Cablegate: Demarche: Hmong "Material Support" Exemption

DE RUEHVN #0787/01 2961010
R 231010Z OCT 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 146812

1. (U) This cable contains an action request. See
paragraph 10.

2. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met with Assistant
Foreign Minister Alounkeo regarding the Hmong material
support exemption (Ref A) on October 22. Despite the
Ambassador's reassurances that the waiver does not represent
a departure from U.S. policy opposing violent action against
the Lao government, Mr. Alounkeo expressed serious concern
about the implications and potential effects of a waiver. He
said that this action by the USG represents a departure from
its strong anti-terrorist stance. He expressed concern that
the waiver would result in renewed migration to Thailand by
Lao Hmong hoping to go on to the U.S, dismissing the notion
that the 2004 cutoff date or public clarifications would
deter new migration. End summary.

3. (U) The Ambassador, accompanied by the DCM, called on
Assistant Foreign Minister Alounkeo Kittikhoun on October 22
to discuss the expected signature by the Secretary of an
exemption determining that the material support
inadmissibility provisions of the Immigration and Nationality
Act do not apply to individuals who provided material support
to Hmong groups before December 31, 2004. (Note: In fact,
the Secretary had signed the waiver on October 20, but the
Embassy did not receive word of this until October 23. End

4. (SBU) After the Ambassador made the points provided in
Ref A, Mr. Alounkeo said that the issuance of a waiver
appeared to contradict the USG's stated opposition to any
kind of terrorist activity. "You are going against your own
policy," he said. The Ambassador responded that persons who
had committed acts aimed at destabilizing the Lao government
would continue to be barred from becoming citizens. He said
that the U.S. does not condone acts of violence against the
Lao government.

5. (SBU) Mr. Alounkeo asked how many people the waiver
would apply to. The Ambassador said that the number was
uncertain. The primary goal, he said, was to deal with those
among the 15,000 persons resettled from Wat Tham Krabok in
Thailand in 2004 who would not qualify for citizenship
because of the material support provision. Mr. Alounkeo
expressed concern that the waiver would encourage other Lao
Hmong to go to Thailand in the hope of being resettled in the
U.S. The Ambassador replied that that the USG would make it
clear to the public that there will not be another
resettlement program. That, plus the December 31, 2004
cutoff date, which would disqualify people who continue to
provide material support, should limit the "pull factor."

6. (SBU) Mr. Alounkeo expressed skepticism that this would
discourage Lao Hmong from going to Thailand, asking, "How can
you control them?" He added that, because transfer of funds
was one of the categories of material support cited in the
legislation, the waiver could be interpreted by resettled
Hmong in the U.S. as an implicit endorsement of funding to
anti-government Hmong groups after resettlement in the United
States. Mr. Alounkeo reiterated that the background
information provided by the Ambassador "does not allay our
fear" that anti-government Hmong elements in Laos will think
that the U.S. is condoning their terrorist activities.

7. (SBU) Mr. Alounkeo asked whether the waiver would bring
legislative initiatives on this issue to an end. The
Ambassador replied that individual members of Congress may
continue to pursue legislation, but others may feel that it
is not needed with the waiver in place.

8. (SBU) Mr. Alounkeo said that his comments represented a
preliminary GOL response pending discussions with Foreign
Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, but appeared confident that the
final GOL response would be similar to his own expressed

9. (SBU) Comment: Mr. Alounkeo's strong negative reaction
to the waiver is not surprising and is consistent with
comments made to the Ambassador by other senior MFA officials
and the Prime Minister in prior discussion of the issue (Ref
B). Since the idea of a waiver first surfaced in the press
several months ago, the GOL has made it clear that it views
this issue as a litmus test of the sincerity of the USG's
stated opposition to efforts to destabilize the Lao
government. Embassy anticipates that the Lao government will
soon deliver a formal protest. Whether the Lao will respond
by curtailing our emerging areas of cooperation and dialogue
is less certain. What is certain is that the waiver will
strengthen the voices of those who remain suspicious of U.S.

VIENTIANE 00000787 002 OF 002

intentions and opposed to improved cooperation with the U.S.
End comment.

10. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: One step we could and should
take to send a clear signal of our intention, and bolster
reformers in the government, would be to lift the current
restrictions on Exim Bank programs for Laos (Ref B).

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