Thursday, January 28, 2010

CPPA Denounces Faleomavaega for Laos Visit

The Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ) in Washington, D.C., and a coalition of dozens of Laotian and Hmong organizations today issued an international communiqué denouncing American Samoa Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega's statements, along with those of the other two Members of Congress who recently visited a government model show-camp in Laos and declared that there were no human rights violations against Hmong refugees forcibly returned from Thailand to Laos.

According to CPPA, over 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees who fled political and religious persecution in Laos were forced by the Thai and Lao military back to Laos from 2007-2009. Between Christmas and the New Year holiday, over 4,700 Lao Hmong refugees were forced back to Laos. Most of the refugees have been imprisoned in Laos’ secret network of jails and camps in remote provinces. Australia journalists from “The Age” recently sought access to one such secret camp where many Hmong refugees were held behind razor wire in squalid conditions. The Australian journalists were arrested and their cameras reportedly seized; they were expelled.

Laos, under the Hanoi-backed communist Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR), is one of the most corrupt, says CPPA, and oppressive regimes in the world according to a recent public sector corruption and press freedom indexes issued by the respected non-governmental organizations Transparency International (TI) and Reporters Without Borders (JSF). Laos is listed at the bottom of these indexes along with its allies in North Korea, Burma and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV).

The following is taken from the text of the joint international communiqué issued by the CPPA and a coalition of Laotian and Hmong organizations:

“We are deeply saddened by, and must denounce in the strongest terms, the deplorable, distorted and misleading comments of the three U.S. Congressmen, Joseph Cao, Mike Honda and Eni Faleomavaega, during their recent visit to Laos, and to the Lao government's Potemkin Village show camp at Pha Lak in Vientiane Province. Tragically, the U.S. Congressmen have helped to cover-up and whitewash the horrific crimes of the Lao government against the Laotian and Hmong people and refugees who were brutally forced back from Thailand in recent years by the Thai and Lao military,” the International Communique stated.

“It is important to note that Pha Lak village houses only a fraction of the Hmong refugees returned to Laos in previous years as well as many dozens of Lao government informants and undercover agents. It is a tightly-controlled, Lao government camp upgraded for foreign visitors and administered in cooperation with the LPDR Ministry of Propaganda.

“The Lao government and military continue to attack and kill unarmed Laotian and Hmong people. Congressmen Joseph Cao, Mike Honda and Eni Faleomavaega, at their press conference in Vientiane and upon their return to the Washington, D.C., have remained silent on the horrific human rights violations, persecution, atrocities and war crimes that have been inflicted on the Laotian and Hmong people in recent months and years, including the arrest of over 300 peaceful protest marchers in November of last year that prompted a resolution that was passed by the European Parliament that was passed on Thanksgiving Day, November 26.

“We also denounce the failure of the U.S. Congressmen to address at their press conference in Vientiane, while visiting Laos, the clearly articulated concerns of the European Union in their recent resolution of November 26, 2009, urging the release of all Lao political and religious dissidents, and prisoners of conscience, including the Lao student pro-democracy leaders of the October 1999 Movement for Democracy as well as the November 2, 2009 reformist marcher leaders who were arrested.

“It is deplorable that [Faleomavaega and his colleagues] did not visit, or seek to visit, the secret camps and prisons in more remote areas in Laos where most of the Hmong refugees as well as Laotian dissidents are being jailed, tortured and imprisoned. Many of these secret prisons and camps in Laos are administered jointly by the Vietnam Peoples Army (VPA) and Lao Peoples Army (LPA).

“Independent journalists from ‘The Age’ in Australia and other human rights organizations and activists have documented the existence of secret camps and prisons in Laos where refugees and dissidents are held in squalid conditions.

“Other independent sources, including the New York Times, Al Jazeera, Time Magazine, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House, the Foreign Prisoners Support Service have documented human rights abuses against Lao Hmong refugees as well as the enclaves of Lao and Hmong civilian and dissidents hiding in the jungles and mountains that suffering from starvation, military attacks and persecution in Laos.

“Hundreds of Lao Hmong refugees have disappeared or have been killed by the Lao government and military in recent years. Moreover, many hundreds of Laotians, were arrested in Laos in November of 2009, and in recent years, seeking to organize political and economic reform movements as a result of the one-party military regime and its systemic corruption and exploitation of the Laotian people.

“Additional hundreds of independent Laotian and Hmong Christian, Catholic, Animist and Buddhist religious believers, who continue to flee Lao military and security force persecution and attacks, according to independent religious and non-governmental organizations.

“Religious persecution of the Laotian and Hmong people, including the thousands of refugees who fled to Thailand and then were forcibly repatriated back to Laos, was never discussed by [Faleomavaega] or the other U.S. Congressmen. Lao Hmong and minority Protestant Christian, Catholic and Animist believers have been brutally persecuted in Laos as well as by the Thai military in refugee camps prior to their forced repatriation back to secret camps in Laos.

“We are concerned that the three U.S. Congressmen have, at their press conference in Vientiane and in subsequent public comments, repeatedly misled the international community about the nature of the regime in Laos and the plight of the Lao and Hmong people; They have helped the Lao government with its devious and terrible agenda to force Lao Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers back to Laos and oppress and persecute them;

“Moreover, it is deplorable that Congressmen Joseph Cao, Faleomavaega and Mike Honda did not visit the jailed Lao student leaders or the Lao and Hmong political and religious dissidents imprisoned in Laos.

“At a critical time in the Lao Hmong refugee crisis, the three Congressmen made no effort to address these key issues or other vital human rights concerns at their press conference in Vientiane, Laos or its aftermath in Washington, D.C. Congressman Joseph Cao, Congressman Eni Faleomavaega and Mike Honda have perpetuated the Lao government's propaganda against the freedom-loving Laotian and Hmong people, and the defenseless refugees forced back to Laos."

The Joint International Communiqué from which the above information was drawn was cosponsored and issued by the following organizations: United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc., the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc., the Laos Institute for Democracy, the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., the Hmong Advancement, Inc. , Hmong Advance, Inc. , Lao Abroad Solidarity Foundation, Lao Hmong Students Association, Laotian Students Organization for Democracy; Laotian Community of Louisiana, Lao Hmong Community of Minnesota, Hmong Community Organization of Minnesota, Laotian Community of Minnesota, Laotian Community Network of Texas and Louisiana; Laotian Community of New York; Michigan Lao Hmong Community Group; Laotian Community of Virginia; Lao Hmong Community of California; Laotian Community of Tennessee, Lao Hmong Community of North Carolina, Laotian Community of Florida and others.

These groups are the latest who can get in line behind others who have been incensed by Faleomavaega's controversial pronouncements during his various travels in Asia and the Pacific over the last three years, especially during the three frightening years since he has become subcommittee chairman for the region. Of course, he has little real influence on U.S. policy but while that is understood in Washington, it is not appreciated in the region or especially in his home district, where the local daily paper, Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is an editor, carefully keeps controversy out of print.

Faleomavaega has managed to alienate Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Indonesia and Turkey in the past three years as well as groups struggling against repressive regimes in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and China. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, especially not his cheering squad in American Samoa.

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