Lao demonstrators and human rights activists rallied outside the U-S State Department Tuesday to protest what they say is the Lao government's ethnic cleansing of the country's Hmong minority.
Human rights groups accuse Laos' communist government of using food as a weapon against civilians as it battles Hmong rebels. Rights groups also accuse Lao soldiers of surrounding the Hmong in the country's jungles. They say there is a dire need for food and medicine in those areas.
Tuesday's protest came as the Bush administration say it supports a bill in Congress that would grant normal trade relations with Laos. Congressional sponsors of the bill say normalizing trade with Laos could relieve poverty and create an open society.