Feb 17, 2010

Hmong: Refugees Said to have Little Food, Supplies in Remote Camp in Laos

Sample ImageMany Hmong families living in the Fox Valley have lost touch with loved ones who were forcibly removed from refugee camps in Thailand late last year, an advocate says


Below is an article published by: The Post-Crescent

Vaughn Vang of the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council in Green Bay said Thursday a source told him the refugees were placed in a remote resettlement area, where they were left with few supplies and food. Many need medical attention, Vang said.

Refugees were left with a few blankets, utensils and pots and pans, he said. Those who had cell phones are not able to use them in the remote area, he said."They are suffering," he said. "They are waiting on the world and the (United Nations) to help them."

Faida Thao, former president of the Appleton-based Hmong-American Partnership said Sunday he doesn't know of any Fox Cities families whose relatives have been forcibly resettled."But Hmong here and throughout the U.S. have deep concern for those who have been deported to Laos," he said. "Everyone understands that the communists who took over our country say one thing and do another."Thao is particularly concerned about male leaders and elders.

"For now they may not do anything to them, but they may try to do something to them in the future so they die."
Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said returnees had been moved from temporary holding camps to resettlement villages the first half of January.Vang estimated about 1,000 of the nearly 5,000 people removed from Thailand were allowed into other areas of the country. Other families, including some from the jungle area of Laos, were placed in the resettlement villages, he said. Some families can't be accounted for.

The resettlement area is heavily guarded and no one is allowed to enter, Vang said. His source had not heard that people were tortured, but said people were told they could be "persecuted or killed" if they disclosed information about the resettlement area, he said.

Many Hmong fought during the Vietnam War to back a pro-American Lao government. Since the war, more than 300,000 Lao, mostly Hmong, fled to Thailand and for years were housed in camps aided by international agencies. Most were either repatriated to Laos or resettled in third countries, particularly the United States.Nineteen humanitarian and human rights groups, fearing the Hmong could be in danger, recently issued a letter to Lao leaders asking for access to the site.

Lao government officials said the U.N. could visit, but that they might want to wait until April, when a better road to the villages would be complete. But Vang said the area could be reached by helicopter.
"People are hungry, they're sick, they need help," he said.