By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff report
ST. PAUL, Minn. (May 10, 2011) – A local advocate for Hmong human rights issues reports that he is getting calls from Vietnam about the fate of Hmong in Dien Bien Province.
Zong Khang Yang, a liaison officer for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, became known to Hmong around the world in 2004, when he organized a 1,000 mile march from Saint Paul to Washington, D.C. About a dozen walkers stopped along the way wherever people wanted to listen about who are the Hmong Americans and why they are concerned for their estimated 17,000 relatives still living in Laos.
His work drew attention to the plight of the Hmong in Laos, and that has made him known to the Hmong in South Vietnam who are calling him about the fate of Hmong Christians that were reportedly overwhelmed by Vietnamese military following demonstrations calling for autonomy.
“Somehow they know my phone number and my name,” said Yang.
He said people are not giving their real names or are remaining anonymous. He said callers are telling him that the military is coming to arrest people and are cutting access to phones and other communication. The home lines, or the phone calling stores and cell phone stores are closed and the area sealed off, he added.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the Hmong comprise 1 percent of Vietnam’s population. Yang said these Hmong in Vietnam fought the French and the United States during the Vietnam War, and although they were on their side they have received no benefits.
He reports getting calls from Hmong in the south that did not heed calls from unknown leaders that called for mass demonstrations. He said the
Voice of America news reports concur that the Vietnamese military has exercised deadly force against Hmong Christians along the Laos border. The inability for foreign journalists to access the region has prompted concern about the scale of the crackdown.
Yang said he has been told that several thousand people were gathered to protest to separate from Vietnam. They were poor and received no help from the government.
Those living in Dien Bien Province are largely Christian and face further persecution, he added. He said this Group Number Six and Group Number Seven are simple people and not everyone understood the danger. Others did and several thousand reportedly left for the south before the protests began on rumors they would be receptive to them.
Reports that about a thousand people have been transported away and no one seems to know where they were taken. He said reports are that women and children under age ten are not being detained or tortured but that men and boys older than that are being told to join the military or face fines.
He said reports say that chemicals were used and that they called it poison that caused people to fall and die, and that it turned the water green. He said people are reporting beatings and being shot or stabbed with bayonets. Others, he said, were dragged to holding areas and that the wounded were dying and sometimes buried alive with the dead.
“I told them to write what they witness and save the notes,” he said. “Then when they go to UN, if they have these accounts then it can be verified later. I tell them that video and photos will help them after the scene is cleaned.”
He said to remember where people are buried and where to find other evidence.
Some people have escaped to China or to far away provinces. He said people will not trust anybody and that they need someone they know to come out and talk to them. They are tired and hungry and waiting for someone to help them.
“I don’t think their leadership is legitimate and I told them to record what I said and that I don’t want them to get the wrong message,” said Yang. “I told them to get a group together so they can talk and that they will receive the same message.”
Yang has organized the International Fund for Hmong Development, and wants to establish a New York office to be near the United Nations.
“We urge the community to act, and to call to their legislators and the United Nations to urgently investigate this issue,” said Yang.
For more information contact Zong Khang Yang at 651-239-3113 or email [email protected] The office is located at 1394 Jackson Street, Suite 201, St. Paul, MN 55117.