WGIP: Side event on the Hmong Lao, at the United Nations
Mr. Vaughn Vang from the Lao Human Rights Council and Ms. Rebecca Sommer,
UN Representative for the Society for Threatened Peoples International, presented
the situation of the Hmong people in Laos, and the refugees who recently fled from Laos to Thailand, on the 5th day of the WGIP, at the United Nations in Geneva.
Mr. Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council reminded the attentive audience in his opening statement, that his people, the Hmong Lao, who are forced into hiding in remote jungle regions of Laos, have been continuously chased and brutally massacred by Vietnamese and Laotian military forces for more than 30 years.
The Lao Human Rights Council, one of the oldest US based Hmong organizations, was honored with the Man of the Year-2005 Award by Vientiane Times, for "their extraordinary work to promote and defend human rights and civil rights of Hmong and Lao people around the world and end genocide in Laos against Hmong and other persecuted people in Laos."
Ms. Rebecca Sommer, UN Representative for the Society for Threatened Peoples International, and the author of a comprehensive Report on the Hmong Lao, presented her work-in-progress documentary on the Hmong Lao conflict situation, which she described as genocide.
The event at the United Nations in Geneva, on August 3rd, 2006, was sponsored by the Society for Threatened Peoples International, and visited by governments, WGIP experts, UN officials, Indigenous Representatives and NGO's.
Mr. Vaughn Vang focused on the ongoing genocide against the Hmong people in Laos, and voiced the frustration of his US based Hmong community living in exile, that "even though we have raised the issue for so many years, nothing has been done by the UN or the US to help our dying people."
Ms. Rebecca Sommer gave an explanation on her film "Hunted like Animals."
The 30-minute documentary began with a brief history of the Indigenous Peoples Hmong Lao, given by Hmong Leader Vang Pao and detailed how during the Vietnam War, the CIA recruited the Hmong people from Laos in an effort to help the US to stop the spread of communism. The Hmong were trained by the US Army and saved hundreds of American soldiers. However, during the war, countless Hmong soldiers were killed, many of them children.
Since the LPDR took over in 1975, the Hmong in Laos have been constantly persecuted by Laotian and Vietnamese soldiers as reprisals for their help to the Americans.
" But today, it's not simply revenge - the Hmong-in-hiding are used for Vietnamese and Laotian military training purposes", said filmmaker Rebecca Sommer.
The film continued with shocking testimonies from traumatized Hmong refugees, who recently fled the conflicted Laos areas to Thailand. "I had to leave, I couldn't bare to watch these terrible images any longer" said one WGIP expert, after witnessing heartbreaking film material of a young boy, his belly slit open by the soldiers- his intestines hanging out. Fact Finding Commission, a US based NGO, donated this film footage, which was documented by the Hmong in-hiding, and recently smuggled out of the conflict area in Laos.
"The side event was a great success for our lobby work. Everyone could see that our people are not simply an armed resistance movement.
They are hiding in the mountains, because they are too afraid to come out" informed Vaughn Vang. " If they have weapons, they have no ammunition, if they have ammunition, they use it to defend their running women and children. It is self-defense, they do not attack, they run and run and run, they have no other choice."
As international pressure intensifies, Laos and Viet Nam continue to deny acts of genocide against the Hmong Lao in-hiding.
To conclude, the panel appealed to the audience to help and put an end to this humanitarian tragedy.
Rebecca Sommer's Report on the Hmong Lao: www.earthpeoples.org
Work-in-progress video clips : "HUNTED LIKE ANIMALS""