AAP staff report
Hmong National Development, the national subsidiary of Hmong American Partnership, expressed “extreme concern” for the safety and well-being of over 5,000 Hmong in Northern Vietnam’s Dien Bien province, where over 100 Hmong are reported to be detained, and over 600 reported to remain in hiding.
HND said the Hmong-Vietnamese community numbers more than 700,000 and is spread across the country. An HND release refers to several media outlets that confirmed the crackdown after more over 5,000 Hmong-Vietnamese gathered to protest land rights violations, ethnic discrimination and religious persecution. The reporters claim limited or no access to people or the site to learn about the extent of those detained or displaced.
“Furthermore, several press releases have been distributed by the Center for Public Policy Analysis and Hmong Advance Inc. and news articles have also cited these two organizations, listing quotes from Phillip Smith and Christy Lee,” the HND release added. “Over the past few weeks, HND has made repeated attempts via phone and email to contact these organizations and persons, but they have been unreachable. Thus far none of the sources of information these organizations have put out have been confirmed or deemed credible. HND is in no way affiliated with these organizations and questions the legitimacy of their claims.”
HND is in communication with the U.S. State Department regarding the Hmong protests in Vietnam. The State Department is in contact with the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, but HND has not received any updates beyond what the media is reporting. HND has also contacted Congressmen and Senators in the states which have the larges concentration of Hmong American populations, namely California, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Thus far, Minnesota Senator Al Franken and Minnesota State Representative Rena Moran (65A) are the only elected officials to follow up on the issue with their own queries to the State Department.
HND is also leading a signature campaign to help weigh the level the concern to help in urging elected officials to look further into the matter and to direct the State Department to press the Vietnamese Embassy for credible information and reports. Sign the HND petition online at www.hndinc.org.
One local advocate of the Hmong is Vietnam is Zong Khang Yang, a liaison officer for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, who is better known to Hmong around the world for his 2004 march from Saint Paul to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to the plight of Hmong 17,000 Hmong in Laos that are relatives of the CIA soldiers that fought for America during the War in Southeast Asia.
Yang’s work made him known to Hmong in Vietnam, and some of them call anonymously to update him on the situation. He said the callers told him that the protesters were largely Christian and were following unknown leaders directing them to protest in Dien Bien Province.
Yang said they are a simple people and not everyone understood the danger the protests would bring onto them community. Others did, and reportedly fled before or during the protest crackdown to the south.
He said that subsequent calls reported that U.S. Embassy officials did visit Diem Bien Phu province but that by then the demonstration area had been “bulldozed” to erase any sign that an incident took place. He also said that villagers were warned not to talk to outsiders about the incident.
“They don’t know who to trust,” said Yang, adding that an American official who speaks some Vietnamese gave villagers a phone number to call but that there is trouble communicating.
Yang has established the International Fund for Hmong Development that has produced a Hmong Declaration for rights recognition on May 16, 2011. It declared the “right to be independent, the right to exist, and the right to remain free from persecution.” It was based on the outcome of a recent international Hmong conference.
Yang said it is necessary to open a New York office to be near the United Nations and other organizations that can make a difference on this and other Hmong international issues.
The national office of International Fund for Hmong Development is located at 845 Third Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, New York 10022. Call 646-290-5005 or email [email protected]. Visit online at www.ifhd.us.