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Published: Friday, Apr. 12, 2013 / Updated: Friday, Apr. 12, 2013 01:26 PM
WASHINGTON & VIENTIANE, Laos — The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and a coalition of Lao and Hmong non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are opposing a controversial multi-million dollar U.S. Department of State project to remove unexploded Vietnam War-era ordnance and bombs from Laos.
In opposition to the project, which the State Department is presently promoting with a U.S. tour, the NGOs are citing increased human rights abuses as well as religious and minority persecution in Laos. The organizations are also raising concerns about the recent arrest and abduction of Laotian civic activist Sombath Somphone, widespread government corruption in Laos and illegal logging by Lao and Vietnamese military-owned companies.
The Lao government’s support for North Korean (DPRK) is also being cited.
“We oppose U.S. funding for bomb removal in Laos, given the Lao regime’s ongoing persecution and killing of the Laotian and Hmong people,” said Vaughn Vang, Director of the Lao Human Rights Council (LHRC).
“Before any further funds are given for bomb removal efforts in Laos by U.S. taxpayers, the Lao regime must release Sombath Somphone, and jailed Lao Students for Democracy (LSFD) protest leaders, as well as information about the three Lao-Americans from Minnesota who disappearance in Laos at the hands of the Lao police and military in January,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL).
“Many Laotian and Hmong-Americans advocate cutting all U.S. foreign aid to Laos given the Lao government’s recent arrest of Sombath Somphone and its role in the disappearance of three Lao-Americans from Minnesota,” said Khampoua Naovarangsy, President of the Laos Institute for Democracy (LIFD).
The coalition of NGOs opposed to U.S. funding for the bomb removal program in Laos include the CPPA, ULDL, LIFD, LSFD, United Lao for Human Rights and Democracy, Hmong Advance, Inc., Hmong Advancement, Lao Veterans of America, Lao Veterans of America Institute and others.
“No U.S. taxpayers’ money should be used for the clean-up of bombs and unexploded ordnance in Laos from the Vietnam War-era, while corrupt Lao officials are engaged in brutal human rights violations, religious persecution, the abduction of civic activists, and ethnic cleansing waged against many of their own Lao and Hmong people,” said Philip Smith, Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.
“The Lao military continues to drop bombs and launch horrific and bloody attacks against peaceful civilian minority communities, including the Hmong people, in the mountains and jungles of Laos,” Smith stated. “The Lao Peoples Army (LPA) continues to attack and heavily shell and bomb its own freedom-loving people, with artillery and aircraft, and is engaged in widespread illegal logging in Laos in cooperation with Vietnam Peoples Army-owned companies.”
“Currently, the one-party communist regime in Laos is routinely engaged in machine-gunning, rocketing, bombing, and starving to death many innocent Laotian and Hmong civilians, and religious and dissident communities, in the mountains and jungles of Laos, including groups of Christian and Animist believers,” Smith observed. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130304006755/en/Laos-Attacks-Intensify-Lao-Hmong-People
“Given the U.S. budget crisis, there is growing opposition to this misguided and highly questionable bomb-removal project in Laos,” Smith commented. “Clearly, Laos should meet basic conditions, including the release of Sombath Somphone, and imprisoned Lao student and dissident leaders, before any further U.S. foreign aid is provided.”
“Moreover, the Lao military and politburo are closely allied with North Korea,” Smith stated. “No U.S. taxpayers’ money should go toward bomb removal programs in Laos until the Lao regime ends its cooperation with Stalinist North Korea.”