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US lawmakers see no ill-treatment of Hmong

US lawmakers back from a trip to Laos said they saw no signs of ill-treatment of ethnic Hmong recently expelled from Thailand, but rights advocates voiced fear they would face persecution later.

Thailand last month defied US, UN and EU appeals and forcibly repatriated some 4,500 Hmong into Laos. The Hmong, a hill people, fought alongside US forces in the Vietnam War Vietnam War, conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. , bringing the wrath of the communist Lao government.

Three US congressmen active on Asian affairs Asian Affairs, the Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, has been published continuously since 1914 (formerly as the Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society). It covers a range of social, political, and historical subjects linked to Asia.  -- Anh "Joseph" Cao, Eni Faleomavaega and Mike Honda Michael Makoto "Mike" Honda (Japanese: 本田 実 born June 27, 1941) is an American Democratic politician. He currently serves as Congressman for California's 15th congressional district, which encompasses Silicon Valley.  -- visited Laos as part of a four-nation trip over the holiday recess and asked to see the camps for repatriated Hmong.

"We heard all these rumors that they would be executing or harassing the repatriated Hmong," Honda told AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol.  in an interview. "We didn't get that sense."

Honda, a member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party from California, said that the Pha Lak camp appeared to be at maximum capacity with more than 500 people inside.

But he said the accommodation seemed "relatively new" with corrugated cor·ru·gate  
v. cor·ru·gat·ed, cor·ru·gat·ing, cor·ru·gates
To shape into folds or parallel and alternating ridges and grooves.

 roofs and proximity to wells built through British and French assistance.

"It was airy, clean and orderly," Honda said.

Cao, who has a fear of helicopters, did not go the camp but said he had a similar impression based on his colleagues' accounts and meetings in the capital Vientiane.

"I think people are being well-treated there," Cao told reporters on a conference call. "Many of the human rights violations that were being reported we did not observe there."

Cao, a Republican from Louisiana, said the congressmen had a luncheon with Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulit who "assured us that the Hmong will not be maltreated."

But Hmong advocates scoffed at the accounts, accusing Laotian authorities of putting on a show for the congressmen.

Australian newspaper The Age reported reaching another camp in Laos where "hundreds of asylum seekers, mainly women and children, stood barefoot in the dirt, behind three meters of razor wire, as loudspeakers exhorted them to move away."

Vaughn Vang, executive director of the Lao Human Rights Council, a pressure group in the midwestern US state of Wisconsin where many Hmong live, noted that the Pha Lak camp seen by the congressmen was set up before the recent repatriations.

Vang voiced concern that repatriated Hmong, particularly men with prominent roles, would face persecution away from the spotlight.

"The Laotians are very good playing this kind of game. I don't think the congressmen would see anything at Pha Lak," Vang said.

"There are new camps that no one can go to. That's the way the communists punish people, without anyone knowing," he said.

Philip Smith Philip Smith can mean:
  • Philip Smith (musician), American trumpeter
  • Philip Smith (VC), recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Philip A. Smith, President of Providence College
  • Philip Smith (banker), Canadian investment banker
, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, which focuses on Laos, said some repatriated Hmong have disappeared.

"We know from previous groups that a lot of Hmong have been killed and tortured and imprisoned," Smith said.

"It is outrageous and insulting to the Hmong community in the US to go so far as to accuse them of making up stories about human rights abuses," he said of the congressmen's remarks.

Thailand, which has been building relations with Laos, said the Hmong were illegal economic migrants and that it received assurances from its northeast neighbor that they would be well-treated.

The move triggered outrage overseas. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (established December 14, 1950) protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the United Nations and assists in their return or resettlement.  said that Thailand had broken international law by sending back a separate group of 158 Hmong recognized with UN refugee status.
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Publication:AFP Asian Edition
Date:Jan 14, 2010
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