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Laos Visit Sparks Talk Of Release Of Dissidents

Laos Visit Sparks Communiqué Urging Release Of Jailed Americans, Hmong Refugees, Political Dissidents

Washington, D.C. and New York, New York, July 16, 2010,
For Immediate Release
Center for Public Policy Analysis

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL) and a coalition of Lao and Hmong non-governmental and non-profit organizations have released a joint communiqué in Washington, D.C., and New York in opposition to the visit to the United States of Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and recent actions by the Lao government. Noted author, human rights and refugee advocate, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, and others have also raised concerns.

Thongloun Sisoulith, also serves as deputy prime minister, for the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR), a one-party, authoritarian regime closely allied with the military junta in Burma and Stalinist North Korea. The senior-level Lao Communist party official recently met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington where photos were taken and Laos pledged to cooperate on issues, including potentially expanding tourism and travel. An Open Skies Agreement was concluded.

“I and many others are concerned about the recent development with the July 13th Open Skies Accord signed by Lao and U.S. officials,” stated Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, a Southeast Asia scholar, human rights and refugee advocate and author. “There seems to be little concern at the State Department for the fate of the recently repatriated Hmong refugees.”

“Those of us who have worked for years on the Hmong refugee issues are stunned by the Open Skies arrangement with Laos without, as far as we can determine, a mention of human and civil rights,” Hamilton-Merritt further stated.

Three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul are still missing in Laos. U.S. Senator Al Franken recently traveled to Laos and Vietnam.

“In our communiqué and statement, we are calling on the Lao military and Thongloun Sisoulith to abide by international law and stop persecuting and killing the peace-loving Lao and Hmong people,” said Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the ULDL which has participated in recent human rights and pro-democracy protests in front of the LPDR Embassy in Washington, D.C.

“We are concerned about Thongloun Sisoulith’s meeting with Secretary Clinton at the State Department and the Open Skies Agreement because she may not know that the Lao military regime continues to engage in widespread corruption and the exploitation of the Laotian people; Laos under the LPDR regime remains a one-party regime closely allied with corrupt military generals in Hanoi as well as Burma and North Korea,” Mr. Rathigna stated.

“Ironically, and sadly, American citizens and others continue to be illegally detained, tortured and imprisoned in Laos, including Hakit Yang and two other Hmong-Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota who have been jailed for nearly three years,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. “In response to Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith’s visit to Washington, D.C. and meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a joint communiqué has been issued by our organization, in cooperation with Lao and Hmong non-government organizations, raising serious concerns about this and other issues, including the Lao military regime’s close relationship with Burma, North Korea and corrupt military generals in Vietnam.”

“The U.S. Congress and European Parliament have repeatedly issued resolutions and legislation urging Laos to abide by international law and cease its military attacks and human rights violations against Laotian and Hmong civilians, dissidents and refugees,” Smith said. “We are urging the Lao military and government to immediately release the three Americans it continues to imprison, including Hakit Yang, from St. Paul as well as the peaceful Lao student leaders and the 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees recently forced from Thailand to Laos.”

The following are excerpts from the Joint Communiqué:

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime in Laos to abide by international law and to release, unconditionally, all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including the Lao student leaders of the October 26 Lao Students Movement for Democracy and those arrested in the Fall of 2009,...,” the Joint Communique by the CPPA and Laotian and Hmong organizations stated.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and the LPDR regime in Laos,, to release immediately and unconditionally the American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota, including Mr. Hakit Yang, a Hmong-American citizen arrested and imprisoned in Laos for nearly 3 years.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and the LPDR regime in Laos, to immediately provide unfettered international access by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the thousands of Lao Hmong refugees who were forced from Thailand to Laos by the Thai and Lao military from 2007-2009, including some 158 screened-in political refugees from Nong Khai refugee camp.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime in Laos to cancel and rennounce the illegally-concluded, so-called Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Laos and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam that violates the neutrality and territorial integrity of Laos and provides the ongoing basis for the illicit exploitation of Laos and its people and natural resources by Vietnamese military-owned companies engaged in illegal logging and other activities.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime in Laos to halt all military attacks against Lao and Hmong civilians and politicial and religious dissident groups in hiding in the jungles and mountains of Laos.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime in Laos to cease the illegal sale of Laotian land to foreigners, especially to Vietnamese-military owned companies or Vietnamese military officials.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime to cease its military and and cooperation with the military junta in Burma and the Burmese military persecution of dissident Buddhist monks and religious believers.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime to cease its military cooperation with the Stalinist regime in North Korea and its imprisonment and detention of North Korean refugees and dissidents fleeing the Pyongyang regime.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and the LPDR regime in Laos, to expel all troops and secret police from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam that are currently engaged in military and security force operations in Laos and to immediately cease its construction and veneration of national monuments to Ho Chi Minh and North Korean and Vietnamese communist leaders in Laos.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime to cease their ongoing religious freedom violations, including the persecution and killing of dissident Christian, Catholic, Animist and Buddhist believers who seek to practice their faith outside official government control.

“We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime to cease their persecution of ethnic, political and religious minority groups and dissidents who seek peaceful change and reform in Laos, including the Hmong people, dissident Christian believers, Lao students and others.

"We urge Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the LPDR regime to cease their campaign of surveillance, intimidation, harassment and political violence directed at peaceful Lao and Hmong dissidents and Diaspora community members living in Thailand, France, the United States and abroad.”


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