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Hmong Fear to Speak During US, Thailand Visit

Hmong Fear to Speak During US, Thailand Visit

Washington, D.C. and Bangkok, Thailand, February 26, 2010

On the day that the Lao government is finally allowing limited access to some 3,000 Hmong refugees forced back to Laos, concern has been raised by Lao and Hmong human rights organizations and the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) that hundreds of Lao Hmong refugees have been coerced into signing false “confessions” by authorities in Laos. Lao military and government officials have threatened to severely punish or summarily execute Hmong refugees and their families if they speak out against the Lao regime, or their forced repatriation to Laos. As a result of the bogus confessions that they have recently been forced to sign, Hmong refugees fear retaliation if they speak the truth about their recent plight in Thailand and Laos and human rights violations against them.

After nearly two months, the Lao government is finally allowing U.S. and Thai officials, along with some news media reporters, to visit an estimated 3,000 Hmong refugees in Ponkham village, in Bolikhamxay Province, who were forced back to Laos on December 28 of last year by the Thai and Lao military. Over 4,700 Lao Hmong refugees were forced back to the communist regime in Laos they fled in December of last year. A total of 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers were forced back to Laos by Thai and Lao military officials from 2007-2009.

“The Hmong refugees in Ponkham village, Pha Lak village and elsewhere in Laos are unable to freely and openly communicate to visiting officials and journalists the true horrific human rights violations inflicted upon them by the Thai and Lao military to for fear of retaliation when these foreign visitors leave,” said Vaugh Vang, Director of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council.

“Many of the Hmong men were beaten, subjected to food and sleep deprivation, in order to get them to sign the fake confessions that the Communist officials seek in order to intimidate and silence the Hmong refugees in Laos and spread fear in terror among their families,” Vang said. “They Lao officials, for propaganda reasons, want the Hmong to remain silent or say only good things about the Lao government and their treatment.”

“Laotian and Hmong sources in Ponkham and Pha Lak village, as well as elsewhere in Laos, have confirmed that hundreds of Hmong refugees forced by the Thai Army back to Laos have been threatened and coerced into signing false ‘confessions’ by Lao military and security forces who have interrogated, threatened and tortured significant numbers of the refugees, including many of the Hmong elders, veterans and clan leaders,” stated Philip Smith Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

Smith explained: “Unless the refugees remain silent and compliant, the false confessions extracted under torture and duress, including sleep deprivation and beatings, allow the Lao government to retaliate against individual refugees with the death penalty, as well as their immediate and extended family in Laos, for agreeing that they have conducted alleged subversive capital crimes against the state and communist party.”

"Hmong refugees are being silenced in Laos after being forced to sign, and in some cases, place their finger prints on bogus confessions drafted by Lao police and military officials seeking to intimidate them with death penalty threats," Smith said.

“The Lao military, consistent with its historical operation of re-education camps in Sam Neua Province and elsewhere in Laos, is now forcibly extracting hundreds of forced signed confessions from Hmong refugees during reeducation and indoctrination sessions; so the visit of U.S. and Thai officials today at the camp, along with a delegation of journalists, is unlikely to reveal the truth of what is really going on in Laos because the refugees fear retaliation against themselves and their families when the foreign visitors leave,” Smith concluded.

In recent years, Laos has repeatedly stated that Hmong refugees return to Laos would be subjected to re-education camps in Laos. Over half of the 8,000 Hmong refugees recently returned to Laos from 2007-2009 are missing in Laos, including many from the June 2008 mass forced repatriation following a protest march of thousands of the refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao seeking to petition the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Bangkok for political asylum. Many of the Hmong refugees forced back to Laos by the Thai Army have be imprisoned in secret camps and prisons in remote and scattered areas in Laos, others have disappeared or have been imprisoned or summarily executed, including many of the leaders of the June 2008 protest march. http://www.media-newswire.com/release_1068048.html

Additional troops and security forces from Vietnam have been deployed in Laos in recent months to stem growing dissent and social unrest with the one-party communist regime. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the Vietnam Peoples Army, continues to oversee and train the Lao Peoples Army and secret police. Torture and forced confessions have in increased in Vietnam and Laos against political and religious dissidents as well as others suspected of opposing government or party policies. http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=34308

According to Amnesty International, at least nine (9) Laotian protest leaders have disappeared in Laos following their arrest in Vientiane on November 2, 2009.
http://wwwamnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA26/004/2009/en###

ENDS

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