Commentary: Hmong need fair treatment from Laos, U.S.

More than two months have passed since Thailand forcibly returned 4,500 Hmong refugees who had fled from Laos. For Hmong in Sacramento and elsewhere in the United States who have family there, the plight of these refugees has been excruciating, and frustrating.

The U.S. government protested the forced repatriation and some members of Congress made noises about "reviewing" U.S. military aid to Thailand, but the evictions took place nonetheless.

A U.S. Embassy official in Laos on Feb. 26 finally was allowed to visit the Laotian village where the Hmong have been housed since their expulsion from Thailand – but scripted events with Laotian officials ever-present are unlikely to produce a true picture of conditions.

"You have the State Department saying the Hmong are fine, then you have the Hmong community hearing from their families in Laos about mistreatment," says Nancy Ly of Sacramento, a member of the Hmong Leadership Steering Committee, a collaboration of 12 groups in five states.

The State Department, she notes, wants hard evidence. But how do you get that when Laos and Thailand will not allow international groups to independently monitor or investigate conditions?

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