April 3, 2017
Ms Mai Yia Thao, Mr James Her and Mr Gymbay Moua from the Congress of World Hmong People (CWHP) visited Washington, DC and Brussels between 24 and 30 March 2017. Together with members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) Secretariat they held a round of advocacy meetings and two documentary screenings to raise awareness about the gross human rights violations suffered by the Hmong people in the Laotian jungle. Both the Brussels and the DC screenings were met with considerable public interest and well attended, and were thus highly successful in spreading the word about the Hmong ChaoFa’s largely unknown situation. Through targeted meetings with EU policymakers, the delegation then brought the plight of their vulnerable people living in the most remote parts of Laos to the attention of the European institutions.
On 24 March 2017, UNPO organized a screening of David Beriain’s documentary “The CIA’s Lost Army” in Washington, DC. The film focuses on the oft-forgotten story of those Hmong who were forced to shelter in the remote jungle of Laos in order to escape the punitive war of extermination the Lao government inflicted upon them ever since the end of the Vietnam War. On 29 March, a second screening was then organized in Brussels, Belgium.
The documentary provided much food for thought, as evidenced by the fruitful discussion and the many questions audience members had the opportunity to ask during Q&A sessions following both screenings. In their responses, filmmaker David Beriain and CWHP representatives James Her and Gymbay Moua addressed the lack of unity among the Hmong diaspora, which is mainly due to the widespread scattering of Hmong refugees across the world, including some in China and Viet Nam who cannot engage due to limitations on their freedom of expression. Mr Beriain also highlighted how the United States neglected to reach out to Hmong veterans, even among those who are currently refugees in the country. The discussion touched upon the moral dilemma surrounding the armed children who can be seen in the film and the lack of representation of female Hmong.
The Hmong also used their stay in Europe to engage in advocacy activities. While in Brussels from 28 to 30 March, they met with several Members of the European Parliament and Commission, as well as with European External Action Service officials. They raised awareness about the situation of their people and advocated for the EU to be more vocal on this issue. While 20,000 to 30,000 Hmong had gone into hiding in the Laotian jungle after the end of the Vietnam War, no more than 2,000 to 3,000 are still alive today. This is due to a violent military campaign unleashed by the Laotian army, which has considerably intensified since June 2016 and has seen the authorities not only using chemical weapons against Hmong communities, but also starvation as a way to wipe out the indigenous Hmong people. In order to safeguard human rights and prevent the Hmong ChaoFa from being eradicted completely, CWHP and UNPO call upon the EU to step up its activities in this regard by providing humanitarian assistance to the Hmong people and pressuring Laos to put an end to its inhumane and discriminatory campaign.
For more information about the Hmong’s situation, you can read our briefing note.
For photos of the Brussels screening, click here.