Wednesday, September 5, 2007

American-Hmong "Disappear"

The Laos Government has been killing Hmong for years so this in no surprise to anyone who's ever spent any time there. What amazes me is how the world just doesn't care.

At least three U.S. citizens, possibly four, of ethnic Hmong descent have recently disappeared in Laos, at the hands of Laotian security forces, following their recent arrest and imprisonment on unknown charges.

At least three U.S. citizens of ethnic Hmong descent, possibly four, have recently disappeared in Laos, at the hands of Laotian security forces, following their recent arrest and imprisonment in Vientiane, Laos on unknown charges.

“Multiple, and reliable independent eyes-on-the-ground human sources in Laos as well as immediate family members in the United States have confirmed that three Hmong-American citizens were arrested on August 25 in Laos by Laotian military and security forces while they were apparently sightseeing and seeking business opportunities,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis, in Washington, D.C.

The three Lao-Hmong-American men include: Mr. Hakit Yang, 21; Mr. Conghineng Yang,, 31; and Trillion Yunhaison, 41. All are from St. Paul, Minnesota and the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. A fourth Hmong individual Mr. Pao Vang, of unknown nationality and age, was reportedly acting as tour guide for the group, and was also reportedly arrested and jailed with them.

The Hmong-Americans have no known political or family ties to opposition or dissident factions and had departed the United States for travel to Laos on July 10 from the Twin Cities.

Continued Smith: “Eyewitness and reliable sources, including dissident and opposition sources inside the Lao regime, have reported that these Hmong-American men were transported in Vientiane Laos to Ponthong prison by special Lao military and secret police. The Lao officials forcibly gagged the men and put black hoods over their heads and handcuffed them behind their backs. Their feet were also shackled and they were dragged into the notorious Ponthong Prison on August 25 where many prisoners, including political prisoners, have been tortured, killed or held for lengthy sentences under horrific conditions .

Stated Smith: “Unfortunately, on August 30, eyewitness and reliable sources reported that all of the Hmong-American citizens were taken out of Ponthong Prison by Lao security and military forces who forcefully loaded them on a government truck along with other unknown Hmong and Lao prisoners. Once again, the Hmong -Americans were placed in black hoods and were handcuffed, shackled and gagged. They were then forced under a canvas tarpaulin on the military vehicle for apparent transport to an unknown location with the unknown Hmong and Lao prisoners.”

In 2003, Pastor Naw Karl Moua, a Hmong-American citizen and Lutheran Pastor from St. Paul Minnesota was arrested in Laos along with two European photojournalists and a group of Hmong seeking to document human rights violations and reports of ethnic cleansing in Laos directed against the Hmong people in closed military zones. Pastor Moua was held at Ponthong Prison along with the others reportedly in his group, some of whom are still jailed in Laos by the Communist authorities, including two Hmong guides and translators that are now reportedly moved from Ponthong prison to Sam Khe prison where they are serving long prison terms in harsh conditions.

Details of the arrests and disappearance of the Hmong-Americans, comes at a pivotal time when Laotian officials are holding a major joint meeting at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand from Sept. 2-4 with Thai military officials regarding the fate and status of some 8,000 Lao-Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers . Lao officials have stated that they would like the Hmong refugees repatriated to Laos.

In recent weeks, the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees ( UNHCR ), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders ( MSF ), Journalists Without Borders and other humanitarian and human rights organizations have urged the Thai Government not repatriate the Lao-Hmong refugees back to the Communist regime in Laos that they fled.

On August 3, 2007, Rep. Frank Wolf ( R-VA ), Rep. Ron Kind ( D-WI ), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ) and thirteen Members of Congress transmitted a U.S. Congressional letter to the King of Thailand appealing for his help to seek to grant asylum to the 8,000 Lao-Hmong at Ban Huay Nam Khao until they can be resettled in third countries like Australia.

Smith concluded: “Since their brutal transfer out of Ponthong prison, no current information has been received about the whereabouts and condition of the three Hmong-Americans now being detained without formal charges nor their Hmong travel guide. They are presumed to have been transported to another Lao government prison or detention camp outside of the capital for further detention, interrogation or worse. To date the Lao government reportedly refuses to confirm or deny that it has arrested the group Hmong-Americans.”

Recent efforts by the U.S. Embassy in Laos, family members of the three Hmong-Americans, and humanitarian and human rights organizations, appear to have yielded no further information to date.