U.S. Ambassador H. E. Douglas Urges Thailand to Assist Laos, Hmong Refugees

Oct. 20, 2009 - PRLog -- Washington, D.C. and Nong Khai, Thailand,

In response to breaking developments regarding the current Lao Hmong refugee and humanitarian crisis in Thailand and Laos, The Honorable H. Eugene Douglas, Former Ambassador at Large and U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs (1981 – 1985) issued a statement regarding the serious plight of Lao-Hmong refugees and asylum seekers in Thai detention camps in Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, and Nong Khai, Thailand.  The text of his statement was issued on August 9th of 2009 in Washington, D.C., New York and Bangkok, Thailand.

“Clearly, Ambassador Douglas’ key statement comes at a critical and pivotal time during the current Laos, Hmong refugee crisis and sheds important light and valuable perspective on this serious humanitarian and human rights issue said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA).

“Many of the Lao Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai, Thailand who fled political and religious persecution in Laos are seeking to be reunited with their families in the United States, Australia, Canada, France and other countries; they do not want to be forced back to Laos," continued Smith.  http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

Earlier this year, Virginia Senator and Chairman Jim Webb, of the United States (D-VA), visited Thailand, Laos and Southeast Asia, where he raised human rights and national security concerns, including the dire plight of Lao and Hmong political refugees and political dissidents. Senator Webb’s visit comes in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s earlier trip to Thailand where she attended a meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations ( ASEAN ) on Phuket Island and discussed the plight of the Lao Hmong political refugees with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Human rights and refugee advocates, scholars and former U.S. Administration officials, including former U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, B. Jenkins Middleton, Esq., Edmund McWilliams, U.S. Department of State, FSO-Ret., Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author and historian [ “Tragic Mountains: the Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos” ( Indiana University Press )], Philip Smith, Executive Director, CPPA, and others have issued repeated appeals and statements recently on behalf of the Lao Hmong refugees seeking to stop their forced repatriation to Thailand.

The French humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders (Medcins Sans Frontieres – MSF ), in protest of the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the communist regime in Laos that the Lao Hmong fled, withdrew their humanitarian staff and assistance from the camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao, in May 2009, and issued a detailed report about human rights and humanitarian abuses.

U.S. Ambassador H. Eugene Douglas’ statement is as follows:

Statement issued by The Honorable H. Eugene Douglas, Former Ambassador at Large and U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs (1981 – 1985),
on the plight of the Lao Hmong in Thailand Detention Camps, August 9, 2009

“During her July 21 -22 official visit to Southeast Asia, Secretary of State Clinton spoke with Thailand’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about the present conditions and future of thousands of Lao Hmong remaining in detention camps in Thailand. While details of these talks are sketchy, all Americans concerned with human rights and justice should congratulate the Secretary for raising this perennially sensitive issue at the highest levels of the Royal Thai Government.

As a follow up to her own efforts, Secretary Clinton directed the State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary dealing with refugees, Samuel Witten, to personally conduct visits to the detention sites and confer with the Thai authorities . In country from July 27 – August 1, Mr. Witten made some progress but came away without a firm commitment from the Thai Government to relieve the refugee’s major fears of a sudden involuntary repatriation to Laos.

Visiting American officials come and go from Bangkok, but the grim situation for the Lao Hmong in the camps seems not to change for the better. The recent withdrawal of Medcins Sans Frontieres, the highly respected humanitarian organization, from its work in the detention camps was a rare and dramatic protest against the intimidation and pressures practiced by the Thai Army and Police against the Lao Hmong.

The Lao Hmong population in the detention camps numbers less than 5,000 men, women and children. While the United States provides substantial financial assistance for the maintenance of this group, one should remember that the United States is speaking publicly of accepting more than 10,000 Burmese, also in Thai camps, for resettlement in the United States in the coming year. Another group of 4,500 Burmese will find homes in permanent resettlement in countries other than the USA. Can we not deal with even 5,000 Lao Hmong who have stated they prefer take their own life before returning to Laos and a certain and more cruel death orchestrated by the Lao authorities.

Are the conditions inside Laos more favorable for the Lao Hmong than the Burmese refugees say await them if they should return to Burma? In the mass of cases, the answer is no. The anti-Hmong actions and attitudes of the Lao Government are widely documented and reliable reports of repressive steps against the Hmong inside Laos are reported in the world press and by human rights watch groups.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the State Department’s own Refugee Bureau know what needs to be done and what decency, justice and compassion demand. Secretary Clinton should follow her instincts for dealing forthrightly with difficult issues. Find resettlement homes for the Lao Hmong detained for so many years in the Thai camps

End Statement of August 9-10, 2009, by The Honorable H. Eugene Douglas
Former Ambassador at Large and U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs (1981 – 1985)

Contact: Mr. Juan Lopez or Ms. Maria Gomez
Tele. (202) 543-1444

Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA)
2020 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., No.#212
Washington, D.C. 20006
United States of America

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