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HEADLINE: US-based Lao group accuses Laos of persecuting Hmong people

Text of report by Thai newspaper The Nation' web site on 14th June

A US-based Lao dissident group yesterday urged ASEAN and foreign donors to pressure the government of Laos to stop killing the Hmong people, whom it described as freedom fighters.

Executive director of the Lao Human Rights Council Dr Vang Pobzeb said the governments of these countries could do so through signing the Rome Treaty of international crime court, which would provide a legal basis to investigate and punish governments which committed genocide, wars of aggression and human-rights violations.

Pobzeb, who was attending a regional workshop in Bangkok to encourage the ratification of the treaty in Asia, praised the Thai government for its plan to sign the document this year.

"This will set the stage for other ASEAN neighbours to do so in the future," he said.

To date 97 countries have signed the treaty, none of them from ASEAN, while 12 nations have already ratified it, including three in Asia.

Communist Laos become an ASEAN member along with Burma in 1997 while Cambodia joined earlier this year. Nevertheless, the human-rights violations in that country have not gained as much world attention as those in the other two new members.

Lamenting the lack of international interest in the killings in Laos, Vang Pobzeb said the crimes Vientiane had committed against the Hmong were tantamount to ethnic cleansing and violation of human rights.

He claimed more than 300,000 Laotian people, including Hmong, had been killed in Laos since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Van Pobzeb also accused the Vietnamese government of helping its communist ally in continuing with the ethnic cleansing of Hmong people, whom he described as freedom fighters.

BBC Worldwide Monitoring, June 14, 2000, Wednesday

To justify its suppression on the Hmong rebels, he said, the Laotian government called them a bad element which sought to overthrow the government and destabilise the country.

But, according to Pobzeb, the Hmong had no choice but to defend themselves otherwise they would all be killed by government troops.

He also urged foreign donors other than the United State to pressure the governments of Laos and Vietnam to put an end to the killing of the Hmong. Washington has held back a decision to grant trade privileges to Vietnam and Laos pending investigation of human-rights violations in both countries.

Japan, the European Union and Australia have resumed normal trade relations with the two states.

Pobzeb denied that the present armed struggle against the government in Laos was engineered by exiled Hmong leader General Vang Pao, who led the CIA-supported resistance movement against the communist regime in Laos during the Vietnam War.

He claimed that the present movement was in fact the struggle of the Laotian people, who were disgruntled with the government.

He also denied the spate of bombings in Vientiane was the work of the Hmong resistance movement and attributed it to the people of Laos who were dissatisfied with the state's rampant corruption and the regime's human-rights violations.