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No Christmas for Hmong, Laos Refugees

No Christmas for Hmong, Laos Refugees: Kue Xiong, Hmong Families Face Forced Repatriation As Thailand’s Third Army Mobilizes

Elements of the Royal Thai military’s 3rd Army and Ministry of Interior are secretly mobilizing to deport Hmong refugee families back to Laos in the coming days prior to Christmas and the New Year. Increased coercive measures, psychological abuse and intimidation as well as arbitrary arrests are being undertaken at the Lao Hmong refugee camp and detention center at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, and Nong Khai, Thailand where over 7,000 refugees are seeking political asylum after fleeing military attacks and political and religious persecution in Laos. Thai authorities have recently arrested Mr. Kue Xiong and this family in Huay Nam Khao refugee detention camp and are preparing to force him and his family, along with other Hmong political refugees, back to Laos on December 22, 2008, or in the coming days.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continues to provide humanitarian assistance to over 6,500 Hmong refugees that are at Ban Huay Nam Khao in Thailand.

“Why isn't the international community horrified over the forced repatriation of Hmong political refugees to a regime with a history of cruelty toward the Hmong who fought against communist forces in their homeland of Laos ?” questioned Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, a human rights and refugee expert who has testified in the U.S. Congress frequently on the plight of the Hmong, Lao and Southeast Asian refugees.

Dr. Hamilton-Merritt’s highly acclaimed book Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos (Indiana University Press) is replete with horrific examples of the persecution, torture and killing of Hmong refugees forcibly repatriated from Thailand back to Laos. The Hmong and Laotian diaspora community is commemorating the 15th anniversary of the publication of her important book and honoring her human rights, humanitarian and refugee work.

“There are credible reports from reliable sources that at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Phetchabun Province, Thailand stating Mr. Kou Xiong, age 40 years old and eight of his family members have been brutally arrested without cause at 9:00 am on December 17, 2008,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis

Smith continued: “After they were arbitrarily arrested, reliable sources have reported that Mr. Xiong has been severely tortured, both physically and psychologically, by Thai military authorities at the refugee detention center at Ban Huay Nam Khao. According to credible reports, Thai military and ministry of interior authorities are planning to deport Mr. Xiong and his family back to Laos on December 22, 2008, prior to Christmas and the New Year along with other Laotian and Hmong refugees.”

“There may be mass and bloody forced and involuntary repatriation of Hmong refugees by the end of this year, or early 2009, if the current plan is implemented according to the new-time table of key commanders and elements of Thailand’s Third Army and Ministry of Interior special troops,” Smith concluded. “There will be no Christmas in Thailand for the 7,000 Hmong refugees living in deplorable conditions and the thousands of Laotians and Hmong refugees who are being detained now in reeducation camps and gulags in Laos, including Mr. Hakit Yang and the three Hmong Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota arrested last year in Laos.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress, in expressing its concern about the human rights and refugee crisis in Laos and Thailand, introduced H.Res. 1273, which appeals to Thailand to immediately halt the repatriation of Laotian and Hmong refugees back to Laos and allow the refugees to be resettle in other countries H.Res. 1273 specifically addresses the refugee and human rights crisis in Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand as well as the human rights crisis in Laos.

”Mr. Kou Xiong and his Hmong family members are appealing to the United States’ Congress, United States Government, the United Nations and international human rights organizations to urge the Thai Governent to stop its plan to force him and his family back to Laos; the country that he had fled to escape persecution,” said Vaughn Vang, Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. “The Lao Hmong Diaspora Commuity Joint Statement signed by over 32 Lao and Hmong organizations in the United States as well as H.Res. 1273 introduced in the U.S. Congress appeals to the Royal Thai Government on this humanitarian and refugee issue and the 7,000 Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand who want to be resettled in the United States or other third countries.”

“If this forced repatriation of the Hmong people from Thailand to Laos is not ceased immediately, Kou Xiong and his family members will likely face persecution, torture, and death in Laos under the one-party communist regime that they fled; They are appealing for immediate assistance in this matter in order to save their lives,” Vaughn Vang stated.

Vaughn Vang said further: “The whereabouts of 1,237 Hmong refugees who were forced repatriated to the communist regime in Laos by the Thai government on June 22, 2008 and July 10, 2008, from Ban Huay Nam Khao, in Petchabun Provice, are still largely unaccounted for despite the efforts of the international community to stop their forced repatriation back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled,” stated Vaughn Vang of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. “We respectfully urge the new Royal Thai government and new Royal Thai Prime Minister to immediately halt this policy and reverse this terrible injustice as called for by the U.S. Congress in H.Res. 1273 and in many letters signed by dozens of U.S. Congressmen and Senators to the Royal Thai Government, His Majesty the King of Thailand, and to U.S. Secretary of State Rice.”

Vaughn Vang concluded his remarks by saying: "These Hmong refugees seeking political asylum in Thailand refuse to return to Laos, the country in which they have fled persecution, torture, death, and genocide. These innocent people, including many Hmong women and children, are appealing to the United Nations, United States, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the world community, and all human rights organizations to urge the Thai government to immediately stop the forced repatriation policy on these Hmong refugees. They are human beings who deserve human rights, peace, and justice."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ) and Amnesty International issued international appeals and reports regarding the plight of Lao Hmong refugees at Nong Khai, Thailand earlier this week. Amnesty International’s Report of November 17, 2008, entitled “Hmong Refugees Held By Thailand Must Be Freed” discusses the terrible plight of 92 Lao Hmong refugee children, in a group of 158 Laotian refugees, held in deplorable conditions by Thai authorities in Nong Khai Detention center.

Human Rights Watch, the Paris, France-based Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. and other independent non-governmental organizations ( NGOs ) have also issued numerous appeals along with leading human rights and refugee experts and advocates, including Dr Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Ambassador Eugene Douglas and others.


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