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Laos Dissidents Secretly Repatriated from Thailand

Laos Dissidents Secretly Repatriated from Thailand, Rule of Law Undermined; Black List Agreement May Target Hmong, Says CPPA

WASHINGTON, U.S. Newswire/ -- Sixteen surviving Lao and Thai dissident and rebel leaders who participated in the Ban Vang Tao cross-border raid that occurred at a Thai-Lao border crossing on July 3, 2000, were secretly, and forcibly repatriated from Bangkok, Thailand to the communist regime in Laos at 6 a.m. (Bangkok Local Time), Sunday morning, July 4, 2004.

"The deplorable forced repatriation of the sixteen Ban Vang Tao dissidents by Thai officials back to the brutal Pathet Lao regime is a significant and note-worthy blow to the rule of law in Thailand as well as the Thai judicial system who twice acquitted the defendants who were Thai and Lao citizens," said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. Smith also serves as the Washington, D.C., Director for the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., the nation's largest Hmong and Laotian veterans organization as well as a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations seeking political, human rights and economic reforms in Laos. "This dirty deed done secretly in the darkness by Thai officials sets a dangerous legal precedent and undermines democracy and the rule of law in Thailand for Thai citizens, and in particular Thai citizens of Laotian descent; the secret, forced repatriation of these Laotian dissidents is also apparently linked to the new 'Black List Agreement,' officially announced shortly after the joint Lao-Thai cabinet meeting earlier in the year, which is slated to also seek the forced repatriation of peaceful Laotian and Hmong opposition, religious and political leaders who have sought refuge and political asylum in Thailand, as well as Laotian and Hmong refugees and veterans living outside, or officially screened out, of the Wat Tham Krabrok refugee program," Smith stated.

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The sixteen Ban Vang Tao dissidents launched a rebel attack against the Pathet Lao regime on July 3, 2000, and hoisted the Royal Lao flag over Lao soil for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War. They briefly captured a Lao government immigration checkpoint and garrison, at the Lao village of Ban Vang Tao, and killed several Lao government troops and officials. The rebels also suffered casualties as a result of the attack, which was partially broadcasted on Thai television. Many of the nationalist rebels, who were mainly ethnic Laotian, held Lao and Thai citizenship. The Lao regime, at the highest diplomatic levels, aggressively sought their extradition from Thailand for over four years, but were thwarted by Thai courts and the judicial process in Thailand that twice acquitted them of charges filed against them by officials on both sides of the Mekong River. Various letters by Members of Congress were also sent to the Royal Thai government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) requesting that the Ban Vang Tao rebels and dissidents be granted political asylum in Thailand or a third country.

Continued Smith: "The secret move comes after a recently concluded "Black List Agreement" between Thailand and the Pathet Lao regime raises serious concerns about Hmong and Laotian veterans and their families living in Thailand who may be screened out of the Wat Tham Krabok refugee program, or who fled the temple at Wat Tham Krabok, during previous attempts by Thai officials to close the temple and forcibly repatriate the refugees and asylum seekers there. Like the jailed Lao Students Movement for Democracy protestors who they fought to support, the sixteen Laotian and Thai political dissidents who were secretly and forcibly repatriated from Bangkok, Thailand, back to the Communist Pathet Lao regime in the early morning hours of July 4, 2004, have now crossed the threshold of immortality as nationalist symbols of moral and popular opposition to the Vietnam-backed, Pathet Lao regime, and as Robin Hood-like folk- heroes who expressed many people's growing frustration with the institutional violence inflicted being upon peaceful students demonstrators and others who seek non-violent political change and economic reform in Laos."

"The Ban Vang Tao fighters fought selflessly and with compassion for both the Laotian and Thai people's freedom and against Vietnam's renewed military hegemony over Laos; these brave and courageous Lao and Thai men are our eternal heroes in their revolutionary acts and uprising against the brutal Pathet Lao regime who brutalized the peaceful Lao Students Movement for Democracy demonstrators in October of 1999; the secret and forced repatriation of these Lao and Thai citizens and human rights defenders only means that they will live eternally in our hearts and minds as beloved martyrs of the Lao nation and the Lao people in their struggle against the invading Vietnamese and communist Pathet Lao security and military forces; whether they live or die they now have put on the clothing of immortality in defending the honor and dignity of our beloved Kingdom of a Million Elephants - - Lan Xang -- and its proud history and culture," stated Bounthanh Rathigna, Chairman of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc.

"We are very concerned about the Pathet Lao regime's efforts in Thailand with the new 'Black List Agreement' and the Laotian and Hmong veterans at Wat Tham Krabok, and their refugee families elsewhere in Thailand, who fled the temple during efforts over the years to close the temple and forcibly repatriate the Hmong back to Laos," stated Colonel Wangyee Vang, National Director and founder of the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. "We are also very concerned about those who are screened out of the Wat Tham Krabok program in Thailand and the fate of the Laotian and Hmong people sent back to Laos, who are often killed, tortured or die in jail or detention under horrific conditions," Colonel Wangyee Vang continued. "Some of the Ban Vang Tao dissidents and rebels were former veterans of the Vietnam War, and they are nationalist heroes to many in the Laotian and Hmong Diaspora community for taking action against the brutal, Vietnam-backed Pathet Lao regime; they will live forever in our hearts for their patriotism," he concluded.

Jointly issued by the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. (LVA), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), the Lao Students Movement for Democracy (LSMD), the Lao Nationalist Reform Party (LNRP), the Hmong Reform Party (HRP), Laos Institute For Democracy (LIFD), the Wat Tham Krabok Watch Committee (WTKWC), the Lao Huam Phao Association (LHPA); Lao American Council Corporation (LACC), the Hmong Emergency Crisis Task Force (HECTF), the United Lao Action Center (ULAC), the Laos Fund (LF) and a coalition of Laotian and Hmong organizations seeking political and human rights reforms in Laos.


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