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09GENEVA734 2009-09-04 07:21:00 CONFIDENTIAL Mission Geneva
Cable title:  

LAO AMBASSADOR SEES LITTLE INTERNATIONAL ROLE ON

Tags:   PHUM PREF PREL TH LA 
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1. (C) Summary and Comment: In a meeting with the Charg,
Lao Ambassador to the UN Yong , expressed a willingness to
have IOM play some role in resettling the Lao Hmong in
Thailand, but made it clear that the return of Lao Hmong was
a bilateral matter between Thailand and Laos and that any
international organization role will be informal. The Charg
encouraged Yong to continue to improve GOL transparency on
resettlement and pressed that an IOM role verifying that
returns are voluntary and returnees well treated back in Laos
would be the best means of countering "misinformation" that
Yong complained was flowing from the Hmong and activist
community in the US. We did not have to scratch deep to
encounter familiar GOL resistance to any international role,
but there are points still worth exploring and Yong expressed
a genuine desire to engage. End Summary and Content



2. (SBU) The Charg used a courtesy call on Lao ambassador
Young Chanthalangsy to follow-up on PRM PDAS Witten,s recent
visit to Laos and Thailand to discuss Lao Hmong in Thailand.
He was accompanied by RMA Counselor. Noting improving US-Lao
relations, the Charg stressed that we would like to help
find a solution to the situation of the Lao Hmong that was
acceptable to everyone. He acknowledged GOL efforts
regarding increased transparency and international monitoring
of Lao Hmong returnees from Petchabun, Thailand, and
encouraged further steps, such as allowing the International
Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide some sort of
assistance once they return to Laos as well. Pointing to
high-level USG and Congressional interest, the Charg stated
that such steps would reassure the international community
that Hmong are not being mistreated upon return to Laos. End
summary and comment.



--------------------------


Process must be bilateral


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Yong agreed that US-Lao ties have been on an upward
trend for a couple of years now, referring to increased
mil-mil contact, assistance with unexploded ordinance and
drug trafficking as clear examples of the improvement. The
Lao Hmong issue is the only negative element in the
relationship, he continued. Yong said the GOL greatly
appreciated PDAS Witten,s very clear message to the Hmong in
Petchabun that the US had no plans to resettle them. Many of
the Lao Hmong only fled to Petchabun out of a belief that
they would get third-country resettlement, often misled by
misinformation coming from the Hmong community and some other
activists in the US according to Yong (he handed over a
compilation of wire stories as examples). Both the GOL and
RTG consider the Hmong in Petchabun to be illegal migrants
and plan to implement a bilateral approach to returning them
to Laos, he said.



4. (SBU) The Charg responded that the USG was willing to
support voluntary returns, but that it would be important to
avoid misperceptions and misinformation that might arise.
The best way to do that was to include a respected outside
organization, such as IOM. If IOM were able to say that the
returns were voluntary and returnees were well treated in
Laos, this would be the most credible way to respond to
detractors.


5. (SBU) Mentioning that a second group of Lao Hmong had
been repatriated the day before, Yong said that the process
envisaged by the GOL and RTG was that IOM could be present at
the processing of departures in Petchabun and to the Lao
border where they would be handed over to GOL authorities.
He said that IOM could even come from the border to "welcome
center" in Laos where they would stay for 2-4 weeks while
identities were verified and plans made for their return to
home villages in 90 percent of cases or to development
villages for those with no family or village ties. RMA
Counselor noted that IOM did not yet have a formal agreement
with either the RTG or GOL for any of this work and asked
whether they would also be allowed to visit returnees
periodically in Laos. He stated that the USG would be
prepared to finance such work by IOM.


6. (SBU) Yong reverted to familiar Lao policy lines by
stating that the sine qua non for the GOL and the RTG was to
not make an international issue out of the Lao Hmong. This
must be handled through bilateral channels and any role for
international organizations would be informal. The best
thing the US can do is to facilitate the returns, at which
point the GOL will become more and more open. The government
can organize informal (read non-official) visits to

returnees. Moving onto the question of resettlement, Yong
said that whatever country wishes to take Lao Hmong is free
to do so. The GOL condition is that they return to Laos and
go through the processing mentioned above first.



--------------------------


Nong Khai Killers


--------------------------





7. (C) Finally, Yong turned to the 158 Lao Hmong who have
received UNHCR status and are being held in Nong Khai. He
said that the GOL would also accept the resettlement of those
individuals under the same conditions mentioned above. He
then stated that UNHCR had created a problem with these
individuals as some are criminals and engaged in killings in
Laos. In fact, several individuals were even responsible for
the killings of foreigners, in particular the two Swiss
citizens killed in 2004, led by the current leader of the
group in Nong Khai. In an ominous tone, Yong then explained
that this was why some of those returned to development
houses would need "a long period of healing" and would
actually require GOL protection from retribution. Since the
GOL has not wanted to internationalize this situation, it has
refrained from sharing this "bombshell" about the involvement
in killings to others, as it would not want to see these
individuals pursued by other countries. This is why you need
to understand, he concluded, that we cannot open up
completely on this matter.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





8. (C) Yong was responsible for handling the Lao Hmong file
in Vientiane before coming to Geneva this spring. By all
accounts, he continues to be influential on the matter.
While his initial comments were encouraging, as we scratched
deeper, it became clear that there is a long row to hoe
between here and agreement on a process. However, he
demonstrated a clear willingness to engage further.
GRIFFITHS