Many of the Hmong people are Christians, and they face persecution from the government in Laos. The below discusses what Hmong immigrants to the U.S. are doing to help the human rights situation in their home country.
Group seeks in ending Hmong genocide
By Mike Hoeft
The Green Bay Press Gazette (12/19/05)
Seng Thao of Green Bay says time is running out to help the Hmong minority in Laos facing persecution by Lao government forces.
He spoke by satellite telephone recently with his older brother, Yang Toua Thao, who lives in the remote highland jungle of Laos .
The brothers haven’t seen each other since they were separated during an ambush in 1979 in Laos . Seng Thao escaped to a refugee camp, eventually resettling in Green Bay in 2000.
In a recent call, Thao’s brother spoke of how Hmong people are being killed or starved to death and are living in fear of being attacked by troops.
“Without help, they will all die,” Seng Thao said.
Vaughn Vang, director of the Lao Human Rights Council in Green Bay , urged the United States and United Nations to act.
He asked the U.S. government to pressure Laos to end the genocide or help escort the Hmong out of the country.
Vang and other Hmong from across Wisconsin have met with U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Hobart, to ask for federal help. A group met with Green in February and again this month. Vang said violence against Hmong people has stepped up in December.
“He said he’d help any way he can,” Vang said.
Green’s office is working on two efforts: urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to push for answers from Laos and requesting the House Committee on International Relations to hold a hearing on the issue.
“We’re trying to spread the word,” said Green’s spokesman Chris Tuttle. ” Laos has a history of human rights abuses.”
An obstacle is verifying reports of atrocities, Tuttle said. Laos has refused U.N. efforts to investigate. Without independent verification of abuses, it’s difficult to get Congress to act.
Yet reports from foreign journalists and phone contact with Hmong villagers indicate a pattern of abuse likely is continuing, Tuttle said.
Andrew Perrin, writing in TIME/Asia magazine on April 28, 2003, reported meeting hundreds of Hmong people in Saysomboun in northern Laos . He had hiked four days to reach them in the jungle.
“They wept and knelt before me on the ground, crying, ‘Please help us, the communists are coming.’ In all my years as a journalist I had never seen anything like this: a ragtag army with wailing families in tow, beseeching me to take news of their plight to the outside world. I walked among starving children, their tiny frames scarred by mortar shrapnel. Young men, toting rifles and with dull-eyed infants strapped to their backs, ripped open their shirts to show me their wounds.”
The Lao government denied allegations that it is decimating Hmong rebels and blamed them for much of the unrest in the country, Perrin wrote.
The acrimony can be traced back to the Vietnam War more than 30 years ago, when Hmong tribes sided with the American CIA.
Green’s letter, co-signed by six other members of Congress, said Voice of America recently reported that Hmong refugees in the Saysomboun area are in a “desperate situation” because of continuous persecution by Lao government forces. In a separate incident, video evidence and witness testimony confirmed that Lao soldiers brutally killed and mutilated five Hmong children, four of whom were girls and had been raped before being murdered.
Green’s letter asked for Rice’s response to these questions:
How do you gauge the veracity of recent reports of serious human rights abuses committed by the Lao government and its forces?
Have U.S. Consulate officials been granted access to the Saysomboun Special Zone, as well as other areas, to investigate first-hand the events of Hmong persecution that have been reported?
What action is the U.S. taking to hold the Lao government accountable for its repeated human rights abuses against Hmong?
“We must do all we can to help these people and bring an end to the horrible tactics routinely employed by the Lao government,” Green said in the letter.
About 1,000 people have been slain and 8,000 are missing, Vang said.
Vang said Hmong leaders in Green Bay are in contact daily with refugees by satellite phone.
“We want America to step in and help,” Vang said.