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Vietnam and Laos Troops Attack Civilians & Rebels

Joint Military Offensive by Laos, Vietnam Directed Against Hmong People Results in Hundreds of Civilians and Rebels Killed, Wounded

WASHINGTON -- The following was released today by the Center for Public Policy Analysis and the Lao Veterans of America, Inc.:

An intense two-week long, joint military offensive by Laos and Vietnam directed against two encircled pockets of minority opposition members has left hundreds of ethnic Hmong and Laotian civilians and rebels dead and wounded. Hundreds more Hmong and Laotians were captured or surrendered to military and security forces after suffering repeated air and ground attacks and heavy casualties-as well as from months struggling under a brutal campaign of government-sponsored mass starvation that left many civilians dead, including hundreds of women and children.

"Widespread reprisals and atrocities by Lao and Vietnamese troops against Hmong civilians and rebels have been reported during the recent government military offensive, including apparent summary executions, looting of live-stock and personal property, torture, rape, burning of civilian houses and villages, the kidnapping and killing of children as well as the mutilation of corpses by government troops," stated Philip Smith, who serves both as the Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Policy Analysis and the Washington, D.C., Director of the Lao Veterans of America, the nation's largest Hmong and Laotian veterans organization. Continued Smith: "Hundreds of Hmong and Laotian people, including many civilians, were brutally hunted down and killed in the most recent offensive. Many of the Hmong victims of the recent security force operations, were tortured or summarily executed at point blank range."

On August 21, 2003, the United Nation's Committee on Racial Discrimination, headquartered in Geneva, adopted a resolution and text on Laos detailing the Lao regime's brutal use of starvation as a weapon of war-and ongoing military attacks-- against the Hmong and Laotian people. Amnesty International has likewise issued a number of the key statements and urgent action appeals regarding this matter.

"Given the especially egregious nature of these brutal attacks against Hmong civilians and rebels in Laos, survivors of these atrocities, and those who surrendered, should be given immediate access to Red Cross and United Nations officials, and they should promptly be given political asylum in the United States as part of the Wat Tham Krabok refugee program currently being undertaken in cooperation with the United States and Royal Thai Government," stated Smith.

A team of journalists from Time magazine (Asia edition) visited one of the Hmong groups, in 2003, that are among some of the victims of the recent government attacks. "Following the reported capture and torture of deputy commander Lee Xue by Lao security forces in February, valuable information and military intelligence about this particular Hmong group was obtained that helped the Pathet Lao and Vietnamese security forces conduct a more lethal campaign of mass starvation as well as a joint air and ground offensive involving brutal assaults by MI-8 helicopter gunships," stated Smith. Continued Smith: "This led to many civilian and rebels deaths, and the capture and surrender of many of the Hmong people in this particular pocket of opposition; However, commander Moua Ter Toua, commander Yang Toua Thao and other Hmong and Laotian rebels and civilians, in these and other resistance and opposition-held areas inside Laos, apparently continue to evaded starvation and capture and are still fighting to defend the

Laos and Vietnam -- in a rapid series of official statements as well as high-level military and diplomatic visits over the last several months-have reasserted their longstanding, mutual commitment to maintain and increase cooperation on military, defense, internal security, intelligence sharing, and economic matters.

A memorandum of understand was signed earlier this month in the Lao capital of Vietiane by the armed forces of Laos and Vietnam to improve relations and training between the two armies. Vietnam's Army Chief of Staff and Deputy Defense Minister General Phung Quang Thanh, and his Lao counterpart, Major General Kenkham Senglathon, signed the agreement. The Vientiane signing ceremony comes in the wake of the signing of last month's joint border security agreement between the two countries.

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