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Hmong from Appleton still missing after visiting Asia years ago

By: The Associated Press, April 19, 2002, Friday

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., has urged the United States not to normalize relations with Laos until the disappearance of a Hmong from Appleton three years ago is resolved.

On April 19, 1999, Houa Ly, then 55, was near the Thailand-Laos border with a friend, Michael Vang, of Fresno, Calif.

According to witness reports, Ly and Vang were forced onto a boat on the Mekong River and taken to the Laotian side. The report suggests the communist-controlled Laotian government abducted Ly and Vang. Ly's daughter, Yer Ly, who lives in St. Paul, Minn., believes her father was attending an annual Thai celebration called the Water Festival.

"For three years his family has suffered without any real answers," said Green, who is from Green Bay. He made the appeal Thursday on the floor of the U.S. House.

Houa Ly worked with U.S. forces during the Vietnam War and assisted in the recovery of three U.S. flyers.

Ly, who checks regularly with the U.S. State Department, said the FBI told her family that her father was dead.

"They say they have different news from third parties or whatever but they haven't let the family know what they really know," she said.

Ly believes race has played a role in the search.

"If my father was not an Asian-American I think he would have been found within a couple of months. I don't believe they are doing everything they can and should do."

Houa Ly's wife, Neng Xiong Ly, still lives in Appleton.

"I strongly believe that he is being imprisoned and tortured by the Lao government," Yer Ly said.

Chris Tuttle, a spokesman for Green, said he wouldn't put it beyond the Laos government to do something like this.

"We're going to keep pushing on this until we get the answers that these people need," he said.

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