Last October, a large group of desperate ethnic Hmong Lao decided to come out of hiding, after being chased and hunted for more than 30 years by Laotian and Vietnamese military.
“The group leader Blia Shoua Her informed us that he is the Leader, and more than 10 families remained in the jungle, they are waiting on how the Lao authorities is going to treat his group of 438 people which came out of hiding last week,” said Chue Chou Tchang, from the U.S.-based Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association.
On Oct. 17, 2006, Kue Xiong, from the U.S.-based human rights organization Hmong Lao Human Rights Council (HLHRC) received an early morning call from Blia Shoua Her, who told Kue Xiong that he will remain with the solar panel satellite telephone, and over 10 families in the jungle at this point.
“We heard that a military helicopter landed in the village of Na Khae, near mountain of Phou Ban -- where the half-starved group of 438 Hmong came out of hiding, we assume that they brought the people to Muang Mek,” said Chue Chou Tchang from HAMAA,
“The helicopter went back and forth, flying over another group-in-hiding at mountain Phou Yeui,” said Chue Chou Tchang.” They called me and informed me that the helicopter was either a B8 or B12, which can load up to 50 people, and that helicopter flew 11 times back and forth, from the direction of village Na Khae to the direction of Muang Mek.
“Muang Mek lies in a remote area, which is off limit to foreigners, diplomats or journalists,” said Lia Vang, a U.S.-based reporter from Minnesota Public Radio. “Chue Chou Tchang added: “In the surrounding there are still many Hmong-Lao groups who live in hiding.”
Prior to their decision to surrender to the Lao authorities, the group of Bila Shoua Her was recently visited by U.S. journalist Roger Arnold, who needed several days to reach the large group-in-hiding.
“They fell to their knees begging me to save their lives. They claim Lao and Vietnamese Government soldiers pursue them constantly and hunt them like wild animals,” Arnold said. “I found a forgotten, terrified people, living in squalid conditions, foraging for wild plants and animals, suffering malnutrition, some starving. Many are shell-shocked and injured from bombs and bullets.
“Our U.S.-based Hmong community is anxious to have these people monitored and safe” said Xia Lo Thao, the spokesperson of the U.S.-based traditional Council of Hmong Clan Leaders, Hmong 18 Council, who received a call from Blia Shoua Her a few days ago.
“If that is true that they removed the group by helicopter, as we believe, due to that the helicopter was seen flying back and forth from that village area, then the Lao government is really anxious to get them out of sight of the public eye,“ said Rebecca Sommer, UN representative for the Society for Threatened Peoples International. “That is raising serious doubts that Laos is willing to treat these people well and in accordance with international standards”
“This is a very discouraging signal for the international community trying to see a solution fro this outrageous situation, and for all the groups –in-hiding, hoping to come out from hiding,” said Kue Xiong, President of Hmong Lao Human Rights Council.” We do not get it, why is Laos only interested in killing our people, why not treat them well -- when they come out, and encourage all others to trust and leave their hiding places.”
“When is the world going to open its eyes -- to look at this problem? My people get killed all over the place, including women and children, “ said Xia Lo Thao. “These atrocities are beyond my imagination, and I demand that the world offers a helping hand for my people -- trapped in the remote jungles of Laos.”
“Some groups who come out are luckier then others, and away from being intimidated they are simply left alone, without any assistance for food or shelter,” Sommer told HNN. “Others suffer tremendous cruelties, no one knows what will happen to these people.”
“Just some month ago, we reported cases, where two small groups of women and children came out of hiding, the women and girls were gang raped by the soldiers, children as young as 9 years old were raped until death,” said Chue Chou Tchang, the president of Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association (HAMAA), which provides support programs to the US based Hmong community in Minnesota. “Three women managed to escape from the military bases, and are back in the jungle, hiding, but have to live with the memory of their children crying and begging for mercy while being raped by many soldiers, until they became silent because they died.”
“It is very difficult for our Hmong community to deal with this issue,” said Kue Xiong. “We can not advise the groups in hiding what to do, because if they stay, they face military attacks and starvation, if they come out, they may be killed, or severely mistreated -- this situation breaks our hearts.”
“The groups who want to come out need the global community, the UN, to be there for them,” said Chue Hue Vang, executive director of U.S.-based United Lao Council for Peace, Freedom and Reconciliation(ULCPFR). “Even so, Laos denies outsiders access to the areas were the Hmong live in hiding, including the UN, diplomats or journalists, somehow governments, including the US, must have a say, considering the large amounts of monetary aid they provide to Laos.”
"The lack of responses from the United States government and the United Nation is most disappointing. The least these two governmental bodies could do is to demand the Lao government to allow them to go into these areas and find out for themselves the conditions of these former allies of the United States" said Lee Pao Xiong, the director of the Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University, St. Paul.
"If the Lao government refuses to allow the United Nations, the United States government and other international human right organizations to investigate, it begs the question, what are they hiding? If the United States government and the United Nations refuses to intervene, what are they afraid of finding?"