Archive for ‘Human Rights’

May 27, 2014

Proposed memorial in Elgin to mark Lao military veterans’ place in history

 

Proposed memorial in Elgin to mark Lao military veterans’ place in history

 

By Melanie Kalmar For Sun-Times Media May 19, 2014 1:10PM

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://couriernews.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/27541600-417/proposed-memorial-in-elgin-to-mark-lao-military-veterans-place-in-history.html#.U4TpsSiiWvw

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Members of the Lao-American Veterans Organization, who fought alongside the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War, hope a memorial marking their place in history reminds future generations to live peacefully. | Melanie Kalmar~For Sun-Times Media

Forgotten heroes will be remembered on July 19 when, for the first time, Lao-American Veterans Day will be observed in Illinois.

On that day, thousands of soldiers and airmen from Laos, a country bordering Vietnam, will be remembered for fighting alongside the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to stop the spread of communism.

The date itself is significant because, on July 19, 1949, the Lao government received its independence from France and formed its own army.

The Lao soldiers, secretly recruited and trained by U.S. armed forces, rescued downed pilots, protected U.S. outposts and engaged in guerrilla warfare. In the fight for freedom, they were injured, tortured and killed. For some, their alliance with the United States resulted in them becoming prisoners of war, starved and forced into hard labor.

When the allied forces left Vietnam, the Lao soldiers, after 15 years of aiding the U.S. military, escaped with their families to refugee camps in Thailand.

“We were given rotten fish, chicken bones,” said Lao veteran Em Ramangkoun. “There were thousands of people and not enough food.”

The lucky ones gained entrance into America through sponsors from not-for-profit organizations.

Once here, they formed the Lao-American Veterans Organization to help one another become acclimated to their new homeland. They learned English at the YMCA and took job skills training courses at nearby community colleges.

To make the first Lao-American Veterans Day even more meaningful, the organization is raising money for a memorial garden and plaque to be placed in Elgin’s Veterans Memorial Park, behind Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave.

“We want to make sure the next generation to come knows why we are here,” said Souvanthong Thanadabouth, wife of Lao veteran Bounnhot Thanadabouth. “We stood by the U.S. Army to fight communists. We want people to remember that.”

Thanadabouth took a breath, to prevent her words from coming out as sobs, before recounting her young family’s daring escape from Laos across the Mekong River into Thailand.

“We lost everything in Laos,” she said. “When we came to the U.S., my kids only had two pairs of clothes each.” She gave birth to her fifth child, a daughter, in America. Adults now, they all earned college degrees.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people who come to this country, it’s the same story, more or less,” said one Lao-American veteran who chose to remain anonymous.

“The lesson future generations can learn from it is, they shouldn’t be fighting,” he said. “There should be no war. Live peacefully, and everybody will be happy, no matter where you live.”

The proposed memorial would be inscribed with the logo of the Royal Lao Army between the U.S. and Lao Flags, and the words, “In Memory of the Lao Veterans who fought side by side with the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War 1961-1975.”

With $4,000 more needed to make the memorial a reality, the organization is reaching out to the community for contributions. To donate, people can make checks payable to the Elgin Community Network, P.O. Box 6520, Elgin, IL 60121, or give online at elginveteransmemorial.org.

Members of the Lao-American Veterans Organization, who fought alongside the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War, hope a memorial marking their place in history reminds future generations to live peacefully. | Melanie Kalmar~For Sun-Times Media

Members Lao-American Veterans Organizatiwho fought alongside U.S. Military during Vietnam War hope memorial marking their place history reminds future generationsMembers Lao-American Veterans Organizatiwho fought alongside U.S. Military during Vietnam War hope memorial marking their place history reminds future generations

Souvanthong Thanadabouth her husbLao-American Veteran Bounnhot Thanadabouth stbefore proposed site Lao-American Veterans Memorial. | Melanie Kalmar~For Sun-Times Media

Souvanthong Thanadabouth and her husband, Lao-American Veteran Bounnhot Thanadabouth, stand before the proposed site of the Lao-American Veterans Memorial. | Melanie Kalmar~For Sun-Times Media

 

April 4, 2014

Thailand: Southern Separatists Target Women

Thailand: Southern Separatists Target Women

Burning, Beheadings of Bodies Mark Renewed Terror Campaign

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/04/thailand-southern-separatists-target-women

April 4, 2014

Southern insurgents are killing Buddhist women and spreading terror by beheading and burning their bodies. Claims by separatist groups that they are retaliating against government abuses are no justification for attacks on civilians.

Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – Separatist groups in Thailand’s southern border provinces have killed at least five Thai Buddhist women, mutilating three of their bodies, since February 2014, Human Rights Watch said today.

The insurgents should immediately end their attacks targeting civilians, which are war crimes.

“Southern insurgents are killing Buddhist women and spreading terror by beheading and burning their bodies,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Claims by separatist groups that they are retaliating against government abuses are no justification for attacks on civilians.”

On April 2, insurgents ambushed a pickup truck in which a village chief from Yala province’s Bannang Sta district was riding, killing him and two female deputy chiefs. The bullet-riddled body of Ear Sritong, 47, village chief of Ban Kasung Nai Moo 6, was found near his pickup. Chaleaw Pikulklin, 50, and Urai Thabtong, 47, who had been riding with the chief in the truck, had also been shot with M16 assault rifles. Urai had been decapitated, and police found her head in a bush across the road. A leaflet left at the scene stated, “This attack is a punishment for letting Aor Sor [the Interior Ministry’s village militia] commit killings and oppression of our Malay people. Free Patanni!” Since January 2004, Thailand’s southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat have been the scene of a brutal armed conflict, which has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians from both the ethnic Thai Buddhist and ethnic Malay Muslim populations.

On March 20, 2014, insurgents shot and killed Somsri Tanyakaset, 39, a female teacher at Kok Muba Friendship School in Narathiwat province’s Tak Bai district as she was riding her motorcycle back home. Another female teacher, Siriporn Srichai, 43, was shot dead while going to work at Tabing Tingi Community School in Pattani province’s Mayo district on March 14. The assailants poured gasoline on Siriporn’s body and set it on fire. A leaflet stating, “This attack is in revenge for the killing of innocent people,” was found nearby.

On February 12, insurgents in Pattani province’s Yaring district shot dead Sayamol Sae Lim, 29, a female employee of Bangkok Bank, and burned her body. A written message to the army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left nearby stated, “Dear army chief, this is not the last body after the three brothers.” This message referred to the February 3 attack allegedly committed by the army’s Taharn Pran paramilitary force that killed three ethnic Malay-Muslim brothers, ages 6, 9, and 11, and wounded their parents in Narathiwat province’s Bacho district.

International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, which are applicable to the fighting in southern Thailand, prohibits attacks targeting civilians, including government officials not involved in military operations. Other prohibited acts include reprisal attacks against civilians and captured combatants, summary execution of detainees, and mutilation or other mistreatment of the dead. The laws of war also prohibit acts or threats of violence for which the primary purpose is to spread terror among the civilian population.

Insurgent claims that Islamic law permits attacks on civilians in certain circumstances do not change the separatist groups’ international legal obligations. The rapidly growing attacks on civilians by the Patani Independence Fighters (Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani) in the loose network of the separatist National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-Coordinate) heighten concern for civilian security. According to statistics from the government’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), separatist groups are responsible for most of the violent incidents in Thailand’s southern border provinces between January 2004 and March 2014, which resulted in 5,488 deaths and 10,118 injuries. Civilians – both ethnic Thai Buddhists and ethnic Malay Muslims – have been the frequent target of insurgent attacks.

Both insurgents and Thai security forces have been responsible for serious abuses in the southern border provinces. Successive Thai governments have failed to successfully prosecute any member of their security forces or pro-government militias for human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. This lack of justice has fed insurgent violence against civilians.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has repeatedly stated that justice is key to peace in the southern border provinces. Yet the government continues to extend the draconian state of emergency that has facilitated state-sponsored abuses and impunity. The extensive powers and near-blanket immunity provided to security forces who commit human rights violations has generated anger and alienation in the ethnic Malay Muslim community.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for credible and impartial investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by security personnel and militia forces in the south. Inquiries by the police and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center have proceeded very slowly, with little concrete result. Officials often fail to keep the families of victims apprised of any progress in the investigation, compounding the family’s frustrations. While in some cases the government has made financial reparations to the victims’ families, money alone should not be considered a substitute for justice.

“People in southern Thailand are trapped between insurgent violence and state-sponsored abuses,” Adams said. “The government should understand that shielding abusive troops from prosecution strengthens hardliners in separatist groups, who then intensify atrocities against civilians.”

March 31, 2014

Thailand: Separatists Targeting Teachers in South

 

Thailand: Separatists Targeting Teachers in South

March Sees More Teachers Killed; Investigate Security Force Abuses

 Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/30/thailand-separatists-targeting-teachers-south

March 30, 2014

Separatists need to stop attacking those who are educating children. Separatists in southern Thailand are committing war crimes when they kill and maim teachers and other civilians.

Brad Adams, Asia director

(Bangkok) – Separatist insurgents in Thailand’s southern border provinces should immediately end attacks on teachers and other civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. Since January 2014, insurgents have killed three ethnic Thai Buddhist teachers in the conflict-ridden region.

“Separatists need to stop attacking those who are educating children,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Separatists in southern Thailand are committing war crimes when they kill and maim teachers and other civilians.”

Under the laws of armed conflict, which are applicable in the fighting between the insurgents and Thai government forces in southern Thailand, deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes.Thai authorities should investigate and appropriately punish security forces committing abuses during operations in the south.

On March 20, insurgents shot dead Somsri Tanyakaset, 39, a teacher at Kok Muba Friendship School in Narathiwat province’s Tak Bai district, while she was on her way home. On March 14, insurgents shot 43-year old Siriporn Srichai while she was riding a motorcycle to work at Tabing Tingi Community School in Pattani province’s Mayo district. The assailants then poured gasoline on her body and set it on fire. A leaflet saying, “This attack is in revenge for the killing of innocent people,” was found nearby. On January 14, two days ahead of the National Teacher’s Day, insurgents shot Supakrit Sae Loong of Ban Nibong School in Yala province’s Kabang district while he was riding a motorcycle from school back home.

Separatist forces have killed at least 171 teachers and torched or detonated bombs at more than 300 government-run schools in 10 years of insurgency in the southern border provinces.

The Patani Independence Fighters (Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani) in the loose network of the separatist National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-Coordinate) have ambushed teachers while traveling to and from their schools, and killed them in their classrooms and lodgings. The insurgents say that they target teachers in retaliation for violence committed by Thai security forces and pro-government militias against ethnic Malay Muslims. Insurgents also attack teachers and government-run schools as a part of their campaign to eradicate symbols of the Thai state and drive the Thai Buddhist population out of what insurgents claim is Malay Muslims land.

During the decade of armed conflict, insurgents have killed more than 5,000 people, mostly civilians. Some insurgent cells have merged with underground cartels involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and human trafficking across the Thai-Malaysian border, adding to the thriving criminality in the region.

Insurgents have argued that Islamic law permits attacks on civilians in certain circumstances. However, the laws of war, which are binding on non-state armed groups as well as national armed forces, prohibit all intentional attacks on civilians, including reprisal attacks. The insurgents have also been responsible for other laws-of-war violations, including the summary execution of captured civilians and combatants, mutilation or other mistreatment of the dead, and deliberate attacks on civilian objects, such as schools.

Thai security forces have also been implicated in extrajudicial killings and other abuses against suspected insurgents or their alleged supporters in the ethnic Malay Muslim community. Instead of seriously investigating alleged abuses, the government has repeatedly extended the state of emergency in the south, which provides near-blanket immunity to military personnel and police for actions they take in the line of duty. The use of these extensive powers to shield officials who commit rights violations has generated anger and alienation in the ethnic Malay Muslim community.

The Thai government should launch credible and impartial investigations into alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights law by security personnel from regular and voluntary units in the region. Inquiries by the police and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center into rights abuses have proceeded very slowly and shown few concrete results. Officials often fail to keep the families of victims apprised of any progress in the investigation, compounding the families’ frustrations. While financial reparations were paid to some victims’ families, offering money to families of victims should not be considered a substitute for justice.

“The government needs to ensure that Thai security forces protect public safety with full respect for human rights,” Adams said. “Shielding abusive security personnel from prosecution will only boost insurgent extremism and intensify the atrocities.”

March 30, 2014

Minnesota: State Capitol monument to Hmong-Lao veterans is moving forward

 

State Capitol monument to Hmong-Lao veterans is moving forward

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/253056851.html

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2014 – 5:26 PM

We support the Hmong and Lao memorial for our children, so they know our history,” Vu said.

“We’re here in America, the land of freedom, because of the sacrifices made by our elders,” Yia Michael Thao, the son of a soldier who fought on the U.S. side, told the committee.

Jim Ragsdale 

The old Hmong soldier’s voice broke as he told of coming upon American pilots in the smoking wreckage of their plane or helping evacuate a chaotic CIA base as the dominoes were falling in Southeast Asia.

Xai Paul Vang, 65, of Cottage Grove, spoke in the hallway of the Minnesota State Office Building last week, evoking memories of the “Secret War” in his native country of Laos in the ’60s and ’70s.

And explaining why a patch of ground in the Minnesota State Capitol Mall means so much to him.

“Every year in the last seven years, he has come to the location where it is designated for the monument, to honor it,” said an interpreter as Vang spoke. Even if he dies before it is finished, Vang feels “his spirit will be there. That is designated for him and all the Hmong-Lao veterans.”

The past was very much in the present in the crush of legislative business a few feet away. The House Committee on Capital Investment heard a pitch for a long-planned memorial on the Mall to the Hmong and Lao veterans and their families, who have been part of the fabric of St. Paul and the Twin Cities since the wars ended in 1975.

“We’re here in America, the land of freedom, because of the sacrifices made by our elders,” Yia Michael Thao, the son of a soldier who fought on the U.S. side, told the committee.

The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton are considering a proposal to spend $450,000, combined with another $150,000 to be raised privately, to build the memorial. This is the second go-round for the project, which once fell short of private fundraising goals.

This time Thao, who serves as finance chair for the project, said $130,000 has already been raised. It has been greenlighted by Gov. Mark Dayton and in an initial capital bill proposed by the House committee chair, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul. It has moved through a committee in the Senate, where its champion is Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, also a Laotian-born son of a Hmong soldier.

The soldiers’ story links steamy Laotian jungles with icebound Twin Cities neighborhoods. The CIA secretly recruited hill-dwelling Hmong and lowland Lao to find fallen pilots and hold back North Vietnamese troops operating in Laos. When the communists took over and U.S. allies fled, St. Paul became a beacon for resettlement.

The Capitol Mall is already a sea of stone and bronze ghosts, including Christopher Columbus and Leif Erikson (each honored as “Discoverer of America”) and memorials to veterans of 20th century wars, women suffragists, fallen police officers and firefighters and Minnesota workers. A state tally lists 20 existing memorials and statues.

2015: 40th anniversary

The new project, to be located near an existing Vietnam War memorial, would be dominated by an 8- to 9-foot bronze plant known as the “vigorous sprout,” with petals bearing images of the war, the escape from Laos and resettlement. It also will include stone walks with traditional needlework designs, plantings of Minnesota grasses and the words “Sacrifices for Freedom” engraved in stone.

If approved this year, the monument could be built in 2015, the 40th anniversary of the end of the war.

Two other centers of Hmong and Lao immigration, Sheboygan, Wis., and Fresno, Calif., have erected memorials in public places, and the U.S. government placed a small plaque at Arlington National Cemetery. It appears this would be the first such memorial on the grounds of a state capitol.

As the new generations of Hmong-Americans get further away from the wartime trauma, ex-soldiers like Charles Vu, 67, of St. Paul, want to make sure they remember how they got here. Vu said he was based at the secret air base at Long Cheng — the same one Xia Paul Vang helped evacuate — and served from 1968-75. Like his brothers-in-arms, he has many stories to tell.

“We support the Hmong and Lao memorial for our children, so they know our history,” Vu said.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

March 25, 2014

Asia Pacific: Thais Detain More Migrants Believed to Be Ethnic Uighurs

Thais Detain More Migrants Believed to Be Ethnic Uighurs

BEIJING — Two groups totaling at least 189 migrants believed to be ethnic Uighurs fleeing China have been detained in recent days by the authorities in Thailand, Human Rights Watch said Monday. The detention of the two groups brings to 409 the number of people thought to be Uighurs who have been stopped by Thai officials this month.

One group of 112 was detained in Sa Kaeo Province near the Thai-Cambodian border and was taken to an immigration detention center in Bangkok, researchers at Human Rights Watch said. The rights group said a senior Thai immigration official had cited Chinese officials with access to the group as having identified at least 30 as Uighurs.

The second group, which numbers 77, was detained recently in Songkhla Province in southern Thailand. It is unclear what their situation is, said Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

On March 12, Thai police officers raided a trafficking camp at a rubber plantation in Songkhla and found about 220 people there who identified themselves as Turks. The Thai police have said they suspect the migrants are Uighurs who were trying to cross to Malaysia. Turkish officials say they have talked with the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group living in the Xinjiang region of China. Chinese officials have also been trying to visit them.

Violence between Uighurs and ethnic Han, the majority ethnic group in China, is on the rise, and many Uighurs say they face discrimination and repression in the desert oasis towns in Xinjiang where they live.

Human Rights Watch and other advocacy organizations are urging the Thai government not to deport the Uighurs to China, saying they face harassment and torture if sent back. Cambodia and Malaysia have both deported Uighurs back to China in recent years.

Asked about the migrants in Thailand, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said at a news conference on Monday in Beijing that the Chinese government was working with the Thai authorities to determine their identities. He declined to comment further.

Thai news organizations have reported that 15 Uighurs were detained Sunday morning in Sa Kaeo Province. It is unclear whether this group is separate from the one of 112 mentioned by Human Rights Watch. Ten of the 15 detained on Sunday are children, the reports said.

The Uighurs had traveled from Vietnam to Cambodia to Thailand and were en route to Malaysia, from which they planned to get to Turkey somehow, according to the news reports. Malaysia is a center of human trafficking, and people regularly fly to other countries from Malaysia using stolen passports. Two Iranian men on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were trying to get to Europe in this manner.

Recent events in China have made Han there more wary of Uighurs. In early March, people armed with long knives killed at least 29 people and wounded almost 150 at a train station in Kunming, in southwest China. The Chinese state news media did not identify the eight suspects as Uighurs, but said that they were believed to be from Xinjiang. Reports said the attackers were terrorists but did not explain the political motivations or background of the group.

After that attack, the governor of Xinjiang said at a news conference in Beijing during a meeting of the National People’s Congress that the authorities would crack down on separatists in the region. He added that the separatists were working with foreign forces, though he did not identify those parties. China often blames domestic ethnic unrest on exile groups. Its most frequent Uighur target in this regard is Rebiya Kadeer, a critic of the Chinese Communist Party who lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

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