McWilliams Appeals To End Repatriation of Laos, Hmong Refugees in Thailand
In May, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Doctors Without Borders, withdrew in protest from Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp in Thailand, because of Thailand's forced repatriation policy and abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees. The detention facility is the last remaining Lao Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. MSF was the only organization providing food and medical support to some 5,500 Lao-Hmong political refugees at the camp. Another 158 Hmong political refugees are being detained in harsh conditions at Nong Khai, Thailand.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., Bangkok, Thailand and Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand, December 3, 2009 - A distinguished former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Edmund McWilliams, who served at the U.S. Embassies in Laos and Thailand and was a combat veteran of the Vietnam War has raised concerns about the emergency plight of some 5,100 Lao Hmong refugees that are in imminent danger of forced repatriation from Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, and Nong Khai, Thailand back to Laos.
Mr. McWilliams, along with Members of the U.S. Congress, and others, have reportedly made direct high-level appeals to the Royal Thai Government, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Eric P. Schwartz, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration, as well as Samuel Witten and Ravic Huso, the and U.S. Ambassador to Laos, about the urgent need to end the repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand to Laos.
“There is growing concern in Washington, D.C., and internationally, about the plight of over 5,100 Lao Hmong political refugees in Thailand facing forced repatriation back to the brutal one-party communist regime in Laos they fled political and religious persecution,” said Philip Smith of the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C.
Smith continued: “Edmund McWilliams and other distinguished U.S. foreign service officers, and U.S. Ambassadors, including The Honorable Howard Eugene Douglas, as well as senior Members of the U.S. Congress, have joined in urging that the Royal Thai government grant political asylum to the remaining Lao Hmong 5,100 political refugees in Thailand until they can be screened by the United Nations and resettled in third countries that have agreed to host them such as Australia, Canada, The Netherlands and France.” http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1096082.html
In May, Medecins Sans Frontieres ( MSF ), Doctors Without Borders, withdrew in protest from Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp in Thailand, because of Thailand's forced repatriation policy and abuse of the Lao Hmong refugees. The detention facility is the last remaining Lao Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. MSF was the only Non Governmental Organization ( NGO ) providing food and medical support to some 5,500 Lao-Hmong political refugees at the camp. Another 158 Hmong political refugees are being detained in harsh conditions at Nong Khai, Thailand, where they have been attacked with tear gas by Thai military and Ministry of the Interior ( MOI ) troops seeking to force them back to Laos.
”The plight of the Hmong and Lao people who fled severe persecution in Laos and sought safety across the Mekong in Thailand is well known; Members of the U.S. Congress, the UNHCR and respected NGO's such as Human Rights Watch recently have voiced strong concern about their ill treatment in camps in Thailand and their likely imminent forced repatriation to Laos,” said Edmund McWilliams a Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer who served in Laos and Thailand for the U.S. Department of State.
Edmund McWilliams remarks were released in Washington, D.C. and Thailand as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ), Human Rights Watch and European Parliament have recently moved to address the crisis and emergency plight of Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand facing forced repatriation to the Stalinist Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) regime in Laos.
The following are excerpts of remarks and a statement by Edmund McWilliams presented in Washington, D.C., and Bangkok, Thailand, on November 24, 2009, in opposition to the forced repatriation of over 5,000 remaining Laotian and Hmong political refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, and Nong Khai, Thailand:
“For many years the U.S. Government was an active champion on behalf of the hundreds of thousands who fled tyranny and persecution in Indochina. Not only did the U.S. welcome hundreds of thousands to its shores, it pursued effective diplomacy to ensure that the rights of the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ and Cambodian refugees were respected in countries of first asylum.
U.S. diplomats like Ambassador Morton Abromowitz… and many others worked innovatively and often courageously to ensure that the U.S. principled approach to protecting refugee rights and often saving refugee lives carried the day in policy debate in Washington.
That highly principled policy, undertaken by earlier Democrat and Republican administrations, in recent years has been abandoned by U.S. administrations more inclined to promote good political relations and trade in the region. A new generation of policy makers and diplomats are at the helm. They appear unaware of the sacrifices of many peoples of Indochina in support of U.S. efforts in the region. The Hmong of Laos and Montagnards in Vietnam in particular not only fought with U.S. troops but also were key to the rescue of downed U.S. pilots and besieged U.S. units. But their sacrifice seems somehow unimportant to those now in control of U.S. policy, few of whom were witnesses to that sacrifice.
This abandonment of former allies, this desertion of responsibility is a disservice to the sacrifice of U.S. and other forces that fought in that troubled war so many years ago, and brings no honor to the U.S. today.”
( --- End Excerpts of Statement by U.S. Foreign Service Officer Edmund McWilliams--- )
McWilliams is a Senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer now working in pro bono on human rights advocacy. While assigned to the U.S. Embassies in Vientiane and Bangkok, he dealt with human rights issues, including the plight of Lao Hmong in Laos and their refugee status in Thailand. He is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.
McWilliams has made repeated appeals regarding the plight of Lao Hmong political refugees in Thailand and Laos and human rights violations. In February he, along with author Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, spoke at a National Laos Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., and at a special session of the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos on Capitol Hill with Members of the U.S. Congress and U.S. Congressional staff. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1086935.html http://www.tragicmountains.org
In April, McWillams’ insights and remarks were again presented at a special session of the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos and a National Laos Policy Conference at the National Press Club and U.S. Congress regarding the Laos, Hmong human rights and refugee crisis. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1089605.html
In June of this year, a letter by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ) and U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ) along with 29 additional Members of the U.S. House of Representatives was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with copies forwarded to the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C. about the crisis in Thailand. McWilliams along with others worked in support of this human rights and humanitarian effort. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1093489.html http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1093663.html
McWilliams and others lauded the U.S. Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton earlier this year. According to McWilliams: “This is a powerful and very timely statement… The refusal of successive U.S. Administrations to address decades of abuse of the Hmong people by the highly authoritarian regime in Laos is unconscionable… The Hmong of Laos, like the Montagnard peoples of Vietnam, are forgotten allies from a forgotten war. Their self-sacrifice and loyalty included dangerous missions to save downed U.S. pilots and reconnoiter behind enemy lines.For those of us who served in the war in Indochina, their courage and contribution to our efforts, have left an enduring legacy and obligation…” http://media-newswire.com/release_1093489.html
Signatories to the U.S. Congressional letter sent to the U.S. Department of State include: U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy ( D-RI ), U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Howard Berman ( D-CA ), U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Ron Kind ( D-WI ), U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ( R-FL ), U.S. Congressman Chris Smith ( R-NJ ), U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo ( D-G ), U.S. Congressman Steve Kagen ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman James Langevin ( D-RI ), U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Jim Moran ( D-VA ), U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), U.S. Congressman Jerry McNerney ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Mike Honda ( D-CA ), U.S. Congresswoman Doris Matsui ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman Tom Petri ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Jim Costa ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman George Radanovich ( R-CA ), U.S. Congressman James McGovern ( D-MA ), U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ), U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva ( D-AZ ), U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore ( D-WI ), U.S. Congressman Bill Delahunt ( D-MA ), U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter ( D-CO ), U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes ( R-CA ), U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee ( D-CA ), Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez ( D-CA ), U.S. Congressman John Olver ( D-Massachusetts ) and U.S. Congressman Timothy Walz ( D-MN ) and U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry ( R-NC ).
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