Samak Damaging Thailand's Relation With United States: Forcing Hmong To Laos
Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej ordered Thai Third Army troops to use tear gas and pepper spray today to seek to force hundreds of Lao Hmong refugees onto eleven (11) buses to repatriate them back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled. Fires set at the Lao Hmong refugee camp were allegedly set by Thai special forces soldiers and Hmong agents of the Lao and Thai government according to Hmong sources at the camp.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej ordered Thai Third Army troops to use tear gas and pepper spray today to seek to force hundreds of Lao Hmong refugees onto eleven ( 11 ) 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 Rice to grant asylum to some 8,000 Hmong refugees and not force them back to Laos. Fires set at the refugee camp were allegedly set by Thai special forces soldiers and Hmong agents of the government according to Hmong sources at the camp.
The letter was sent to U.S. Secretary of State Rice 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 Amy Klobuchar ( D-MN ) and Senator Norm Coleman ( R-MN ).
Large numbers of Thai troops were deployed to the Hmong refugee camp prior to fires and protests that rocked the camp and set it ablaze after refugees staged protests and a week-long, 7,000-strong hunger strike opposing forced repatriation back to Laos. The protest and hunger strike, which began on May 16, followed the earlier arrest of Hmong human rights monitors and the subsequent arrest of camp leaders .
“The Hmong people are joining with the U.S. Senate and House to appeal to the King of Thailand to stop the repatriation of the Hmong people back to Laos. The Thai military is now using tear gas and pepper spray to force hundreds of Lao Hmong political refugees onto 11 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, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council. “The Hmong refugees do not want to return to Laos; the Thai military’s use of tear gas, pepper spray and army troops to force the Hmong onto buses is deplorable, and constitutes serious human rights violations.
Vaughn Vang continued: “Hmong refugees in Huay Nam Khao have reported that on May 23, 2008 Thai Government military officials have sent numerous military soldiers at 11:00 am into the refugee camp to seize Mr. Neng Moua, a leader of the group of Hmong refugees in this refugee camp. Clearly, the Hmong refugees, civilians, women, and children did not want Neng to get arrested and captured and went to speak with the Thai officials. During this time, Thai military soldiers wearing black uniforms, and other Thai military soldiers wearing striped uniforms ran, and moved quickly, to set fire and burn the homes and shelters that the Hmong refugees have been staying in.
Vaughn Vang concluded: “Also, during this time, the Hmong elders and others in the refugee camp were on a hunger strike, protesting by holding signs; however, there were at least six elders who witnessed the Thai military soldiers that were responsible for setting the Hmong homes and shelters in the refugee camp in Petchabun on fire.”
“In reaction to the Thai troops now deployed to the Hmong refugee camp, the Hmong refugees have laid down on the road and are refusing to move, waiting instead for the buses or trucks to run them over so they can die in Thailand instead of returning to Laos,” stated Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, a Southeast Asia Scholar and expert on the Hmong people of Laos.
“The killing of innocent Hmong in Laos by the Lao authorities over the years and the threatened Thai repatriation of Hmong refugees back to their tormentors and torturers in Laos is unacceptable. An honorable nation can not allow its former staunch allies to be so victimized," added Hamilton-Merritt, who is also a Nobel Peace Nominee. She was nominated for the award for her human rights works on behalf of the Hmong and others in Laos.
"Given current reports of the planned forced repatriation of the Hmong in Thailand, the signatory Senators of the recent letter to Secretary Rice should be congratulated for their significant step to seek to rescue the Hmong trapped in Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp and Nong Khai Immigration Detention Center. Their leadership is vital to create a will to rescue these innocent Hmong refugees who have been suffering from extreme fear of persecution if forcibly returned to Laos," said Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of Tragic Mountains which details the Hmong association with the U.S. under three U.S. Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. http://www.tragicmountains.org
"Aware of the extraordinary efforts by the current government of Laos 'to wipe out' the Hmong who allied themselves with the U..S in the Lao theater of the Vietnam War, " said Hamilton-Merritt, speaking in Washington, D.C. at the Vietnam Memorial on May 16, "forcing these vulnerable people back to Laos is unconscionable and immoral."
“We urge the Thai government and Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to honor the recent letters by the U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress and immediately halt the forced repatriation of the 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees at Petchabun and Nong Khai,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. “The U.S. Congress has urge Prime Minister Samak, and appealed to His Majesty, the King of Thailand, to give the Hmong sanctuary in Thailand until they can be resettled in third countries that have agreed to grant them asylum as political refugees,” Smith concluded.
Massive hunger strikes, demonstrations and fires have reportedly rocked the refugee camp in Petchabun, Thailand, after the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Cha Lee as well as fears by the Hmong refugees of forced repatriation back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled. The Lao military, in cooperation with Vietnam, has increased attacks against the Hmong in Laos. http://media-newswire.com/release_1066833.html http://media-newswire.com/release_1066895.html
“The Lao government is using food as a weapon against the Hmong people,” stated T. Kumar, of Amnesty International at a U.S. Congressional Forum session on Laos held earlier this year in the U.S. Congress.
Prime Minister Samak was heavily criticized in Washington and internationally for the use of Thai Army attack dogs against a group of Hmong refugees at the refugee camp in Petchabun Province, Thailand, earlier this year when a group were forced back prior to his visit to Laos. http://media-newswire.com/release_1061830.html
“Today, the United States has both political and moral obligation to reaffirm to the Royal Thai Government our special concern for the Hmong and to ask for firm assurances that there will be neither direct nor indirect pressures to force repatriation to Laos,” stated Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, Former U.S. Ambassador and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs ( 1981 – 1985 ) under the Reagan Administration. “ I am confident that the Government of France, especially Foreign Minister Kouchner, will work with the United States on this urgent initiative.”
Ambassador Douglas continued: “At the same time, the US Government must, without delay, deliver a clear and strong message to the Governments of Vietnam and Laos that we will not tolerate punitive actions or any nature of inhumane treatment against the Hmong, whether they be current permanent residents inside Laos or in the status of returned refugees from elsewhere in the region. Also, there must be vigorous international monitoring of the current and future well being of the Hmong inside Laos.”
Ambassador Douglas stated : “Administration support of the recent action of the US Congress to remove barriers to the resettlement of qualified Hmong refugees still in Southeast Asia is a key element in finding a solution to the current crisis of the Hmong in Thailand and Laos. Equivocation on the part of the Department of State would be shameful. Without immediate US leadership and demonstrations of meaningful concrete steps to work with the Thai Government on the Hmong issue, the Hmong will suffer yet more tragedies. They have no voice in their country of origin or in their country of temporary refuge.”
-- Contact: Anna Jones or Philip Smith
Center for Public Policy Analysis 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite No.#212 Washington, DC 20006 USA
This story was released on 2008-05-25. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date. See our disclaimer for additional information.