Laos: Opposition to US Funding of Bomb Clearing From Vietnam
Laos: Opposition to U.S. Taxpayers’ Funding of Bomb Clearing From Vietnam War-Era
April 11, 2013, Washington, D.C., and Vientiane, Laos
The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and a coalition of Lao and Hmong non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are opposing a controversial multi-million dollar U.S. State Department program to remove unexploded Vietnam-era ordinance and bombs from Laos.
In opposition to the program, which the State Department is promoting with a current national U.S. tour, the NGOs are citing increased human rights abuses and religious and minority persecution in Laos. The organizations are also raising concerns about the recent arrest and abduction of Laotian civic activist Sombath Somphone, widespread government corruption in Laos, illegal logging, and religious persecution by the Lao government and military. Concerns have also been raised about the Lao government’s ongoing solidarity and support for North Korean (DPRK).
“We oppose any U.S. funding for bomb removal in Laos, given the Lao government’s ongoing persecution and killing of the Laotian and Hmong people,” said Vaughn Vang, Executive Director for the Lao Human Rights Council. "This is absurd and immoral, given the Lao goverment's role in abducting, persecuting and killing its own people."
“Before any further funds are given for bomb removal efforts in Laos by the U.S. taxpayers, the Lao government must release Sombath Somphone, and jailed Lao Student for Democracy protest leaders, as well as information about the three Lao-Americans from Minnesota who disappearance in Laos at the hands of the Lao military and secret police in January,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos.
“It is deplorable for the U.S. to contribute money to the clean-up of bombs and unexploded ordinance in Laos from the Vietnam War-era, while corrupt Lao military officials are engaged in brutal human rights violations, the abduction of activists, and ethnic cleansing against many of their own Lao and Hmong people,” said Philip Smith, Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.
“The Lao military and security forces continue to drop bombs and launch horrific and bloody attacks against peaceful civilian minority communities, including the Hmong people, in the mountains and jungles of Laos,” Smith stated. “The Lao Peoples Army (LPA) continues to heavily bomb its own freedom-loving people; Currently, the one-party communist regime in Laos is often engaged in machine-gunning, rocketing, bombing, and starving to death many innocent Laotian and Hmong civilians, and religious and dissident communities, in the mountains and jungles of Laos. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130304006755/en/Laos-Attacks-Intensify-Lao-Hmong-People
“Moreover, given the current U.S. Federal budget crisis, growing deficient, and serious economic problems in America, there is significant opposition at this time to the funding of this misguided and highly questionable bomb-removal program in Laos,” Smith commented. “Clearly, Laos should meet certain basic conditions, including the of release Sombath Somphone and imprisoned Lao student and dissident leaders before U.S. funds are provided for any such bomb-removal e projects in Laos.”
“It is also important to note that the Lao military and politburo are closely allied with the communist regime in North Korea, and no U.S. taxpayers’ money should go toward bomb removal programs in Laos until the Lao government renounces its relations with the Stalinist regime in North Korea,” Smith concluded.
The coalition of NGOs opposed to U.S. funding for the bomb removal program in Laos include the CPPA, Lao Human Rights Council (LHRC), United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL), Lao Institute for Democracy (LIFD), Lao Students for Democracy (LSFD), United Lao for Human Rights and Democracy (ULHRD), Hmong Advance, Inc. (HAI), Hmong Advancement (HA), Lao Veterans of America (LVA), Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI) and others.