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Hmong community keeps pressure on to help family in Laos

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Lao Family Community
Members of the Twin Cities Hmong community meet at the Lao Family Community in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 5, 2010, to discuss the fate of friends and relatives deported from Thailand back to Laos last year.
MPR Photo/Toni Randolph

Members of the Hmong community in the Twin Cities are trying to keep pressure on the U.S. government to help recently repatriated Hmong in Laos. 

More than 300 members of the Hmong community turned out for a town hall-style meeting in St. Paul last night, hoping to get the latest information on the more than 4,000 Hmong who were deported from Thailand to Laos late last month. 

Some people haven't heard from their relatives at all since the mass deportation. Others have had only limited contact. 

Nhia Paul Moua of St. Paul is in the latter group. He said his brother, sister-in-law and their five children were deported to Laos on Dec. 27, 2009. 

Speaking through an interpreter, Moua said he last spoke with his brother the next day. 

"The 28th at 9 a.m., December," he said. "Now when they call, the operator tells them the phone number is disconnected. It won't process."

Moua says he fears for his brother's life. 

Mee Vang
Mee Vang, secretary of the Hmong Disapora Leadership Council, pictured on Jan. 5, 2010, in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Toni Randolph

At the town hall meeting at Lao Family Community last night, the Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council called on U.S. elected officials to take an active role in the crisis. 

Minnesota's two Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, along with Rep. Betty McCollum and other elected officials were invited to last night's meeting but did not attend. 

Officials from the council say they'll meet privately with members of Minnesota's congressional delegation. 

Mee Vang is secretary of the Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council. She said the United States is obligated to help resolve this crisis since it was the CIA's involvement in the secret war in Vietnam that caused it in the first place. 

Vang said she wants to put pressure on the U.S. embassies in Laos and Thailand to gain access to those who were deported. 

"We want to be able to number one, monitor their current situation," Vang said. "Number two, for those that do qualify for refugee status, for those people to be able to resettle in third countries." 

Vang said Canada, the Netherlands and Australia, along with the U.S., have agreed to take in refugees. She said the U.S. State Department put the number of people who will qualify as refugees at about 300. 

Members of the Hmong Diaspora Leadership Council also wants help from the U.S. government and the international community in verifying reports of mistreatment of the Hmong who were deported.