The Lao government has dismissed charges of human rights abuses against ethnic Hmong, freshly detailed in a report and film made by a U.S. advocacy group. As Ron Corben reports, the allegations come as six thousand Hmong have fled to Thailand and set up camp in central Petchabun province.
TEXT: The charges of human rights abuses against ethnic Hmong living in Laos and Thailand are being aired in a documentary made by the Society for Threatened Peoples International, a U.S. rights group.
The film focuses on Hmong hiding in the mountains of central Laos' Xaysomboun Special Zone, and on the Hmong who have fled to Thailand.
The Hmong fought alongside U.S. forces in Laos during the Vietnam War. When the United States withdrew from Vietnam, about 300 thousand were resettled in the U.S., and thousands more fled to Thailand.
Many Hmong remained in Laos and some are today members of local government or active in small businesses.
However, reports in 2004 also showed dozens of Hmong in desperate straits in jungle communities, near starvation and without medical care. Some have since tried to surrender to Lao authorities. There have been reports that the Lao government has tried to hunt down Hmong living in the jungle.
The society's report and documentary, released this week, detail attacks by Lao government forces in April that killed 67 Hmong men, women and children.
The filmmaker, Rebecca Sommer, says the Lao government has a policy of "genocide" against ethnic Hmong. She hopes the United Nations, with which her group has consultative status, will agree.
/// SOMMER ACT 1 ///
"At least from our N.G.O. (non-governmental organizations) circles we do definitely say its genocide."
/// END ACT ///
/// OPT /// The human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, condemned the April attacks as a "massacre of unarmed Hmong women and children". It called on the Lao government to better assist ethnic groups seeking to reintegrate into Lao society. /// END OPT ///
Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy denies any attacks taking place anywhere in Laos.
/// YONG ACT 1 ///
"They always claim they are repressed by the Lao authorities but in reality there (is) not a single attack against anybody in our country. There is no more conflict in our country. When they claim they have been attacked it is all justification in order to be able to get a plane ticket to go to the States."
/// END ACT ///
Thailand is negotiating with Laos over the fate of the Hmong now in Thailand. Laos says they are a domestic matter for the Thais to deal with. Thailand takes a tough stance against new arrivals of Lao and other displaced persons, but says it is forming a committee with the United Nations to care for the refugees. Last year, 15 thousand Hmong from Thailand were resettled in the U.S. (Signed)
Click on our audio files to listen to translation of Corben report.