Wisconsin Hmong Community Honors Laos Scholar

Washington, D.C., (RushPRnews)11/08/08– This week, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College ( NWTC ) in Green Bay hosted guest lecturer Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt who spoke on November 5, 2008, to the Asian Club, Hmong-Americans, university students and faculty about the current human rights and refugee crisis in Thailand and Laos facing Hmong and Laotian refugees and asylum seekers.

On Wednesday and Thursday, November 5-6, Dr. Hamilton-Merritt was also welcomed by, and met, with Hmong community leaders and public officials in the Green Bay and Appleton area of Wisconsin.  The 15th Anniversary of the publication of her book Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos ( Indiana University Press ) was commemorated in Green Bay. She was honored for her human rights and advocacy work on behalf of Lao and Hmong refugees.

Mr. Yia Thao a Hmong-American community leader stated: “As elected president for the Hmong community here in the Greater Green Bay area, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge your leadership, interest, commitment, support, and continued support the Hmong people locally, nationwide, and globally.  Your presentation really touch so many people’s heart; and I am sure those people were there learn a great deal from you and your presentation at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College lecture.  You have long been a true and very special friend to the Hmong people.”

Mr. Yia Thao speaking on behalf of Laotian and Hmong community leaders in the Green Bay, Wisconsin and Appleton area continued:  “You have stood by us in good times and bad and helped us in countless ways.  Your understanding and commitment have helped us realize that we are not alone in the United States.  I know that you have spent many, many hours over many years working on behalf of the Hmong people.  I know that you are an important person in any community and that you have used your reputation and contacts in the community or nationwide to help the Hmong people.  We, the Hmong are very fortunate to have the support of a person of your stature and we truly appreciate what you have done for us over the years.”

Dr. Hamilton-Merritt spoke last month at special events held in her honor by the Hmong students at the University of Wisconsin-Plattville and at Hmong New Year in Rhode Island where ceremonies were held to kick-off the nation-wide commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of the publication of Tragic Moutains.

“I was thrilled to be able to meet the Hmong American students in Green Bay at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and the fabulous 27 high school students recently arrived from Wat Tham Krabok in Thailand,” Dr. Hamilton Merritt said.  “Also, it was most encouraging to find so many people interested in helping to try to resolve the humanitarian crises facing the Hmong refugees in Thailand and those in hiding in the Lao jungle.” http://www.tragicmountains.org

“Lao Hmong community leaders in Wisconsin and American public officials were honored to meet with Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt and to recognize her important book Tragic Mountains, which has helped to educate our community, fellow Americans and policy makers about the history and current plight of the Hmong and Lao people,” said Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. in Green Bay and Appleton, Wisconsin.   http://www.laohumanrightscouncil.org

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and other organizations have issued international appeals and statements regarding the crisis in Laos and Thailand facing Hmong refugees.  The New York Times, the BBC, Al Jazeera and other independent news agencies have recently documented the horrific plight of the Hmong and Laotian people under attack in Laos. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1077350.html
“Dr. Hamilton-Merritt engaged in a epic 15 year long policy battle in Washington, D.C. and Thailand over Wat Tham Krabok with like-minded Members of Congress, diplomats and human rights organizations to seek to seriously question and reverse the forced repatriation policy of Hmong and Laotian and to grant political asylum to the over 20,000 Hmong refugees at Wat Tham Krabok,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C.

“In 2004, the majority of these Hmong refugees were finally granted political asylum in the United States instead of being forced back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled; Many were Lao and Hmong veterans and their families who served with U.S. military and clandestine war in Laos,” Smith stated.

“Many of the Hmong-American young people and students in Green Bay and elsewhere in the United States who are now safely in America from Wat Tham Krabok and the refugees camps in Thailand owe their well-being to the important humanitarian and human rights work of Dr. Hamilton-Merritt who advocated in Washington, D.C. and Thailand so they would not be forced back to Laos,” Smith observed.

Smith concluded:  “Currently, some 6500 Hmong and Laotian refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai Detention Centers in Thailand are threatened with forced repatriation back to the brutal communist regime in Laos.  Hundreds of these refugees are former residents of Wat Tham Krabok, a Buddhist Temple complex in Thailand where thousands of Lao Hmong refugees had sought asylum rather that being forced back to Laos, under a forced and involuntary repatriation program, undertaken at refugee camps along the Mekong River at Ban Napho, Ban Vinai, Chang Kham and elsewhere in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”

Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ) currently provides humanitarian assistance and food to the Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao which has become one of the epicenters of a growing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Thailand and Laos facing Lao refugees fleeing the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic and its military attacks and human rights violations.  http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=2075

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