Thailand, Laos Crisis: Washington Visit Overshadowed

Forced Repatriation of Lao Hmong Refugees by Thailand to the Communist Regime in Laos
Washington, D.C. (RushPRNews), March 21,2008- Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis was strongly critical of Thailand’s Foreign Minister, Noppadon Pattama, who was visiting Washington, D.C. yesterday on an official state visit. Smith stated that the visit was overshadowed and darkened by the recent forced repatriaton of Lao Hmong refugees by Thailand to the communist regime in Laos that they fled. Many of the Hmong refugees and their families in Thailand helped the United States during the Vietnam War.

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations in Washington, D.C. urged Thailand’s Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, who is visiting Washington, to abide by international law and immediately halt the repatriation of Laotian and Hmong refugees and asylum seekers from Thailand to the communist regime in Laos that they fled. Human Rights Watch, the UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) and others have raised serious concerns about the use of Thai Third Army attack dogs apparently ordered to attack a group of Lao Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun, Thailand, who were forced to return to Laos prior to Prime Minister Samak’s visit to Vientiane on February 29, 2008.

Smith, speaking out against the Thai Foreign Minister and Prime Mininter Samak Sundaravej’s appeasement of the Lao regime and forced repatriation of Hmong refugees stated: “The brutal actions by Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, along with elements of the Thai Third Army and Ministry of Defense, to seek to forcibly repatriate some 8,000 Hmong refugees have stained the visit of the Foreign Minister to Washington, D.C. this week. Prime Minister Samak and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, continue to ignore a letter by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), signed by a coalition of Members of Congress, appealing to His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, to stop the forced repatriation of the Lao Hmong refugees back to Laos. “

“Thai Prime Minister Samak’s visit to Laos at the end of February and his apparent orders, along with Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, to use Thai Third Army attack dogs to brutalize and bloody Lao Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao, in Petchabun Province, Thailand has cast a dark cloud over Washington and has not helped the relationship with the United States and the U.S. Congress,“ stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis. “Samak and Noppadon Pattama are ignoring the fact that a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress in Washington, D.C. have appealed to His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej for his help and compassion in seeking to grant these 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at Nong Khai and Petchabun, Thailand to be given sanctuary until they can be resettled in third countries such as Canada, France, Australia and the United States,” Smith said.

“Prime Minister Samak and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, continue to ignore an important letter by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) signed by a coalition of Members of Congress appealing to His Majesty, The King of Thailand, to stop the forced repatriation of the Lao Hmong refugees back to Laos and to grant them asylum in Thailand until they can be resettle abroad,” Smith observed. “Many of these Lao Hmong refugees were former soldiers, or family members of those who served with U.S. and Royal Thai military and clandestine forces during the Vietnam War in defense of the Kingdom of Thailand and have fled the current ethnic cleansing and mass starvation campaign by Lao and Vietnamese military forces that is going on currently in Laos; the humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders, Médecins Sans Frontières, has also repeatedly raised serious international appeals recently regarding the 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers in Thailand that have fled the Lao regime’s military attacks in recent years,” Smith concluded. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/2007/06-29-2007.cfm

http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/photogallery/gallery.cfm?id=2164

A coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations rallied last week in key states across the United States on Thursday, March 13, 2008, from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. against Prime Minister Samak‘s visit to Laos and forced repatriation of Hmong refugees. The nation-wide events were spearheaded at rallies in Madison, Wisconsin and St. Paul, Minnesota according to the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. which attributes the public outpouring in America to discontent with Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s recent visit to Laos where Thai Third Army attack dogs had forcibly repatriated and driven defenseless Hmong refugees into the waiting arms of the Lao military regime and Lao army generals who they had earlier fled.
http://presszoom.com/story_143777.html

Protestors in the United States called for a stop to the Lao government’s military attacks, mass starvation campaign and ethnic cleansing operations directed against unarmed Laotian and Hmong civilians and dissident opposition groups in hiding or trapped in closed military zones in Laos.

Demonstrators joined Human Rights Watch’s recent call for the immediate halt to Prime Minister Samak and the Thai Government’s apparent plan to forcibly repatriate some 8,000 Lao-Hmong refugees and asylum seekers at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun, Thailand, back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled. http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/03/05/thaila18211_txt.htm

In March of 2007, Amnesty International released a major 31 page report detailing the brutal military operations, mass starvation and human rights violations in Laos directed against the ethnic Hmong and Laotian people living in the jungle and struggling to survive attacks from the Lao Communist regime. Human Rights Watch and the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. have also issued reports about the current crisis facing Laotian and Hmong refugees faced with forced repatriation from Thailand to Laos. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA26/003/2007
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA26/004/2004

According to statements by T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Amnesty International’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, at a recent U.S. Congressional Forum on the crisis in Laos there are only two countries in Asia that use food as a weapon against their own people–North Korea and Laos.

Mr. Kenton Kue Xiong, President of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. in Minnesota and Wisconsin stated: “The forced repatriation against the will of 12 Hmong asylum seekers from refugee compounds in Thailand back to Laos in Feb. 2008 by physical force and the use of attack dogs by the Thai military is a serious human rights violation. To this day, there has been no official confirmation of their location or condition in Laos. We, however, have received numerous reports from reliable sources that some of them were badly treated and one man was killed.”

“As we are speaking at this moment, several thousand Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand are facing forced deportation back to their tormentors who run the communist Lao regime where they fled,” stated Stephen Vang, Laos-Hmong scholar, advocate and co-director of the United Hmong for Justice organization.

“Currently, communist Hanoi, and the Peoples Army of Vietam (PAVN) have committed abhorrent crimes in our native land of Laos,” stated Khamphet Moukdarath, of the United League for Democracy in Laos. “The Vietnamese Communist regime and their Lao puppet regime in Vientiane have acted contrary to the ideal of humanity and justice and have built more prisons, that have outnumbered schools, and are overcrowded with Lao and Hmong detainees,” Khamphet Moukdarath stated. Vietnam troops have been deployed to Laos in greater numbers and PAVN troops are also engaged in military attacks on unarmed Hmong and Lao civilians as well in illegal logging in Laos according to recent reports.

“Clear evidence has proved that forced deportation of the Lao Hmong refugees back to Laos results in these refugees facing heavy persecution, torture and human rights abuse by the Lao government,” stated Mr. Vaugh Vang of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc.

“The current Laos government established by the Laos Communist party, based on the Stalinist system, continues to commit many crimes against its own citizens; they persecute Christians and arrest and jail peaceful student leaders, such as Thong Praseuth Keuakoun, of the October 1999 Lao Students Movement for Democracy,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc.

“The United States must help stop the deportations and repatriation of the Hmong refugees at Nong Khai and Ban Huay Nam Khao, Phetchabon, Thailand back to the Communist regime in Laos and solve the problems in Laos as soon as possible to prevent more Hmong women, children and elders from the killings by the Lao PDR gangster government… or bring all the Hmong people to the United States of America,” stated Colonel Wangyee Vang of the Lao Veterans of America, Inc.

“Communist Laos is a very bad regime; It is not wrong to try and change the government of Laos, and America has a long tradition of seeking to promote freedom and democracy and challenge dictatorships and Communist regimes like the terrible regime in Laos that is persecuting and killing so many of the Hmong and Lao people,” stated U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in a key note address at recent session of the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos held in the Library of Congress.

The following is the text of the U.S. Congressional letter by U.S. Congresman Frank Wolf and 13 Members of the U.S. Congress to the King of Thailand:

His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej
C/O Embassy of Thailand
Washington, D.C.

Your Majesty, King of Thailand:

We are writing out of urgent concern for the plight of some 8,000 Lao-Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers at Huay Nam Khao, Phetchabun, Thailand, who are in imminent danger of forced repatriation back to the brutal communist regime in Laos that they fled.

According to statements to news reporters by the Thai Third Army Commander Lt. Gen. Jiradej Kotcharat published in July 13, 2007, these Lao-Hmong refugees will be sent back to Laos in the next two months. These Lao-Hmong refugees face horrific mass starvation and death by the Lao regime if they return to their homeland.

We ask that you personally intercede to ensure that thee and other Lao-Hmong remain in Thailand until they can be resettled in third countries. Thousands of Thai soldiers lives were saved because of the front line combat the Lao-Hmong engaged in with U.S. and Royal Thai ground and air force operations during the Vietnam War. They deserve to be protected in Thailand until they are resettled in a third country.

Your intervention is urgently needed to save these Lao-Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers. We respectfully request that you personally ensure their safety in Thailand until they are resettled elsewhere.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Ron Kind
(Signed By 13 Members of Congress)

Transmitted by the U.S Congress August 3, 2007.
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The Center for Public Policy Analysis in a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank and research organization focused on foreign and national security policy issues.
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