Archive for October, 2014

October 24, 2014

Viraphonh Viravong’s letter to “The Nation” (Thai News): Laos is acting responsibly on Mekong dam project

Laos is acting responsibly on Mekong dam project

Environmental activists are once again lashing out at the Lao government and the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission (MRC) in the hope that hydropower projects on the Mekong will be delayed or cancelled.

In a September 10 letter to the leaders of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, activists complained that Laos was acting irresponsibly and that the MRC’s procedures for assessing potential impacts of hydropower development on the Mekong were inadequate.

Earlier this year, many of the same activists lambasted the Laos government for submitting a proposal for the 260-megawatt Don Sahong Hydropower Project to MRC members under the Notification process rather than Prior Consultation procedures under the 1995 Mekong Agreement. Then, in July, in response to member-country concerns, the Laos government agreed to open the Don Sahong project to the more formal Prior Consultation process.

Now, the activists are attacking the MRC and the Prior Consultation process itself. They say the procedures aren’t good enough and the time allotted isn’t long enough. They are demanding more studies and empowerment of carefully chosen “local communities” where anti-dam voices express fear of development.

We wholeheartedly believe that consultation with member countries and development partners can identify further options to improve the design of the Don Sahong dam. This was the case with the first project Laos submitted under the Notifcation, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) process – the Xayaburi Hydropower Dam in northern Laos.

Activists blithely dismiss the prior consultation process for Xayaburi as a failure, in part because the MRC’s technical review found that the run-of-river scheme would not have any significant impact on the Mekong’s flow and water quality.

We see the Xayaburi PC as an unqualified success. The process prompted a more careful assessment of possible impacts, a review of measures to avoid, mitigate and minimise these impacts, and ultimately the redesign of the project. In the end, changes to the initial project design addressed potential impacts on the sediment flux, fisheries potential, fish migration and passage and navigation.

It seems that what the activists really want is for the MRC to prevent Laos from building dams on the Mekong. Unfortunately this is not something the MRC can do. The Procedures for Notification Prior Consultation and Agreement set forth in the 1995 Agreement are not a mechanism for approving or rejecting any particular project. The MRC is not a building permits office.

Laos and the developer of the Don Sahong project have had the ecology of the Khone Falls area under study by experts for the past eight years. A dozen technical and engineering studies, environmental and social impact studies and fisheries studies are posted on the Don Sahong website These studies suggest there will be no significant impacts to the Mekong’s water flow or quality.

The developers have already begun to address the single-most important environmental issue: dry-season fish migration. With local residents and authorities, they are improving the braids of the Mekong that surround the project site. They have begun to educate local communities about fisheries conservation and new economic opportunities in fish farming. There is every reason to believe there will be more fish in the region in the future, not less.

Laos remains strongly committed to its obligations under the Mekong Agreement during the stipulated six-month PC process. However, during this period, work on roads and a bridge leading to the Don Sahong dam site will continue, as preparatory infrastructure is not a use of Mekong water and not under the purview of the 1995 Agreement.

And while NGOs clamour for a transboundary assessment, the Lao government has already asked the MRC secretariat to set up a joint monitoring team to assess the progress of the Don Sahong project. This goes beyond the scope of prior consultation to ensure continued cross-border cooperation.

Environmental activists are grousing about the MRC consultation process because they are not interested in furthering technical exchange that could identify, minimise and mitigate potential environmental impacts. They are simply out to stop development of hydropower on the Mekong.

By now, they should realise that the Lao government will not be deterred from its commitment to develop clean, renewable hydropower, a source of national pride for the Lao people and a sustainable, reliable source of electricity for the region.

Viraphonh Viravong is Laos’ Vice Minister of Energy and Mines.


October 24, 2014

Vietnam Veterans of U.S. Secret Army in Laos Urge Congress to Act

Center for Public Policy Analysis

Vietnam Veterans of U.S. Secret Army in Laos Urge Congress to Act

Washington, October 24, 2014 03:45 PM

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and Lao- and Hmong-American leaders are meeting with key members of the U.S. Congress, and Senate and House offices on Capitol Hill, urging the passage of legislation to grant burial honors, and benefits, to veterans who served in the U.S. Secret Army in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Meetings are being held with the offices of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Bernard Sanders (I-Vermont), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Diane Feinstein (D-California), Barbara Boxer (D-California), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Al Franken (D-Minnesota), who support the bill, “The Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act” (S. 200; S. 2337). In the House, Lao- and Hmong-American leaders are slated to meet with Congressmen Jim Costa (D), Devin Nunes (R), Paul Cook (R), and Jeff Denham (R) of California, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and others.

“The Lao- and Hmong-American veterans and their families seek to educate policymakers and Congress about the unique and historic role of the veterans in covert support of the U.S. Special Forces, CIA, and clandestine U.S. Air Force units in Laos during the Vietnam War,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA. “It is important to honor these extraordinary veterans with burial honors.”

Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President of the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI) stated: “We are grateful for the support of over fifty members of Congress and appreciate their efforts to advance legislation to honor our veterans and their families with burial benefits.”

“The community in Anchorage, and across America, is requesting that the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Sanders and Vice Chairman Burr, and Senators Begich and Murkowski, continue to work to pass our veterans bill,” said Pasert Lee, President of the Hmong Alaska Community, Inc.

“We are talking to our Senators, and Congress, about the sacrifices of Hmong veterans in assisting the United States to secretly combat the North Vietnamese Army’s invasion of the Kingdom of Laos during critical years of the Vietnam War,” commented Richard Xiong, Vice President of the LVAI.

“It is important that President Obama and the White House also remember and support our Lao Hmong veterans and this bill,” concluded Erik Xiong, Secretary of the LVAI.


Christy Her or Philip Smith

Center for Public Policy Analysis
Tele. (202)543-1444
October 18, 2014

US Government Sanitizes Vietnam War History

US Government Sanitizes Vietnam War History

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Marjorie Cohn | Become a fan

Professor. Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Posted: 10/17/2014 12:11 pm EDT Updated: 10/17/2014 12:59 pm EDT
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For many years after the Vietnam War, we enjoyed the “Vietnam syndrome,” in which US presidents hesitated to launch substantial military attacks on other countries. They feared intense opposition akin to the powerful movement that helped bring an end to the war in Vietnam. But in 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, George H.W. Bush declared, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!”

With George W. Bush’s wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and Barack Obama’s drone wars in seven Muslim-majority countries and his escalating wars in Iraq and Syria, we have apparently moved beyond the Vietnam syndrome. By planting disinformation in the public realm, the government has built support for its recent wars, as it did with Vietnam.

Now the Pentagon is planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War by launching a $30 million program to rewrite and sanitize its history. Replete with a fancy interactive website, the effort is aimed at teaching schoolchildren a revisionist history of the war. The program is focused on honoring our service members who fought in Vietnam. But conspicuously absent from the website is a description of the antiwar movement, at the heart of which was the GI movement.

Thousands of GIs participated in the antiwar movement. Many felt betrayed by their government. They established coffee houses and underground newspapers where they shared information about resistance. During the course of the war, more than 500,000 soldiers deserted. The strength of the rebellion of ground troops caused the military to shift to an air war. Ultimately, the war claimed the lives of 58,000 Americans. Untold numbers were wounded and returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. In an astounding statistic, more Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the war.

Millions of Americans, many of us students on college campuses, marched, demonstrated, spoke out, sang and protested against the war. Thousands were arrested and some, at Kent State and Jackson State, were killed. The military draft and images of dead Vietnamese galvanized the movement. On November 15, 1969, in what was the largest protest demonstration in Washington, DC, at that time, 250,000 people marched on the nation’s capital, demanding an end to the war. Yet the Pentagon’s website merely refers to it as a “massive protest.”

But Americans weren’t the only ones dying. Between 2 and 3 million Indochinese – in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – were killed. War crimes – such as the My Lai massacre – were common. In 1968, US soldiers slaughtered 500 unarmed old men, women and children in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Yet the Pentagon website refers only to the “My Lai Incident,” despite the fact that it is customarily referred to as a massacre.

One of the most shameful legacies of the Vietnam War is the US military’s use of the deadly defoliant Agent Orange, dioxin. The military sprayed it unsparingly over much of Vietnam’s land. An estimated 3 million Vietnamese still suffer the effects of those deadly chemical defoliants. Tens of thousands of US soldiers were also affected. It has caused birth defects in hundreds of thousands of children, both in Vietnam and the United States. It is currently affecting the second and third generations of people directly exposed to Agent Orange decades ago. Certain cancers, diabetes, and spina bifida and other serious birth defects can be traced to Agent Orange exposure. In addition, the chemicals destroyed much of the natural environment of Vietnam; the soil in many “hot spots” near former US army bases remains contaminated.

In the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973, the Nixon administration pledged to contribute $3 billion toward healing the wounds of war and the post-war reconstruction of Vietnam. That promise remains unfulfilled.

Despite the continuing damage and injury wrought by Agent Orange, the Pentagon website makes scant mention of “Operation Ranch Hand.” It says that from 1961 to 1971, the US sprayed 18 million gallons of chemicals over 20 percent of South Vietnam’s jungles and 36 percent of its mangrove forests. But the website does not cite the devastating effects of that spraying.

The incomplete history contained on the Pentagon website stirred more than 500 veterans of the US peace movement during the Vietnam era to sign a petition to Lt. Gen. Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter. It asks that the official program “include viewpoints, speakers and educational materials that represent a full and fair reflection of the issues which divided our country during the war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.” The petition cites the “many thousands of veterans” who opposed the war, the “draft refusals of many thousands of young Americans,” the “millions who exercised their rights as American citizens by marching, praying, organizing moratoriums, writing letters to Congress,” and “those who were tried by our government for civil disobedience or who died in protests.” And, the petition says, “very importantly, we cannot forget the millions of victims of the war, both military and civilian, who died in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, nor those who perished or were hurt in its aftermath by land mines, unexploded ordnance, Agent Orange and refugee flight.”

Antiwar activists who signed the petition include Tom Hayden and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. “All of us remember that the Pentagon got us into this war in Vietnam with its version of the truth,” Hayden said in an interview with The New York Times. “If you conduct a war, you shouldn’t be in charge of narrating it,” he added.

Veterans for Peace (VFP) is organizing an alternative commemoration of the Vietnam War. “One of the biggest concerns for us,” VFP executive director Michael McPhearson told the Times, “is that if a full narrative is not remembered, the government will use the narrative it creates to continue to conduct wars around the world – as a propaganda tool.”

Indeed, just as Lyndon B. Johnson used the manufactured Tonkin Gulf incident as a pretext to escalate the Vietnam War, George W. Bush relied on mythical weapons of mass destruction to justify his war on Iraq, and the “war on terror” to justify his invasion of Afghanistan. And Obama justifies his drone wars by citing national security considerations, even though he creates more enemies of the United States as he kills thousands of civilians. ISIS and Khorasan (which no one in Syria heard of until about three weeks ago) are the new enemies Obama is using to justify his wars in Iraq and Syria, although he admits they pose no imminent threat to the United States. The Vietnam syndrome has been replaced by the “Permanent War.”

It is no cliché that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. Unless we are provided an honest accounting of the disgraceful history of the US war on Vietnam, we will be ill equipped to protest the current and future wars conducted in our name.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. A veteran of the Stanford anti-Vietnam War movement, she is co-author (with Kathleen Gilberd) of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. Her latest book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues, will be published in October. She is also co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign.


October 18, 2014

Communist Vietnam’s Neo-Colonizing Policies Must Be Stopped to Prevent the Destabilization of Southeast Asia and the Continuing Human Rights Violations of the Indigenous Populations.


Communist Vietnam’s Neo-Colonizing Policies Must Be Stopped to Prevent the Destabilization of Southeast Asia and the Continuing Human Rights Violations of the Indigenous Populations.

Communist Vietnam’s policies and practices were observed to be the major source of destabilization of Southeast Asia, if allowed to stay the current course.

By PR Newswire

October 17, 2014 10:21 AM EDT

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PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 17, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A Southeast Asia Conference was recently held in Washington, D.C., featuring diverse, local and international, speakers from Hawaii, Thailand and France as well as Laotians, Khmers, Montagnards and Americans with related expertise and experiences from academic institutions, business communities, and Law firm and past US government involvements. There were also screenings of interviews with Mr. Sovan Pen, the very first Prime Minister of Cambodia during the Vietnamese occupation and former prisoner in Hanoi on the Vietnamese government true objectives on Cambodia, and Dr. Mong Hay Lao on geopolitics of Southeast Asia. Vietnam neo-colonization of Cambodia and Laos had been further explored by the audience’s questions & answers session and open discussions. The conference participants were very actively engaged in drawing up the conference 14-point Resolutions, of which an unsigned copy is as follows:

Resolutions of the Southeast Asia Conference 2014
Washington, DC October 4 & 5, 2014

This document contains the resolutions of the Southeast Asia Conference 2014, organized by the Khmer People Network for Cambodia (KPNC) and Laotian Human Rights Council (LHRC). The conference was held in Washington, DC on October 4th through 5th, 2014 entitled “Vietnam’s Destabilization of Southeast Asia and Tragic Human Rights Violations.” The conference working group presents these resolutions to the US government for implementation. This is the work of civil society from Cambodian and Laotian Americans concerned for the stabilization and security of the people of Southeast Asia.  As Americans, we are concerned for US self-interests in the area and present these recommendations to our government holding in all seriousness the best interests of our beloved country the United States of America.

These are presented to the Foreign Relations Committees of both the Senate and the House with the hope that along with the administration, you will incorporate them into US policy. We hope that our government will work with civil society to improve our relations with the governments of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and to avoid more violence which has claimed the lives of Americans, Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese in the last 50 years.

The participants stand ready to dialog with our government and request that a commission be established to further that dialog and implement these resolutions. The resolutions will come alive as we work through this commission. Dialog is the way of Peace that replaces the current deafening silence. The dialog with civil society and implementation of its resolutions places the welfare of all the people involved in high esteem.

Resolutions presented to the US Government

We ask that the US government:

  1. For the sake of stability and security of the entire Southeast Asia region, put pressure on communist Vietnam to stop Crimea-like colonization of Laos and Cambodia. Urge the governments of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to terminate permanently the so-called “Special Lao-Vietnamese Friendship Treaty” of 1977 and to nullify the 2005 Supplementary Cambodia-Vietnam treaties.
  2. Deny communist Vietnam the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) membership until it makes dramatic improvements in its human rights practices, reforms its laws to meet international labor standards and demonstrates a clear commitment to the rule of law as per the July 29, 2014 letter to President Obama from 33 members of Congress.
  3. Call for the reconvening of the 1991 Paris Peace Conference on Cambodia and nullify all later agreements and treaties contrary to the spirit of the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991, especially those contrary to territorial integrity, national sovereignty, freedom from foreign interference, and the respect for human rights.
  4. Call for the reconvening of the 1973 Paris Peace Conference on Vietnam.
  5. Reinstate the arms embargo to Vietnam, until we can be assured that it is not being used for expansionist purposes and for the repression of civilians.
  6. Provide technical assistance to develop an independent and more accurate estimate of the numbers of Vietnamese immigrant population in Cambodia and Laos.
  7. Urge Vietnam to end the intrusion in Laos and Cambodia’s internal affairs.
  8. Place Cambodia and reinstate Vietnam as “countries of particular concern (CPC)” until they respect religious rights and human rights especially with regards to their indigenous people.
  9. Create a special commission on US policy and relations towards Cambodia and Laos.
  10. Call upon the US Government to treat and deal with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam individually, not to lump all three together as Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam are distinct and independent states.
  11. The governments of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam must open space for civil society, release all political prisoners, and abide by the international human rights covenants to which they are signatories.
  12. Pressure the Cambodian and Laotian governments to allow their people the rights to freedom of speech, press, and assembly.
  13. Urge the US government to reinforce the US Lacey Act of 2008, prohibiting the importation of illegal wildlife and logging.
  14. Stress mutual respect of freedom, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity between Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.


October 11, 2014

The Investigation Into Thailand’s Backpacker Slayings Is Officially a Farce

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The Investigation Into Thailand’s Backpacker Slayings Is Officially a Farce



Oct. 10, 2014

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