More about Thao Moua and Pa Fue Khang
If you are in Europe, you could send a copy of your letter to Laos's
diplomatic mission, which is in Paris:
His Excellency Mr Khouanta Phalivong
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic
74, Ave Raymond-Poincaré 75 116
You can send cards, with simple non-political greetings,
to Thao Moua or Pa Fue Khang:
c/o Samkhe Prison
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Information from Amnesty International's
Individuals at Risk Case-Sheet 2007/08 of November 2007, and
Greetings Card Campaign Action 1 Nov. 200731 Jan. 2008:
Thao Moua, Pa Fue Khang and Char Yang, men of the ethnic Hmong
people in Laos, were arrested in June 2003 with two Bangkok-based
journalistsBelgian Thierry Falise and Frenchman Vincent
Reynaudand Pastor Naw Karl Mua, their Hmong-American
interpreter. They had just emerged from the jungle in Xieng
Khouang province, where the journalists had been researching
an article on the ill-treatment of Hmong people. The three
men were working as their assistants, drivers and guides.
Following their arrest the three Hmong
men were reportedly shackled in leg irons and beaten with
sticks and bicycle chains. In pre-trial detention one of them
was repeatedly knocked unconscious. The arrests were only
acknowledged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs weeks later,
after worldwide protests.
On 30 June five of the six were brought
to trial, which lasted less than three hours. (Yang, who had
managed to escape detention, was tried in absentia; he eventually
fled to Thailand and was resettled to a third country.)
The Laotians had no legal representation and the trial's outcome
was apparently pre-determined.
(Quotation from Thierry Falise, the
Belgian journalist: "The trial was a farce and when it
came to the reading of the conclusions of the sentences...
it was a text of five or six pages, which was typewritten;
we only had a fifteen minute pause before that so it was obvious
that this text was typed up in advance.")
All six were sentenced to between
10 and 20 years' imprisonment. The embassies of the foreign
nationals negotiated their release shortly afterwards; the
three were deported on 9 July but their notes and film materials
were confiscated. Moua and Khang were transferred to Samkhe
prison in Vientiane, the Laotian capital. It is not known
if they were allowed to appeal. They are serving sentences
of 12 and 15 years respectively.
The charges against them included
collaboration in the commission of an offence, possession
of firearms and explosives, possession of drugs, and destruction
Amnesty International believes their unfair trial was politically
motivated because of their involvement in researching a news
story about the plight of the Hmong hiding in the jungle.
Ethnic Hmong prisoners receive particularly
harsh treatment and are at increased risk of torture, denial
of medical treatment, and harsh punishments.
The genocide of the Hmong
During the Vietnam war, Laos was supposed to be neutral, but
North Vietnamese troops operated there and the US and Royal
Laos armies fought against them. The CIA recruited men of
the Hmong tribe, who could move quickly through the forests
and mountains that they knew well.
After the US pulled out in 1975, leaving
Laos like Vietnam to the communists, the Pathet Lao government
announced that it would wipe out all Hmong in Laos. So for
the several thousand remaining Hmong the war has never stopped:
they have to defend themselves, with the rusting weapons left
to them, against continual attack from Laotian troops. They
have to live in hiding in the jungle, unable to rest anywhere
long enough to grow food, living on rats and boiled shrubs,
and suffering severe malnutrition and disease.
When the occasional foreign journalist
reaches them, the Hmong weep unrestrainedly and beg for the
Americans to come back and rescue them. A CIA agent who was
the leader in their recruitment and training
has said: "The CIA owes them nothing. We gave them the choice
to leave." Some did become refugees in America. More recently
hundreds have fled into Thailand, but Thailand has forcibly
returned them. The only solution is for the US to repay its
debt to those it used by pressing Laos to cease persecuting
them, but the US gives no more than lip-service to this.
From Amnesty International's background material: "Those
[Hmong] who have assisted visiting journalists, or have connections
to these Hmong groups, are themselves at risk of serious human
rights abuses. In Laos, a one-party state that tightly restricts
the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,
opposition to the government is not permitted. The state retains
control of the media, religious organizations, and trade unions.
There are no independent domestic non-government organisations,
and international human rights monitors are not permitted
free access to the country. Trial proceedings in political
cases fail to meet international standards; conditions in
police custody and prisons are harsh, with reports of torture
and ill-treatment. Although Laos signed the International
Covenant on Civil and political Rights and the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2001,
it has to date failed to take sufficient necessary steps towards
ratification and full implementation. (For more information
see Amnesty International's report, Lao people's democratic
Republic: Hiding in the JungleHmong under threat,
Amnesty International Index: ASA 26/003/2007)."
The case of Thao Moua and Pa Fue Khang is particularly
important: it brought to light the oppression of the Hmong
in Laos. Click here for further
very interesting information about the Hmong in Laos,
written by Duncan Booth.