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Australia OAM Honors Laos, Hmong Human Rights Advocate

Washington, D.C., January 28, 2014

Kay Danes, who suffered imprisonment and torture in Laos at the hands of communist officials, is being honored in Australia with the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her social justice and human rights work.

Danes often travels to Washington, D.C., on invitation, to speak in the U.S. Congress about human rights violations in Laos and the plight of the Lao and Hmong people, including imprisoned political and religious dissidents. She has testified about the status of Hmong refugees facing forced repatriation in Thailand, foreign prisoners tortured in Laos, religious persecution, and Lao- and Hmong-American men from St. Paul, Minnesota, still imprisoned in Laos, including Hakit Yang. Congshineng Yang, and Trillion Yunhaison.

The OAM is the principal and most prestigious means of recognizing outstanding members of the community in Australia. It was established by the Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations, Elizabeth II.

"I am grateful to be a recipient of this award and hope that the human rights conversation continues to strengthen throughout the world,” said Kay Danes.

“Human rights are the foundation of civil societies and set the guidelines on how we ought to act towards one another.

“My long-standing relationship with the Centre for Public Policy Analysis and in particular, with Mr. Philip Smith, has very much played an important part of this award to which I am recognized today. Together, and with other humanitarians and U.S. Government officials, we hope to secure greater human rights freedoms for the thousands of those still oppressed by totalitarian regimes.”

“Kay Danes had provided critical research, evidence and testimony to the U.S. Congress, government policymakers and the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), over the years, regarding ongoing human rights and religious freedom violations in Laos, Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA.

“Kay Danes’ courage to give voice to the voiceless has been invaluable in helping to understand the hidden reality of the communist regimes in Laos and Vietnam, especially in light of the abduction of civic activist and Magsaysay Award winner Sombath Somphone by Lao security forces and the international outcry for his release.

“We congratulate Kay Danes for being honored with the Medal of the Order of Australia. We are happy for her, and her husband Kerry, especially after the horrific human rights abuses they both suffered and witnessed in Laos during their imprisonment by the Lao communist government as political prisoners.”

“The Lao and Hmong community are grateful to Kay Danes for her important human rights efforts,” said Sheng Xiong, of St. Paul, Minnesota, whose husband was imprisoned and tortured in Laos with other Hmong-Americans.

“We thank Kay Danes for bringing awareness about terrible human rights violations in Laos and the suffering in the prisons, detention centers and refugee camps,” said Bounthanh Rathigna of the United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL).

Two Lao-American members of the ULDL from St. Paul, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, who participated in public policy events with Kay Danes in Washington, D.C., disappeared last year in Savannakhet Province, Laos, and are feared dead in an incident involving Lao security and military forces. The three men traveling together during the incident were Souli Kongmalavong, Bounma Phannhotha and Bounthie Insixiengmai.

Kay Danes is an author of several books on Laos and the plight of foreign prisoners.

ENDS

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