Hmong: Alarming Crackdown on the ChaoFa in LPDR
The Hmong ethnic minority has suffered state persecution in the Laos People’s Democratic Republic in retaliation for the community’s alleged support for the United States of America during the Vietnam War, since the signature of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973, which officially ended the war. Having had their villages destroyed and endured numerous violations to their basic human rights, including extrajudicial killings, torture, illegal arrest and detainment, a group of Hmong people have fled to the northern jungles, in particular in the Phou Bia region, where they remain living in hiding due to the routine threat of military attacks from the Laotian armed forces. Although the UNPO has reported the atrocities committed against the Hmong communities since 2007, recent confrontations between them and the Lao military have rapidly deteriorated into a highly alarming situation, threatening the survival of these people. The UNPO urges the international community to immediately act in support of the Hmong communities that are currently under attack by the Lao forces and try to avoid a true disaster from happening.
Referred to as “ChaoFa” by the LPDR Government, the group of Hmong who have fled into the Laotian jungles face violations to their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights at most concerning levels. Forced to constantly move location in order to keep their whereabouts concealed, they have no means to engage in agricultural activities or construct adequate housing facilities. Even their temporary structures, as well as fruit trees or crops, are often destroyed by Laotian forces. They are forced to rely on what the jungle has to offer for their basic subsistence, facing severe malnourishment and food insecurity. Further, by lacking access to drinkable water, they are greatly vulnerable to several diseases. To add to this, the ChaoFa Hmong are not integrated into the Laotian society, its educational and healthcare systems nor to its labour market, and are also not represented in the country’s administration. It is worth noting that the denial of basic provisions is identified in Article 7 (1)(b) and (2)(b) of the Rome Statute as a crime against humanity, as the extreme difficult condition and lack of access to food and medical supplies are elements of the crime of extermination. Moreover, as evidences of the use of chemical weapons by the Laotian military against Hmong people dates back to 1976, with a phenomenon described as “yellow rain”, the UNPO received concerning photos and videos earlier this month [October 2018] that indicated the continued use of these weapons against Hmong groups living in the Laotian jungle. In addition to these past allegations of events that constitute a pattern of gross violations, recent attacks from the Laotian military indicate an increase in the levels and severity of violence , leading to the death of many civilians, including women and children.
While their situation was already precarious, the confrontation that has been taking place between a group of ChaoFa Hmong and the Lao military since 15 October 2018 has led to a rapid and alarming deterioration of their condition.
On 15 October 2018, there was a report of fighting between the Hmong and the Lao military, which took place about 10 kilometers west from Phou Bia. The fighting began when a group of thirty Hmong ChaoFa men, women and children went out to search for food and encountered a group of Lao military, who were searching for the Hmong ChaoFa. The Laotian military blocked them from finding food supplies in the area and immediately open fired on the Hmong at around 3pm, . As fighting continued, one army tank and two army trucks loaded with Lao military arrived and joined in from 3pm to 6pm. Seng Her, a Hmong man aged thirty four, was shot on the shoulder, and the rest of the group managed to escape safely. The Congress of World Hmong People (CWHP)’s President, Mr. Chonglor Her, expressed his concern over access to food and medication, as well as the safety of all children, while fighting has continued in the remote areas of the region.
On 20 October 2018, at 5:30 am local time, the Laotian military attacked President Her’s community hiding location in a strategic attempt to stifle his reach to society. The fighting continued until 10 am, leaving five Hmong ChaoFa people killed and two wounded, among them men, women and children. The casualties included Mr. Vangher Xiong, 45 years-old, Mr. Vashoua Chang, 40 years-old, Mr. Therxeng Xiong, 28 years-old, Maiya Xiong, a girl aged 12 , and Toukor Xiong, a 5 years-old boy. The two wounded people were Mrs. Vaher Xiong, 40 years-old and Touka Xiong, a baby aged 8 months.
On 22 October 2018 President Her reported that since the morning of that day until 12:30 pm, the Laotian military fired 120mm and 130mm bullets, which bombed President Her’s hiding location 100 times.
On October 22 2018, at 8:12 pm, Bangkok time, President Her reported that the two wounded people are in critical condition with no medication and they are not able to go out to find traditional herbal medicine, as the Lao military surrounded the Hmong territory. The 34 year old man, Seng Her, had his wound opened from a bullet of AK 47 that went through near his nipple to the back, a wound on his shoulder, a wound on his lower leg and one on his finger. The left hand of the 40 years old, Mrs. Vaher Xiong, was shot and deteriorated. Mr. Her states that people are in severe starvation and they have no possibility to forage for food.
Yesterday, 23 October 2018, 2018 at 6:21 am, Bangkok time, President Chonglor Her called and request for humanitarian assistance from the EU, UN and USA immediately.
According to Mr. Her, since 15 October 2018 his people are suffering from severe starvation. He further affirmed that, if nothing is done, his people will not die from being killed in direct confrontation, but from starvation. The dead bodies of those who were shot and killed by Lao’s military have not yet been confiscated and buried due to heavy Lao military presence in the area.
The Lao PDR continues to deny engaging in attacks against the Hmong ChaoFa and their continued persecution in the jungle. The UN OHCHR has submitted many recommendations in the past, but no action has been taken by relevant actors. In a review to the United Nations on 16 September 2018, the Laotian government once again denied committing these atrocities, claiming that NGOs have mislead the Council. However, among several strong pieces of evidence, one can cite the Laotian government’s deploying of heavy artillery forces against Hmong communities, an act of disproportionate use of force that is illegal under the principle of proportionality under law of armed conflict conventions .
President Her thus questions whether this attack should be classified as a war crime. The Hmong people demand that the Laotian government no longer conceal such atrocities and the severe violations it has been committing for decades, and call on the United Nations to hold the country’s authorities responsible for their acts.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
On 28 October 2018, at 7:26 am, UNPO has received a report from President Her who informed that his people are still infected with poisoning from the rocket propellant that exploded nearby his hiding location on 21 October 2018 after 8:00 pm. Mr. Her described that while the rocket propellants were quiet and they could not identify where they came from, they have exploded with loud sharp cracking noise like thunder strike and it felt like they had exploded in the air. People are experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, chest congestion, weakeness on legs and arms.
Mr. Her further reported that the Lao military continues to launch heavy artillery on his territory and that there are helicopters flying every day to the Lao military base. According to him, as soldiers are still occupying the ChaoFa Hmong territory, it is extremely difficult for his people to forage for food and they are suffering from severe starvation. In addition, the wounded people from the attacking from the Lao military are suffering with pain due to the lack of access to medication.
Mr. Her wants to raise this matter to the international community to condemn the Lao PDR government to stop the attacking against the ChaoFa Hmong.