Archive for ‘Human Rights’

March 14, 2014

Presentation recalls ‘secret’ CIA war in Laos

Presentation recalls ‘secret’ CIA war in Laos

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.dailycampus.com/presentation-recalls-secret-cia-war-in-laos-1.3150989#.UyLy1IWhFRw

By Zach Lederman

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, March 14, 2014

Updated: Friday, March 14, 2014 02:03

SANTIAGO PELAEZ/The Daily Campus.  Major Sar Phouthasack of the Royal Lao Army and Special Guerilla Unit attached to the U.S. Special Forces was the keynote speaker at a ceremony in Konover on Thursday evening.

The atmosphere of Konover Hall in the Dodd Centre on Thursday night was a solemn one during the Vietnamese Student Association’s presentation, “The Vietnam War and the Secret War in Laos.”

The evening began with an introduction by Kimberly Thai, the VSA’s President, and Garret Grothe, who honored U.S. troops with a moment of silence, as well as a playing of the national anthem.

Once the anthem concluded, the opening ceremony began with two cultural acts: one Vietnamese, and the other Laotian. The first act featured five female members of the Vietnamese Student Association who performed a traditional Vietnamese dance representing the cultural view of the Vietnamese people as having descended from dragons. The second performance was also a dance, featuring Mina Phomphakdy, who performed a traditional Laotian dance used to grant good luck to the audience. Following the ceremonies, the keynote speaker was introduced: Major Sar Phouthasack of the Royal Lao Army and Special Guerilla Unit attached to the U.S. Special Forces.

He began his talk with a request for everyone in the audience: “Defend your nation. Support your troops and protect your fellow citizens. I have seen no greater country in my life than the United States.”

Phouthasack is a veteran of the Vietnam War but he identifies as a veteran of what many refer to as the “Secret War” in Laos. This war, which is not typically taught in school, refers to the CIA’s recruitment operation in the Hmong villages of Laos. The CIA recruited Hmong soldiers from these villages, and it was said that over the course of the war, many Hmong lost their lives in order to save even greater amounts of American troops.

Phouthasack was described as one of the greatest assets that the American army had. During the presentation, it was estimated that he had saved potentially upwards of thousands of American lives during his time on the front. He was trained by various groups, including the Green Berets and the CIA, and performed various covert intelligence operations.

Unfortunately, when the Americans left Vietnam, Phouthasack and his fellow troops were abandoned, leaving them to face the wrath of the Communist survivors who enacted ethnic cleanses all across Laos, raping and killing entire Hmong villages suspected of having supported the Americans. Though many were not so lucky, Phouthasack used his skills to successfully find refuge in Thailand before finally making his way to the United States.

At times, the stories were difficult to listen to. Phouthasack spoke of the friends he lost and the atrocities he witnessed, and as Grothe stated towards the beginning of the night, “This is part of all our history. Tonight isn’t about whether you identify as Laotian or American. Tonight is about remembering what happened to our fellow human beings, and doing what we can to see that it does not happen again.”

Following the speech, Phouthasack hosted a brief question and answer session before moving to the Asian American Cultural Center for a reception. The show was coordinated by the Vietnamese Students Association, hosted by the Asian American Cultural Center, and co-sponsored by the Cambodian Student Association, the Laotian and Thai Student Association and the CT Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.

February 26, 2014

Press Release: U.S. Senate Slated To Vote On Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill

U.S. Senate Slated To Vote On Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill, Reports CPPA

Center for Public Policy Analysis

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, D.C./EWORLDWIRE/Feb. 25, 2014 — The U.S. Senate is pressing a major omnibus veterans bill forward today for potential consideration that contains legislation to assist Lao- and Hmong-American veterans of the Vietnam War in Laos who are seeking burial rights and honors at U.S. national veterans cemeteries.

“S. 1982, ‘The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act,’ introduced by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is scheduled for a cloture vote today by the Senate and potential debate on the bill. This comprehensive veterans’ bill contains historic and important language adopted and rolled-in from earlier legislation regarding Lao- and Hmong-American veterans’ burial and honors benefits, including S. 944 and S. 200,” said Philip Smith, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C.

“Unfortunately, many Lao- and Hmong-American veterans who served in America’s covert theater of operations during the Vietnam War are dying across the United States without the benefit of being recognized or honored for their extraordinary military and clandestine service.

“Having saved the lives of many U.S. soldiers and aircrews, these forgotten veterans deserve to be buried with dignity at U.S. national veterans’ cemeteries, with military honors, for their unique service as part of the ‘U.S. Secret Army’ defending U.S. national security interests and the “Royal Kingdom of Laos”, pivotal in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict.

“The effort to further honor, and review, the Lao- and Hmong-American veterans’ service, is being spearheaded by Chairman Bernie Sanders, Vice Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and others.

“Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA) and Paul Cook (R-CA), along with over 30 Members of Congress, have also introduced bipartisan legislation in the House regarding granting Lao- and Hmong-American veterans’ burial honors at national cemeteries administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Smith concluded.

“We are strongly urging the U.S. Congress, as soon as possible, to pass and help implement crucial legislation to help those Lao- and Hmong veterans still surviving from the Vietnam War, along with their families in the United States,” said Colonel Wangyee Vang, president of the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI), headquartered in Fresno, Calif.

“‘The Lao- and Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill’ was introduced in 2012, and again in early 2013, as S. 200, by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“We are very thankful that legislation is advancing in the U.S. Senate and Congress to seek to grant burial honors and benefits to our veterans at national veterans cemeteries administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Vang stated.

The CPPA, LVAI and Lao Veterans of America, Inc., provided testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee in May and June of 2013, during Committee hearings and markup sessions on the plight of Lao and Hmong veterans and pending veterans’ benefits legislation.

###

CONTACT:
Jade Her, Maria Gomez or Philip Smith
Center for Public Policy Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006
PHONE. 202-543-1444

February 21, 2014

Laos Human Rights Abuses ‘Serious,’ But Mostly Hidden From View

 

Laos Human Rights Abuses ‘Serious,’ But Mostly Hidden From View

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/abuses-02192014164829.html

2014-02-19

The one-party Communist government of Laos is committing “serious” human rights abuses which go largely unreported due to tight political controls, rights groups say, following a report that the country has become the most repressive state in the region.

Laos has been under sharper focus by rights groups since popular civil society leader Sombath Somphone vanished after being stopped in his vehicle at a police checkpoint in the capital Vientiane on Dec. 15, 2012.

The rights groups say there have been many abuses apart from the case of Sombath, who they suspect may have been abducted by government-linked organizations

“The situation in Laos is very serious,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of New York-based Human Rights Watch, told RFA’s Lao Service.

“The Lao government uses its power as a one-party state to effectively control political expression in the country in a way that clearly violates various international human rights treaties.”

“It is still a very dictatorial, rights-repressing government,” Robertson said.

Economic opening

Despite an accelerated economic opening following Laos’s accession last year to membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Lao government still tightly controls the country’s “political space,” said Sarah Cook, Freedom House senior research associate for East Asia.

“The examples of China and Vietnam demonstrate how once countries join the WTO, or host big international events for which they have loosened controls slightly, the authoritarian regimes actually act more aggressively—especially in terms of crushing dissent.”

“So we’ll have to see what happens in Laos next year,” Cook said.

All media in Laos are controlled by the state, Robertson said, adding,“You don’t hear so much about the abuses that take place in Laos. Many things are hidden.”

Lao citizens are now “very scared” following Sombath’s disappearance, Robertson said.

“People we speak to in Laos feel intimidated. They feel that with the disappearance of such a prominent member of Lao civil society, that means the government could take anyone.”

“They could act against anyone,” he added.

“People can’t discuss politics in Laos,” a Lao citizen said, speaking recently to RFA on condition of anonymity.

“For example, if the government issues regulations, we can’t talk about it. If we don’t like something we can’t protest. If you hold a conference without permission, you will be arrested.”

“You can’t hold a rally. If you do, you will be accused of causing civil unrest, and they will arrest you,” he said.

‘Most repressive’?

Laos has now replaced formerly military-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, as “the most repressive [regime] in the region,” the Bangkok Post said in a Jan. 29 editorial.

The Lao government has failed to address the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, the Post said, adding, “His disappearance is an obvious warning to anyone who might think of challenging the Vientiane regime.”

Concerns over which regime may be “worst” or “second-worst” mean little to victims of government abuse, though, Robertson said.

“A human-rights abuse is a human-rights abuse.”

“This government, when it is displeased with someone, when it is going after a particular human-rights defender, can be as vicious and as rights-abusing as any government in the region,” though, he said.

“And that certainly includes even the Burmese military government of the recent past,” which was accused of blatant rights abuses during its nearly five-decade rule.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Bounchanh Mouangkham. Written in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney.

February 21, 2014

Laos Steps Up Security in Hmong Villages Amid Prisoner Concerns

Laos Steps Up Security in Hmong Villages Amid Prisoner Concerns

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/hmong-security-02202014181101.html

Authorities in Laos have stepped up security in a northeastern province where ethnic minority Hmongs are concerned over the health and treatment of three members of their community imprisoned for illegal possession of firearms, sources said.

The three elderly men among a group of 14 convicted a year ago for having firearms in Xiengkhuang province are believed to be in poor health, a source in the province said.

Hmongs believe that Pa Cheng Cha, in his early eighties, and Pa Yelor and Cher Wa Lor, both in their early sixties, have not been treated well in prison and never received a fair trial after their arrest following a police raid in 2012, according to the source.

In response to the concern about their cases, authorities in Xiengkhuang, the birthplace of Hmong war hero General Vang Pao, have ordered villages to bolster their security forces to monitor Hmong people’s activities, he said.

“Each village has been ordered to step up its own security,” he told RFA’s Lao Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“In general, it is part of a campaign to alert people in the villages to be observant in helping the security forces,” he said.

Firearms

The three men are serving terms of between 15 and 18 years in prison, according to the local Vientiane Times newspaper.

They were arrested along with 11 others in July 2012 after police patrolling Phonsavanxay village in Xiengkhuang’s Paek district found an AK-47 rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition.

Villagers were taken in for questioning, leading to the discovery of others with rifles and handguns only police or soldiers are allowed to possess, according to the newspaper.

Of the 11 other men, five were sentenced to 15 years in prison and six given one-year terms.

According to the paper, Pa Cheng Cha, Pa Yelor,  and Chea Wa Lor are serving imprisonment of 18, 17, and 15 years respectively.

Opposition

Lao authorities have long been wary of opposition among the Hmong, many of whom say they face persecution from the government because of their Vietnam War-era ties with the United States.

Thousands of Hmong fought under CIA advisers during a so-called “secret war” against communists in Laos.

General Vang Pao, who spearheaded the 15-year CIA-sponsored war, died in the United States in 2011 at the age of 81.

The outspoken opponent of the Lao government emigrated to the United States after the communists seized power in his country in 1975.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

February 17, 2014

5th Laotian National Conference – August 1-2, 2014

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Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://lana-usa.org/

Dear Lao Communities,

We will be holding the 5th LANA Conference in Atlanta Georgia, USA – August 1 & 2. We are asking your assistance, through all social media, to please spread the word that all Lao communities in the US and around the globe are in need of Lao Educational Foundation system for future Lao generations. We need your cooperation in gathering and promoting Lao Teachers, Administrators, Gov. Officials and all educational departments to come together and attend the 5th LANA Conference in Georgia, August 1 & 2, 2014.  Please inquire about vendor booths.

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