WASHINGTON & BANGKOK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Statements by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) were released on Capitol Hill and Thailand in response to the current Lao Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand and Laos.
“Senator Leahy, chairman of the key committee in the U.S. Senate that oversees international U.S. military assistance, has issued a clear message to the Thai Government that forced repatriation of Hmong back to Laos, as now appears imminent, would have dire implications for U.S. military-to-military cooperation with Thailand,” said Edmund McWilliams, a retired diplomat who served at the U.S. Embassies in Thailand and Laos.
“Thailand and the United States are long time friends and allies, and our armed forces have developed a cooperative relationship,” Senator Leahy said. “Many Thai military officers have been trained in the United States, and Thai soldiers have participated in joint U.S.-Thai training exercises such as Operation Cobra Gold… I am very concerned, as I know are other Senators, that the Thai Government may be on the verge of deporting roughly 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to Laos… it could badly damage the Thai military’s reputation, and put our military collaboration at risk.” http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?dbname=2009_record&page=S13870&position=all.
“U.S. Senators, Russ Feingold (D-WI), Richard Lugar (R-IN ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit earlier this month in opposition to the return of the Hmong to Laos,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. “A troop convoy of over 50 Thai army trucks with heavily armed soldiers has been deployed at the main Hmong refugee camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao to force thousands of defenseless political refugees back to Laos over the Christmas and New Year holiday.”
“U.S. Senators say that the return of Lao Hmong refugees to Laos by Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Army Chief of Staff General Anupong Paochinda may have negative effects on America’s relationship with Thailand, including potential damage to the U.S.-Thai military relationship and the annual Cobra Gold exercises,” Smith stated. http://centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org.
Smith concluded: “Senator Leahy and others are calling for the potential review of funding for U.S.-Thailand military relations as General Anupong and Prime Minister Abhisit order the Thai Army to forcibly repatriate defenseless Lao Hmong political refugees at Huay Nam Khao in Petchabun Province back to the communist regime in Laos, where the refugees fled persecution. Moreover, Abhisit and Anupong have ignored repeated appeals by Members of Congress and the international community to His Majesty, Bhumibol Adulayadej, the King of Thailand, to grant asylum to the Hmong refugees until they can be resettled abroad.”
“Many refugees will suffer and die in Laos,” said Vaughn Vang of the Lao Human Rights Council.