third countries.”
“The Lao government still refuses to allow international human rights organizations into Laos to visit the Lao Student Movement for Democracy leaders who have been imprisoned since October of 1999 as well as to monitor the Hmong people that are being attacked in the jungles by the Lao army and security forces,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. "This legislation, H.R. 1273 urges the Lao government to stop its attack against the Hmong people and set the Lao students free so that they can leave prison where they are being held in Laos. It urges Lao to allow Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch into the country.”
Vaughn Vang of the Lao Human Rights Council concluded: "Lao and Hmong-Americans join with the U.S. Congress in appealing to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, as well as the Royal Thai Government and the Thai Third Army to seek their help to stop the forced and involuntary repatriation of Hmong refugees back to the brutal communist regime in Laos that they fled; These 8,000 Hmong refugees and asylum seekers are political refugees seeking political asylum and they are at Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Petchabun and Nong Khai, Thailand. They need the help of His Majesty, the King of Thailand, and the international community so that they are not sent back to Laos where the Lao and Vietnamese military are attacking, persecuting and killing them now by the thousands."
The news legislation also urges the Lao government to implement and abide by the provisions of H. Res. 402, passed by the U.S. Congress in May of 2004, which the Lao government has failed to do. H. Res. 402 had called upon Laos, and the Lao military, to cease it military attacks on Lao and Hmong dissident groups and to allow internationally monitored, free and fair elections in Laos as well as other provisions including an appeal for the release of the Lao Student Movement for Democracy leaders of the October 1999 pro-democracy protests in Vientiane, Laos.
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