WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 14, 2010) – U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said Wednesday that he continues to work with the U.S. State Department to monitor the Laotian Government’s treatment of the 4,400 Hmong who were forcefully repatriated to Laos from Thailand in late December.Sen. Franken said that in the months since the repatriation, he has been in contact with State Department officials to get the most up-to-date information about the well-being of the Hmong returnees, who are now in a new development village in Laos. The Senator was told this week that U.S. food and other assistance was delivered to Hmong returnees in the new village by the Lao Red Cross on March 27.
“I am working to ensure that the United States and the international community has unimpeded and complete access to all the returnees in the development village to ensure their well-being,” said Sen. Franken. “As humanitarian aid from the United States and other sources arrives in Laos, I have pressed the State Department to ensure that it actually gets to the Hmong returnees and is not diverted.”
Beyond Sen. Franken’s concern for the well-being of the 4,400 Hmong returnees, the Senator said that he has spoken to State Department officials about the 158 returnees who are eligible for asylum in countries outside of Laos, and has urged that their cases be resolved as quickly as possible.
“The plight of the 4,400 Hmong returnees has faded from the headlines,” Sen. Franken said. “But I remain as committed as ever to ensuring their well-being and to letting the Laotian government know that we’re carefully monitoring its treatment of them.”
He said that if any members of the Hmong-American community in Minnesota have credible information about the mistreatment of the Hmong returnees, they should contact his office at 651-221-1083 and he will pass that information on to the State Department, which is committed to investigating such reports.