Laos

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Overview
<p> A quiet, landlocked Buddhist nation in Southeast Asia, Laos is a true backwater. Many of the country&rsquo;s political and historical developments have been the result of the ripple effects of events in neighboring countries:&nbsp;Thailand is its &ldquo;cousin&rdquo; to the west; China, the monster to the north; and Vietnam, the tumultuous and war-ravaged nation to the south.&nbsp;Communism reached Laos after World War II, took hold in the 1970s, and has yet to leave. Only half of Laos&rsquo; population of about 6 million is ethnically Laotian. The rest belong to one of about 70 different ethnic groups and tribes. Laos is the world&rsquo;s third-largest producer of opium, behind Afghanistan and Burma.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Thirty years after the Pathēt Lao takeover, Laos remains a one-party state that didn&rsquo;t promulgate a constitution &nbsp;until 1991. Eventually, Laos officials adopted the &ldquo;Chinese Model,&rdquo; liberalizing their economy while centralizing political power and aggressively suppressing dissent.&nbsp;Their efforts have met with only moderate success.&nbsp;</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> During the George W. Bush administration, trade relations were &nbsp;normalized, following 30 years of political and economic distance between the former adversaries. During the Vietnam War, the United States financed a &ldquo;secret war&rdquo; in Laos, providing arms and training to Hmong guerillas who fiercely opposed the Communists, who eventually took over the country in 1975. That development produced a mass exodus of Hmong from Laos, many of whom settled in the US and opposed the decision by the Bush administration to expand trade with their former homeland, which has a poor human rights record.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Obama administration has opened up relations with Laos. President Obama visited Southeast Asia in November of 2009 at the same time that more than 1,100 Laotians were arrested for alleged opposition to the authoritarian military regime.</div>
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Basic Information
<p> <b>Lay of the Land</b>: Laos is a landlocked nation nestled in the mountains of the Indochinese Peninsula of Southeast Asia.&nbsp;Most of the country is rugged, often densely forested, with the population concentrated in the Mekong River plains along the western border.&nbsp;The wet monsoon season, May to September, bring heavy rainfall.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Population</b>: 6.7 million</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Religions</b>: Theravada Buddhist 53.2%, Ethnoreligious 38.8%, Christian 2.7%, Chinese Universalist 0.4%, Hindu 0.1%, Muslim 0.1%, non-religious 4.7%.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Ethnic Groups</b>: Lao 55%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 8%, other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26%.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Languages</b>: Lao (official) 49.2%, Khmu 6.4%, Hmong (Daw, Njua) 5.1%, Phu Thai 2.5%, Kataang 1.8%, Eastern Bru 1.1%, Akha 1.0%.&nbsp;There are 82 living languages in Laos.</div>
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History
<p> Laos&rsquo; Golden Age occurred during the 57-year reign of King Surinyavongsā (1637-1694), during which his kingdom of Lan Xang was a center of religion and the arts. Surinyavongsā had only one son, Chao Rachabut, whom Surinyavongsā ordered executed when he was found guilty of adultery. This left an unclear succession when Surinyavongsā finally died, and Laos was victimized by factionalism and foreign intervention from all sides.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In the late 19th century, King Unkham, threatened with takeover by either the Siamese (Thai) or the French, chose the French, who &nbsp;linked the country with French Indochina. Laos had never been mapped, so, in conjunction with the British, Chinese and&nbsp;Thais, France mapped Laos in 1896 and 1897 and created the basic boundaries that still exist.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Although the French did impose the corv&eacute;e system of ten days&rsquo; forced labor a year, for the most part they ignored Laos, considering it little more than a buffer zone against British influence in Southeast Asia. Laos remained reasonably unaffected by World War II until 1945, when the Japanese forced King Sīsavāngvong to declare independence from the French. The country &nbsp;then &nbsp;descended into the beginnings of a multi-sided civil war which ended when Japan surrendered, ending World War II.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The French regained their role as the dominant player in Laos, but nationalist forces and even the Chinese army entered the fray. Communism was a hard sell in Laos because, unlike in China and Vietnam, the farmers, who made up 90% of the population, owned their own land and there were no landlords to rail against. Still, the communists gained a foothold in the ethnic minority regions and in 1950 started a Lao communist organization that came to be known as the Pathēt Lao (&ldquo;Lao Homeland&rdquo;).&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Pathēt Lao operated as a subsidiary of the Vietnamese Communists. Laos gained full sovereignty in 1953, but by that time the Pathēt Lao already controlled part of the country.&nbsp;Despite it relative remoteness and lack of economic importance, Laos was swept up in the Cold War and, more specifically in the surrogate war that the United States and the Soviet Union were fighting in Vietnam. The Communist North Vietnamese, who had occupied northeastern Laos during their fight against the French, used Laotian territory to deploy more than 75,000 troops. In addition, the Vietnamese built and maintained the Ho Chi Minh Trail to supply Communist forces in South Vietnam and Cambodia. Almost all of the Trail ran through eastern Laos. The Chinese established their own military zone of influence in the northwest.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> And then there were the Americans. The US began training the Royal Lao Army and an army of the Hmong ethnic group in 1959. US involvement in Laos was considered a &ldquo;Secret War,&rdquo; not publicly acknowledged by the government, and American soldiers and CIA agents who died in Laos were listed as having died in Vietnam. The war no secret to the Laotians. Between 1964 and 1973, the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, or one thousand pounds of explosives for each man, woman and child in the country. In Xieng Khouang Province, the figure reached two tons per person. The Americans dropped an average of one planeload of bombs on Laos every eight minutes, everyday for nine years. To avoid the bombing, many Laotian villagers were forced to live for years in caves and to do their farming at night.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> When Cambodia and Vietnam fell to the Communists in 1975, it was just a matter of time before Laos followed. The Lao People&rsquo;s Democratic Republic was declared on December 2, 1975.&nbsp;The Pathēt Lao harshly repressed the Hmong and anyone else considered unsympathetic to their regime, including the royal family, and tens of thousands of people were imprisoned in &ldquo;reeducation&rdquo; camps.&nbsp;Although the Pathēt Lao government received aid from the Soviet Union, Vietnam and China, under communism the Laotian economy collapsed and an estimated 400,000 Laotians, about 12% of the population, fled to Thailand.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In the early 1990s Laos abandoned economic communism for capitalism, but the Pathēt Lao &nbsp;party retained tight political control, and political dissent was harshly suppressed. Meanwhile, the nation improved relations with former enemies such as China, Thailand, and the United States, which reinstated aid to Laos in 1995. Kaysone Phomvihane became president in 1991. He died the following year and was succeeded as president by Nouhak Phoumsavan. Khamtay Siphandone, a former military leader of the Pathet Lao, became party leader and, when Nouhak retired in 1998, assumed the job of president as well. Laos was admitted to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997. Khamtay retired as party leader in March 2006. He was succeeded in the post by Vice President (and Lt. Gen.) Choummaly Sayasone, who also succeeded Khamtay as president on June 8, 2006.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Since Laos is one of the world&rsquo;s poorest countries, economic reforms were instituted that have helped the economy grow by an average annual rate of 7.2% since 2006. Most of these reforms have been carried out by aid from foreign countries, especially Thailand.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/latoc.html" target="_blank">Library of Congress Country Study</a></div>
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Laos 's Newspapers
<p> <a href="http://www.kplnet.net/">Lao News Agency</a></p>
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History of U.S. Relations with Laos
<p> During its &ldquo;secret war&rdquo; in the 1960s, the US supported Souvanna Phouma&rsquo;s government in Laos. There was no formal military alliance, and there were no American military bases or ground troops in Laos (as was the case in South Vietnam). US supply efforts were flown by civilian companies under charter to Souvanna Phouma&rsquo;s government, while US military pilots in civilian clothes secretly flew forward air control missions over Laos. CIA advisers assisted the guerrilla units of General Vang Pao&rsquo;s Hmong army, which, along with irregular forces in the south,were supplied with rice, arms, and pay by CIA operatives based at Udon Thani in Thailand. The total number of CIA personnel involved in this effort never exceeded 225 and included some fifty case officers.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Relations between the United States and Laos suffered some of the same cutbacks as those experienced by Vietnam and Cambodia after the US withdrew from Indochina in 1973, but with important differences. After 1975 Laos provided the United States with the only official window to its former enemy states in Indochina. The United States treated all departing Laotians as political refugees entitled to asylum, with hopes that other countries might eventually accept them for resettlement.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> When Communist forces seized control of Laos, diplomatic relations with the United States were maintained, even though the United States Agency for International Development (AID) and the United States Information Agency (USIA) both withdrew and diplomatic representation in Vientiane and in Washington was reduced to the level of charg&eacute; d&#39;affaires, with a limit of twelve persons and no military attach&eacute;s. Relations eventually were reciprocally restored to the ambassadorial level in the summer of 1992.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> On September 13, 1981, then-US Secretary of State Alexander Haig accused the Soviet Union of supplying trichothecene mycotoxins (poisonous compounds made by fungal molds that infect grain), popularly known as &ldquo;Yellow Rain,&rdquo; to the Communist regimes in Vietnam and Laos for use in counterinsurgency warfare. Leading American scientists challenged the US government&rsquo;s evidence for these allegations, however, and the controversy was never fully resolved.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> A tentative agreement to allow the Peace Corps in Laos fell through in the spring of 1992. The admission of Peace Corps workers was initially approved but then rejected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Apparently some party leaders feared that the volunteers might have a subversive impact on the Laotians, especially if deployed outside Vientiane.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In 1992 AID began operating again in Laos, with a $1.3 million grant for a prosthetics project. Because AID did not have an office in Laos, the program was administered from AID&rsquo;s office in Bangkok. The United States Information Service, the overseas branch office of the USIA, reopened a one-officer post in Vientiane in October 1992. The post concentrated on supporting English-language teaching activities and publications, press activities, and cultural and educational exchanges.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Laos and the United States have cooperated in varying degrees on two major issues of high priority to the United States. One is the search for information on the more than 500 US servicemen listed as missing in action (MIA) in Laos. In 1985, Laos treated the MIA issue seriously enough to undertake joint searches of known wartime crash sites of US aircraft. However, the US Senate Select Committee on Prisoner of War/MIA Affairs concluded in January 1993 that: &ldquo;The current leaders of Laos, who are the successors to the Pathet Lao forces that contended for power during the war, almost certainly have some information concerning missing Americans that they have not yet shared.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The second long-standing issue has been the production and export of opium. In April 1993, Laos received a national interest certification on the issue of cooperation in counter-narcotics activities. Opium traffic out of Laos has been a tangible irritant to relations, however, because of the suspicion that high-ranking Laotian officials, especially those in the military, were involved in protecting the trade. The US and Laos have worked together to control this trade, however, which has resulted in a 96% decline in opium poppy cultivation as of 2006. Because of growth in drug-related crimes, the US has provided law-enforcement officials for Laos.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Several US-Lao bilateral trade agreements have been initiated, such as that by Rep.Betty McCollum (D-</div> <div> MN) which attempted to create normal trade relations for certain products.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB248/index.htm">Fighting the War In Southeast Asia, 1961-1973 </a>(National Security Archive, George Washington University)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB248/war_in_northern_laos.pdf" target="_blank">The War in Northern Laos, 1954-1973</a> (by Victor B. Anthony and Richard R. Sexton, U.S. Air Force) (pdf)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.legaciesofwar.org/traveling-exhibit/history/history-bombing-laos">History / History of the Bombing of Laos</a> (Legacies of War)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/laos.html">Lost Over Laos</a> (by Robert M. Poole, Smithsonian.com)</div> <div> <a href="http://cns.miis.edu/stories/020805.htm">Conflicting Evidence Revives &quot;Yellow Rain&quot; Controversy</a> (by Jonathon Tucker, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies)</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div>
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Current U.S. Relations with Laos
<p> <b>Noted Laotian-Americans</b></p> <div> <a href="http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/members/member_bio.php?leg_id=10744">Mee Moua: Hmong-American State Senator from Minnesota</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail.asp?ID=10790">Cy Thao: Laotian-born Hmong-American who is a Minnesota State Representative</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.jerryyangpoker.com/">Jerry Yang: Laotian-born poker player who was the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event champion</a></div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> US-Laos relations have been largely shaped this decade by the debate over whether to grant Laos normal trade relations (NTR) treatment or not. Since 1997, when the United States and the Lao People&rsquo;s Democratic Republic (LPDR) concluded a bilateral trade agreement (BTA), legislation to extend NTR status to Laos faced opposition from many members of Congress concerned about human rights conditions in Laos and the plight of the Hmong.&nbsp;Some prominent Hmong-American organizations strongly opposed enacting the trade agreement, although the Laotian-American community as a whole reportedly was split on the issue.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> On November 19, 2004, Congress passed the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2004, which extended nondiscriminatory treatment to the products of Laos.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Obama administration has opened up relations with Laos. President Obama visited Southeast Asia in November of 2009 at the same time that more than 1,100 Laotians were arrested for alleged opposition to the authoritarian military regime. Many Laotians have sought President Obama&rsquo;s help to stop arrests of political dissidents. As Vaughn Vang, executive director of the Lao Human Rights Council said, &ldquo;the Laotian and Hmong people, along with international human rights and humanitarian NGOs, are urgently appealing to U.S. President Barack Obama to help end the political violence and institutional violence in Laos that the Lao Army and LPDR continue to inflict of ordinary people who want only to live in peace and freedom&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Obama has also removed Laos and Cambodia from a blacklist of countries. If a country is on that list, US businesses cannot use US government-backed loans while operating there. Obama removed these countries because he said both have &ldquo;ceased to be a Marxist-Leninist country.&rdquo; Six countries are still on that list: Cuba, Iran, Burma, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> Significant areas of bilateral cooperation include the recovery of Americans missing in action</div> <div> (MIAs), counter-narcotics efforts, and the removal of land mines. In October 2005, the United States signed a cooperation agreement with Lao officials in which it pledged $3.4 million to the LPDR for controlling outbreaks of avian flu.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Other policy issues include pressuring the Lao government to accept international monitoring of</div> <div> the resettlement of former Hmong militia members and their communities, appropriating Economic Support Funds (ESF) for judicial and economic reforms, granting trade preferences to least developed countries, including Laos, and supporting International Military and Education Training (IMET) for English language programs for Lao citizens involved in joint MIA accounting efforts.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> US foreign assistance to Laos remains relatively limited and channeled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rather than&nbsp;through the government of Laos, due to strained bilateral relations and to the country&rsquo;s status as a Tier 3 country on the State Department&rsquo;s 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report. US foreign assistance to Laos focuses on counter-narcotics and de-mining programs.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> Methamphetamine use has risen among Lao youth. The LPDR also receives assistance through the Leahy War Victims Fund ($917,000 in 2004-2007) to assist victims of unexploded ordinance from the Vietnam War.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> A total of 168,707 people identified themselves as being of Laotian ancestry in the 2000 US census. Immigration began en masse in the late 1970&rsquo;s, when the plight of Laotian refugees in Thailand became well known internationally. Between 1979 and 1981, 105,000 Laotians immigrated to the US. The vast majority of Laotians live in California, though sizeable communities exist in Texas, Minnesota, and Washington.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Hmong, a significant ethnic minority in Laos and Southeast Asia, have also immigrated in large numbers to the US. After the communist government took power in 1975, a third of Laotian Hmong were killed, a third fled to Thailand, and a third remained in Laos. Along with Cambodian and Laotian refugees, they came to America in significant numbers during the early 1980s.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In 2008 alone, the US Government provided more than $18 million to Laos, and George W. Bush also signed a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries, which has caused an increase in Lao exports to the US. The Lao government is now not only trying to uphold this bilateral agreement, but is also trying to gain membership to the World Trade Organziation.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In 2006, 46,829 Americans visited Laos. The number of tourists has increased erratically, from a low of 30,133 to a high of 47,427 in 2005.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> That same year 1,837 Laotians visited the US. Tourism has nearly doubled since 2002, when 1,190 Laotians came to America.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS20931.pdf">Laos: Background and U.S. Relations</a> (by Thomas Lum, Congressional Research Service)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.lana-usa.org/">Laotian American National Alliance</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.lasga.org/">Laotian American Society</a></div> <div> <a href="http://laoamericanyouth.org/">Lao American Youth Organization</a></div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div>
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Where Does the Money Flow
<p> The United States conducts a modest <a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5530.html#2009">amount of trade with Laos</a>, which has been increasing over time. Trade more than doubled in 2008, after the US signed a bilateral trade agreement with Laos<span>.</span></p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> US exports to Laos in 2009 totaled $20.3 million, an increase of $2.0 million from the previous year.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The US imported $43.4 million worth of goods from Laos in 2009, which is a dramatic increase from 2007, when imports totaled only $20 million. The leading imports are apparel and household goods (cotton and other textiles combined), which totaled almost $11 million in 2007. &nbsp;Laos&rsquo;s total export in 2008 was $1.0 billion, most of this consisting of gold, copper, wood, garments and coffee. Its imports for the same year totaled $1.3 billion and included fuel, food, consumer goods, machinery, and equipment.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The U.S. allocated $6.055 million&nbsp;in aid for Laos for FY 2011, which is $1.558 million more than in 2010. The biggest increase in aid is allocated for development assistance, which totals $1.455 million (an increase of $942 million from 2010). $1.9 million is going towards nonproliferation, antiterrorism, demining, and related programs (a decrease of $3.1 million compared to 2010), and $1.5 million is going towards international narcotics control and law enforcement. In addition, $3.6 million is going towards peace and security, which is $2.5 million less than in 2010. The US hopes this assistance will enforce local drug laws.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The US 2011 &nbsp;budget states that the US is expanding technical assistance to Laos to help it modernize so it can better uphold trade agreements. Another $1 million is going towards AIDs relief programs in conjunction with USAID, which has also been pushing for the full implementation of the US-Lao Bilateral Trade Agreement and towards helping Laos gain admission to the World Trade Organization.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/product/enduse/imports/c5530.html">Imports from Laos</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/product/enduse/exports/c5530.html">Exports to Laos</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/137937.pdf">Congressional Budget for Foreign Operations 2011 (pages 279-282)</a> (pdf)</div> <div> &nbsp;</div>
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Controversies
<p> <b>US-based Plot to Overthrow Laotian Government Thwarted </b></p> <div> A retired California National Guard lieutenant colonel and&nbsp;a prominent Hmong leader were arrested in 2007 in connection with a plot to buy missiles, mines, assault rifles and other arms&nbsp;to topple the communist government of&nbsp;Laos. A total of 10 people were arrested, including Gen. Vang Pao of Westminster, who worked with the CIA during the Vietnam War and&nbsp;was a leader among Hmong refugees who settled in California 30 years&nbsp;ago. Also named in a federal complaint was former Lt. Col.&nbsp;Harrison Ulrich Jack, of Woodland, CA, who allegedly met with&nbsp;an undercover agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms&nbsp;to discuss air-dropping arms into&nbsp;Laos. The arms were supposed to be delivered to a remote location&nbsp;in Thailand and smuggled into Laos. Though no weapons were delivered,&nbsp;the group allegedly was on the verge of launching a sophisticated plan&nbsp;to overthrow Laos&rsquo; communist&nbsp;regime.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In September 2009 charges were dropped against Pao. Twelve other people were prosecuted for trying to bring down the Laotian government, however.</div> <div align="center"> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/magazine/11pao-t.html">Gen. Vang Pao&rsquo;s Last War</a> (by Tim Weiner, New York Times Magazine)</div> <div> <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/05/local/me-laos5">U.S. Accuses 10 of Plotting Coup in&nbsp;Laos</a> (by Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell, Los Angeles Times)</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>US Lifts Trade Barriers on Laos, Prompting Violence among Hmong</b></div> <div> President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2004 that restored normal trade relations with Laos. The move was years in the making, stalled by complaints by members of the Hmong community in the US and some lawmakers over the Laotian government&rsquo;s poor human rights record. Democratic Senators Russ Feingold and Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin objected to the bill on the basis of human rights violations against the Hmong population in Laos. The two senators agreed to drop their opposition to the bill after persuading their colleagues to adopt a resolution calling on Laos to improve its human rights record.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Meanwhile, several arson attacks against Hmong homes and businesses and a drive-by shooting rocked the tight-knit Minnesota Hmong community in April 2004. A Hmong police officer was arrested in connection with the drive-by (no one was injured in the incident). Members of Lao Veterans, a St. Paul-based nonprofit run by and for former Hmong soldiers from Laos, believed the violence was triggered by the dispute over granting Normal Trade Relations (NTR) to Laos.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Granting NTR to Laos would introduce handicraft products such as clothing, wicker baskets and food to the United States and create jobs in Laos, according to Edward Gresser, an international trade researcher with the Progressive Policy Institute. But for Hmongs in America, the debate has reopened longstanding emotional wounds. Opponents of NTR alleged that human rights abuses will continue against family members in Laos if trade is normalized.</div> <div> <a href="http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2004/December/20041207151704mbzemog9.823024e-03.html">Bush Signs Law on Miscellaneous Tariffs, Laos Trade Relations</a> (America.gov)</div> <div> <a href="http://news.pacificnews.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=ed7b9084130b8bac39d2b630868b65be">U.S.-Laos Trade Ties Split Hmong</a> (by Pha Lo, Pacific News Service)</div> <div> <a href="http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2003/05/07_hughesa_laostrade/?refid=0">U.S. ambassador to Laos gets earful over increased trade possibility</a> (by Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio)</div>
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Human Rights
<p> The primary human rights problems cited by the State Department for Laos include citizens being unable to change their government, harsh prison conditions that at times were life threatening, corruption in the police and judiciary, government infringement on citizens&rsquo; right to privacy, lack of respect for the right to free speech, the press, assembly, or association, trafficking in persons, especially women and girls for prostitution, and discrimination against minority groups, such as the Hmong.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> According to the Department of State, &ldquo;there continued to be reports of actions by military units against small Hmong insurgent groups that resulted in deaths, including a November 20, [2007] attack in the Phu Bia area of Vientiane Province that reportedly killed two women and one child.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> There were no developments in the cases of persons allegedly killed by the military or police in previous years, including the deaths in northeast Thailand of four foreign and two Thai citizens, all of Lao ethnicity and connected to the former Lao regime. An April 2006 killing allegedly by troops in Vientiane Province of 26 involved unarmed Hmong, 25 of them women and children, who were foraging for food. A June 2006 killing allegedly by police in the former Saisomboun Special Zone involved a Hmong farmer who was a cousin of a Hmong insurgent leader and the shooting of his six-year-old son.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Police reportedly abducted an ethnic Thai Dam resident of Oudomsay Province who had been an active leader in the Muang Houn Christian community. On January 23, 2007, a businessman in an ecotourism company in Luang Namtha Province was abducted after being told to report to the Luang Namtha district police station. The businessman reportedly had been outspoken in his criticism of what he viewed as excessive rubber planting in Luang Namtha.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Members of the police and security forces sometimes abused prisoners, especially those suspected of associations with the insurgency.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The&nbsp;State Department also reported that &ldquo;detainees have sometimes been subjected to beatings and long-term solitary confinement in completely darkened rooms, and in many cases they were detained in leg chains or wooden stocks for long periods. Former inmates reported that degrading treatment, the chaining and manacling of prisoners, and solitary confinement in small unlit rooms were standard punishments in larger prisons, while smaller provincial or district prisons employed manacles and chains to prevent prisoners from escaping.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Prison conditions varied widely but in general were harsh and occasionally life threatening. Prisoners in larger, state-operated facilities in Vientiane generally fared better than those in provincial prisons. Food rations were minimal, and most prisoners relied on their families for subsistence.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Impunity remained a problem, as did police corruption. Many police officers used their authority to extract bribes from citizens. Corrupt officials reportedly were rarely punished.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Senior government and party officials were known to influence the courts. Impunity was a problem, as was corruption. Reportedly, some judges could be bribed.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The report also noted that &ldquo;there are three well-known political prisoners. Colonel Sing Chanthakoumane, an official of the pre-1975 government, was serving a life sentence after a 1990 trial that was not conducted according to international standards. Sing reportedly was very ill, but the government ignored numerous requests to release him on humanitarian grounds. At least two persons, Thongpaseuth Keuakoun and Seng-aloun Phengboun, who were arrested in 1999 for attempting to organize a prodemocracy demonstration in Vientiane, continued to serve 10-year sentences for antigovernment activities.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In December 2006 three prisoners were pardoned and released from prison--Thongdai of Meune Manh Village, Feuang District, Vientiane Province; Norneng Siva of Tham Krabork Village, Salaboury District, Trad Province, Thailand; and Herporyang, of Lao Ou Village, Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Another 10 persons also described as political prisoners had their sentences reduced in December 2006: Khamlaab, of Meung Va Tha Village, Sikhottabong District, Vientiane Capital; Phavanh, of Nongbone Village, Saysettha District, Vientiane Capital; Thongsai of Nakhandai Village, Lakhonepheng District, Saravane Province; Sounthala, of Laksi Village, Lakhonepheng District, Saravane; Senglith, of Champi Village, Sanasomboun District, Champasak Province; Bounnar, of Nongveng Village, Lakhonepheng District, Saravane; Thitfanh, of Laksong Village, Saravane District, Saravane; Thongchanh, of Thin Village, Xay District, Oudomsay Province; and Lao Cao Va and Lao Tou Va, both of Phiangthor Village, Houn District, Oudomsay.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In addition, &ldquo;the government continued its program to relocate highland slash-and-burn farmers, most of whom belonged to ethnic minority groups, to lowland areas in keeping with its plan to end opium production and slash-and-burn agriculture. In some areas district and provincial officials used persuasion to convince villagers to move to relocation areas. In other areas villagers relocated spontaneously to be closer to roads, markets, and government services. Although the government&#39;s resettlement plan called for compensating farmers for lost land and providing resettlement assistance, this assistance was not available in many cases or was insufficient to give relocated farmers the means to adjust to their new homes and new way of life. Moreover, in some areas farmland allotted to relocated villagers was of poor quality and unsuited for intensive rice farming. The result was that some relocated villagers experienced increased poverty, hunger, malnourishment, susceptibility to disease, and mortality rates.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The law prohibits participation in demonstrations, protest marches, or other acts that cause &ldquo;turmoil or social instability.&rdquo; Participation in such acts is punishable by prison terms of one to five years.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The government registers and controls all associations and their activities. Political groups other than popular front organizations approved by the Laotian government are forbidden.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The government continued to refuse the request from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to reestablish a presence in the country to monitor the reintegration of former refugees who returned under the UNHCR resettlement program. The government stated that the UNHCR&#39;s mandate expired in 2001 and all former refugees had been successfully reintegrated. However, there were estimates that since 2005 more than 2,000 Hmong had surrendered, mainly in the provinces of Xieng Khouang, Bolikhamsai, and Vientiane (part of which composed the former military-administered Saisomboung Special Zone).</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Lao Hmong refugees have faced poor and abusive conditions in Thailand, where 158 of them have been since 2006. The Thai government has kept them to make the Hmong believe they will not receive refuge in Thailand, or anywhere else for that matter. Brad Adams, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said that &ldquo;the government should immediately end this immoral and unlawful policy.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Nine peaceful protesters have also been missing since their arrest on November 2, 2009. Although the Lao government denies any arrests, other sources from Amnesty International say that more than 200 farmers and workers were rounded up that same day. These people were going to submit a petition to the capital over their loss of land, and lack of monetary and social support. Of this group, nine of the most vocal protesters were arrested, and their family members say they have been unable to contact them. Amnesty International has reported that the Thais forcibly returned these 4,500 Laotian Hmong back to Laos,158 of whom were recognized refugees, and that it is not allowing the UN to monitor its actions. Many relatives of these refugees accuse the Lao government of executing these returnees. Even though other countries had expressed willingness to take in the refugees, the Thai military forcibly returned them back to Laos. Amnesty International has also received unconfirmed reports of more petitioners being taken into custody. Despite these compalints, in January 2010, January Eni Faleomavaega, US chairman of the <a href="http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/subcommittees.asp?committee=3">House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment</a>, visited Hmong returning to Laos and said he found no human rights violations.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Southeast Asian Games in Laos</b></div> <div> While the motto for these games, which were held in Laos in December of 2009, was &ldquo;Generosity, Amity,</div> <div> Health Lifestyle,&rdquo; Lao authorities stopped 150 people heading to Vientiane to stage a pro-democracy</div> <div> protest at the Pautaxay monument. Some media sources reported that more than 100 citizens who supported government reform were arrested.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2009/11/20/games-controversies/">Games Controversy</a> (by Simon Creak, New Mandala)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135997.htm">U.S. State Department</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/laos">Human Rights Watch</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/asiaandpacific/southeastasia/laos">Amnesty International</a></div>
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors
<p> Donald R. Heath</p> <div> Appointment: Jun 29, 1950<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Dec 29, 1950<br /> Termination of Mission: Superseded, Nov 1, 1954<br /> <span>Note: Heath was received as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary upon presentation of a copy of his letter of credence, Jul 29, 1950. Also accredited to Cambodia and Viet-Nam; resident at Saigon. </span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Charles W. Yost<br /> Appointment: Aug 18, 1954<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Nov 1, 1954<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 27, 1956<br /> <span>Note: Legation Vientiane was raised to Embassy status, Aug 10, 1955. </span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> J. Graham Parsons<br /> Appointment: May 29, 1956<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Oct 12, 1956<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 8, 1958</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Horace H. Smith<br /> Appointment: Mar 26, 1958<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Apr 9, 1958<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 21, 1960</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Winthrop G. Brown<br /> Appointment: Jul 5, 1960<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jul 25, 1960<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 28, 1962</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Leonard Unger<br /> Appointment: Jul 3, 1962<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jul 25, 1962<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 1, 1964</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> William H. Sullivan<br /> Appointment: Nov 25, 1964<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Dec 23, 1964<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 18, 1969<br /> <span>Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 18, 1965.</span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> G. McMurtrie Godley<br /> Appointment: Jun 13, 1969<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jul 24, 1969<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 23, 1973</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Charles S. Whitehouse<br /> Appointment: Jul 24, 1973<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 20, 1973<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 12, 1975</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Galen L. Stone<br /> Appointment: Jun 11, 1975<br /> Presentation of Credentials: [see note below]<br /> <span>Note: Did not serve under this appointment. </span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Note: From 1975 to 1992, the following officers served as Charg&eacute; d&#39;Affaires ad interim: Thomas J. Corcoran (Aug 1975&ndash;Mar 1978), George B. Roberts, Jr. (Mar 1978&ndash;Sep 1979), Leo J. Moser (Sep 1979&ndash;Oct 1981), William W. Thomas, Jr. (Nov 1981&ndash;Nov 1983), Theresa A. Tull (Nov 1983&ndash;Aug 1986), Harriet W. Isom (Aug 1986&ndash;Aug 1989), and Charles B. Salmon, Jr. (Aug 1989&ndash;Aug 1992). Chiefs of Mission were designated Charg&eacute;s d&#39;Affaires after Jan 9, 1987.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Charles B. Salmon, Jr.<br /> Appointment: Jul 14, 1992<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Aug 6, 1992<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, July 26, 1993</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Victor L. Tomseth<br /> Appointment: Nov 22, 1993<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jan 8, 1994<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 20, 1996</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Wendy J. Chamberlin<br /> Appointment: Jul 2, 1996<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 5, 1996<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 14, 1999</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Douglas Alan Hartwick<br /> Appointment: Jul 11, 2001<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 18, 2001<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 21, 2004<br /> <span>Note: An earlier nomination of Feb 9, 2000, was not acted upon by the Senate.</span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Patricia M. Haslach<br /> Appointment: May 12, 2004<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 4, 2004<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, May 26, 2007</div> <div> &nbsp;</div>
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Laos 's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Soukhathivong, Seng

Seng Soukhathivong has served as Laos’ ambassador to the United States since June 28, 2010.

 
Born February 10, 1955, Soukhathivong earned his B.A. in Economic and Social Sciences at Lycée Luang Prabang in 1975 and his M.A. in Foreign Languages (English and Russian) in Russia in 1982. After graduation, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1984 to 1990, he served at the Lao embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. He spent the years 1991-1993 as secretary for the deputy minister of foreign affairs and with the Secretariat of the Lao-Thai Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation.
 
For four years (1993-1997), Soukhathivong worked at the Lao embassy in Washington, D.C., as first secretary and then as counselor. Returning to Laos, he served as deputy director general in the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1997 until 2001.
 
Soukhathivong was back at the Lao embassy in the United States in 2001, beginning a five-year stint as minister counselor and deputy chief of mission. He returned to Laos in 2007, serving first as deputy chief of the cabinet in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then, beginning in February 2007, as director general of the ministry’s Asia-Pacific and Africa Department.
 
In addition to English and Russian, Soukhathivong speaks French.
 

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Laos 's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
<p> &nbsp;</p> <div> <a href="http://www.laoembassy.com/">Laos&#39;s Embassy in the U.S.</a></div>
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U.S. Ambassador to Laos

Clune, Dan
ambassador-image

The landlocked, isolated Southeast-Asian nation of Laos will soon have a new ambassador who may value the relative quiet after the last two years of public controversy. Since 2010, Dan Clune, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

 

As such, he has been the State Department’s point man in its process of deciding whether to permit TransCanada (2012 revenues: CAN$8 billion) to build the proposed 2,000-mile long, $7 billion Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would deliver tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. If confirmed by the Senate, Clune would succeed Karen Stewart, who has served in Vientiane since 2010.

 

Born circa 1949, Clune earned a BA at Boston College in 1971 and a J.D. at Boalt Hall, the law school at the University of California-Berkeley, in 1974.

 

After practicing law for ten years in Chicago, Clune joined the Foreign Service in 1985 and served early career postings at the U.S. embassies in Lima, Peru, and Jakarta, Indonesia, and as an economic officer in the European Affairs Bureau in Washington, DC, from 1990 to 1992.

 

Clune spent four years working on trade issues, including service as director of Middle East and Mediterranean affairs at the Office of U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky from 1997 to 1998 and as trade advisor at the U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris, France, from 1998 to 2000.

 

From 2000 to 2002, Clune served as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Nassau, Bahamas.

 

Clune then worked economic issues for the next five years, serving as director of the Office of Economic Policy and Public Diplomacy from 2002 to 2005, and as director of the Office of Monetary Affairs and Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Paris Club from 2005 to 2007. Clune served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy in Canberra, Australia, from February 2007 to 2010.

 

He has been married for 37 years to Judy Clune, an artist, and has three daughters.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Q&A with the U.S. State Dept. Official Leading the Keystone XL Pipeline Review (by Luiza Ch. Savage, MacLeans)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Laos

Huso, Ravis
ambassador-image

Ravic R. Huso served as the ambassador Laos until September 2010. Huso received his undergraduate degree from the College of Idaho (1973) and earned a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Virginia (1976). He was selected by the State Department for senior training and chose to attend the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, graduating with the Class of 1993.

 
Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1980, Huso was a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Senegal (1976-1978) where he worked in rural development. He subsequently worked for the US Agency for International Development’s Senegal mission.
 
His first State Department assignments were to the US embassies in Burkina Faso (1981-82), where he served as general services officer, and in Burundi (1982-85), where he worked as a political and economic reporting officer.
 
He returned to Washington where he was assigned to the Office of Philippine Affairs (1985-87) and then to the Office of Australia and New Zealand Affairs (1987-88). After a year of language training, Huso went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as deputy political counselor. He was the deputy chief of mission in Niamey, Niger (1993-96).

He served as the State Department’s deputy director and then director for Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam Affairs (1996-1999). From July 1999 to August 2000, he was a director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
 
He then served as deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand (2001-2004). and as foreign policy advisor to the commander of the US Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii, from 2004-2007. 
 
Huso has commented on Laos’ decision to change from its Marxist-Leninist past, saying it was not political. Although Laos is still a one-party state, Huso has said this change “was intended to apply to the way the economy was run.”
 
He speaks fluent French and conversational Thai, Bahasa Malaysia and Italian.

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News
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Overview
<p> A quiet, landlocked Buddhist nation in Southeast Asia, Laos is a true backwater. Many of the country&rsquo;s political and historical developments have been the result of the ripple effects of events in neighboring countries:&nbsp;Thailand is its &ldquo;cousin&rdquo; to the west; China, the monster to the north; and Vietnam, the tumultuous and war-ravaged nation to the south.&nbsp;Communism reached Laos after World War II, took hold in the 1970s, and has yet to leave. Only half of Laos&rsquo; population of about 6 million is ethnically Laotian. The rest belong to one of about 70 different ethnic groups and tribes. Laos is the world&rsquo;s third-largest producer of opium, behind Afghanistan and Burma.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Thirty years after the Pathēt Lao takeover, Laos remains a one-party state that didn&rsquo;t promulgate a constitution &nbsp;until 1991. Eventually, Laos officials adopted the &ldquo;Chinese Model,&rdquo; liberalizing their economy while centralizing political power and aggressively suppressing dissent.&nbsp;Their efforts have met with only moderate success.&nbsp;</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> During the George W. Bush administration, trade relations were &nbsp;normalized, following 30 years of political and economic distance between the former adversaries. During the Vietnam War, the United States financed a &ldquo;secret war&rdquo; in Laos, providing arms and training to Hmong guerillas who fiercely opposed the Communists, who eventually took over the country in 1975. That development produced a mass exodus of Hmong from Laos, many of whom settled in the US and opposed the decision by the Bush administration to expand trade with their former homeland, which has a poor human rights record.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Obama administration has opened up relations with Laos. President Obama visited Southeast Asia in November of 2009 at the same time that more than 1,100 Laotians were arrested for alleged opposition to the authoritarian military regime.</div>
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Basic Information
<p> <b>Lay of the Land</b>: Laos is a landlocked nation nestled in the mountains of the Indochinese Peninsula of Southeast Asia.&nbsp;Most of the country is rugged, often densely forested, with the population concentrated in the Mekong River plains along the western border.&nbsp;The wet monsoon season, May to September, bring heavy rainfall.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Population</b>: 6.7 million</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Religions</b>: Theravada Buddhist 53.2%, Ethnoreligious 38.8%, Christian 2.7%, Chinese Universalist 0.4%, Hindu 0.1%, Muslim 0.1%, non-religious 4.7%.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Ethnic Groups</b>: Lao 55%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 8%, other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26%.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Languages</b>: Lao (official) 49.2%, Khmu 6.4%, Hmong (Daw, Njua) 5.1%, Phu Thai 2.5%, Kataang 1.8%, Eastern Bru 1.1%, Akha 1.0%.&nbsp;There are 82 living languages in Laos.</div>
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History
<p> Laos&rsquo; Golden Age occurred during the 57-year reign of King Surinyavongsā (1637-1694), during which his kingdom of Lan Xang was a center of religion and the arts. Surinyavongsā had only one son, Chao Rachabut, whom Surinyavongsā ordered executed when he was found guilty of adultery. This left an unclear succession when Surinyavongsā finally died, and Laos was victimized by factionalism and foreign intervention from all sides.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In the late 19th century, King Unkham, threatened with takeover by either the Siamese (Thai) or the French, chose the French, who &nbsp;linked the country with French Indochina. Laos had never been mapped, so, in conjunction with the British, Chinese and&nbsp;Thais, France mapped Laos in 1896 and 1897 and created the basic boundaries that still exist.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Although the French did impose the corv&eacute;e system of ten days&rsquo; forced labor a year, for the most part they ignored Laos, considering it little more than a buffer zone against British influence in Southeast Asia. Laos remained reasonably unaffected by World War II until 1945, when the Japanese forced King Sīsavāngvong to declare independence from the French. The country &nbsp;then &nbsp;descended into the beginnings of a multi-sided civil war which ended when Japan surrendered, ending World War II.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The French regained their role as the dominant player in Laos, but nationalist forces and even the Chinese army entered the fray. Communism was a hard sell in Laos because, unlike in China and Vietnam, the farmers, who made up 90% of the population, owned their own land and there were no landlords to rail against. Still, the communists gained a foothold in the ethnic minority regions and in 1950 started a Lao communist organization that came to be known as the Pathēt Lao (&ldquo;Lao Homeland&rdquo;).&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Pathēt Lao operated as a subsidiary of the Vietnamese Communists. Laos gained full sovereignty in 1953, but by that time the Pathēt Lao already controlled part of the country.&nbsp;Despite it relative remoteness and lack of economic importance, Laos was swept up in the Cold War and, more specifically in the surrogate war that the United States and the Soviet Union were fighting in Vietnam. The Communist North Vietnamese, who had occupied northeastern Laos during their fight against the French, used Laotian territory to deploy more than 75,000 troops. In addition, the Vietnamese built and maintained the Ho Chi Minh Trail to supply Communist forces in South Vietnam and Cambodia. Almost all of the Trail ran through eastern Laos. The Chinese established their own military zone of influence in the northwest.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> And then there were the Americans. The US began training the Royal Lao Army and an army of the Hmong ethnic group in 1959. US involvement in Laos was considered a &ldquo;Secret War,&rdquo; not publicly acknowledged by the government, and American soldiers and CIA agents who died in Laos were listed as having died in Vietnam. The war no secret to the Laotians. Between 1964 and 1973, the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, or one thousand pounds of explosives for each man, woman and child in the country. In Xieng Khouang Province, the figure reached two tons per person. The Americans dropped an average of one planeload of bombs on Laos every eight minutes, everyday for nine years. To avoid the bombing, many Laotian villagers were forced to live for years in caves and to do their farming at night.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> When Cambodia and Vietnam fell to the Communists in 1975, it was just a matter of time before Laos followed. The Lao People&rsquo;s Democratic Republic was declared on December 2, 1975.&nbsp;The Pathēt Lao harshly repressed the Hmong and anyone else considered unsympathetic to their regime, including the royal family, and tens of thousands of people were imprisoned in &ldquo;reeducation&rdquo; camps.&nbsp;Although the Pathēt Lao government received aid from the Soviet Union, Vietnam and China, under communism the Laotian economy collapsed and an estimated 400,000 Laotians, about 12% of the population, fled to Thailand.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In the early 1990s Laos abandoned economic communism for capitalism, but the Pathēt Lao &nbsp;party retained tight political control, and political dissent was harshly suppressed. Meanwhile, the nation improved relations with former enemies such as China, Thailand, and the United States, which reinstated aid to Laos in 1995. Kaysone Phomvihane became president in 1991. He died the following year and was succeeded as president by Nouhak Phoumsavan. Khamtay Siphandone, a former military leader of the Pathet Lao, became party leader and, when Nouhak retired in 1998, assumed the job of president as well. Laos was admitted to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997. Khamtay retired as party leader in March 2006. He was succeeded in the post by Vice President (and Lt. Gen.) Choummaly Sayasone, who also succeeded Khamtay as president on June 8, 2006.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Since Laos is one of the world&rsquo;s poorest countries, economic reforms were instituted that have helped the economy grow by an average annual rate of 7.2% since 2006. Most of these reforms have been carried out by aid from foreign countries, especially Thailand.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/latoc.html" target="_blank">Library of Congress Country Study</a></div>
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Laos 's Newspapers
<p> <a href="http://www.kplnet.net/">Lao News Agency</a></p>
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History of U.S. Relations with Laos
<p> During its &ldquo;secret war&rdquo; in the 1960s, the US supported Souvanna Phouma&rsquo;s government in Laos. There was no formal military alliance, and there were no American military bases or ground troops in Laos (as was the case in South Vietnam). US supply efforts were flown by civilian companies under charter to Souvanna Phouma&rsquo;s government, while US military pilots in civilian clothes secretly flew forward air control missions over Laos. CIA advisers assisted the guerrilla units of General Vang Pao&rsquo;s Hmong army, which, along with irregular forces in the south,were supplied with rice, arms, and pay by CIA operatives based at Udon Thani in Thailand. The total number of CIA personnel involved in this effort never exceeded 225 and included some fifty case officers.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Relations between the United States and Laos suffered some of the same cutbacks as those experienced by Vietnam and Cambodia after the US withdrew from Indochina in 1973, but with important differences. After 1975 Laos provided the United States with the only official window to its former enemy states in Indochina. The United States treated all departing Laotians as political refugees entitled to asylum, with hopes that other countries might eventually accept them for resettlement.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> When Communist forces seized control of Laos, diplomatic relations with the United States were maintained, even though the United States Agency for International Development (AID) and the United States Information Agency (USIA) both withdrew and diplomatic representation in Vientiane and in Washington was reduced to the level of charg&eacute; d&#39;affaires, with a limit of twelve persons and no military attach&eacute;s. Relations eventually were reciprocally restored to the ambassadorial level in the summer of 1992.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> On September 13, 1981, then-US Secretary of State Alexander Haig accused the Soviet Union of supplying trichothecene mycotoxins (poisonous compounds made by fungal molds that infect grain), popularly known as &ldquo;Yellow Rain,&rdquo; to the Communist regimes in Vietnam and Laos for use in counterinsurgency warfare. Leading American scientists challenged the US government&rsquo;s evidence for these allegations, however, and the controversy was never fully resolved.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> A tentative agreement to allow the Peace Corps in Laos fell through in the spring of 1992. The admission of Peace Corps workers was initially approved but then rejected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Apparently some party leaders feared that the volunteers might have a subversive impact on the Laotians, especially if deployed outside Vientiane.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In 1992 AID began operating again in Laos, with a $1.3 million grant for a prosthetics project. Because AID did not have an office in Laos, the program was administered from AID&rsquo;s office in Bangkok. The United States Information Service, the overseas branch office of the USIA, reopened a one-officer post in Vientiane in October 1992. The post concentrated on supporting English-language teaching activities and publications, press activities, and cultural and educational exchanges.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Laos and the United States have cooperated in varying degrees on two major issues of high priority to the United States. One is the search for information on the more than 500 US servicemen listed as missing in action (MIA) in Laos. In 1985, Laos treated the MIA issue seriously enough to undertake joint searches of known wartime crash sites of US aircraft. However, the US Senate Select Committee on Prisoner of War/MIA Affairs concluded in January 1993 that: &ldquo;The current leaders of Laos, who are the successors to the Pathet Lao forces that contended for power during the war, almost certainly have some information concerning missing Americans that they have not yet shared.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The second long-standing issue has been the production and export of opium. In April 1993, Laos received a national interest certification on the issue of cooperation in counter-narcotics activities. Opium traffic out of Laos has been a tangible irritant to relations, however, because of the suspicion that high-ranking Laotian officials, especially those in the military, were involved in protecting the trade. The US and Laos have worked together to control this trade, however, which has resulted in a 96% decline in opium poppy cultivation as of 2006. Because of growth in drug-related crimes, the US has provided law-enforcement officials for Laos.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Several US-Lao bilateral trade agreements have been initiated, such as that by Rep.Betty McCollum (D-</div> <div> MN) which attempted to create normal trade relations for certain products.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB248/index.htm">Fighting the War In Southeast Asia, 1961-1973 </a>(National Security Archive, George Washington University)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB248/war_in_northern_laos.pdf" target="_blank">The War in Northern Laos, 1954-1973</a> (by Victor B. Anthony and Richard R. Sexton, U.S. Air Force) (pdf)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.legaciesofwar.org/traveling-exhibit/history/history-bombing-laos">History / History of the Bombing of Laos</a> (Legacies of War)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/laos.html">Lost Over Laos</a> (by Robert M. Poole, Smithsonian.com)</div> <div> <a href="http://cns.miis.edu/stories/020805.htm">Conflicting Evidence Revives &quot;Yellow Rain&quot; Controversy</a> (by Jonathon Tucker, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies)</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div>
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Current U.S. Relations with Laos
<p> <b>Noted Laotian-Americans</b></p> <div> <a href="http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/members/member_bio.php?leg_id=10744">Mee Moua: Hmong-American State Senator from Minnesota</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail.asp?ID=10790">Cy Thao: Laotian-born Hmong-American who is a Minnesota State Representative</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.jerryyangpoker.com/">Jerry Yang: Laotian-born poker player who was the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event champion</a></div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> US-Laos relations have been largely shaped this decade by the debate over whether to grant Laos normal trade relations (NTR) treatment or not. Since 1997, when the United States and the Lao People&rsquo;s Democratic Republic (LPDR) concluded a bilateral trade agreement (BTA), legislation to extend NTR status to Laos faced opposition from many members of Congress concerned about human rights conditions in Laos and the plight of the Hmong.&nbsp;Some prominent Hmong-American organizations strongly opposed enacting the trade agreement, although the Laotian-American community as a whole reportedly was split on the issue.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> On November 19, 2004, Congress passed the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2004, which extended nondiscriminatory treatment to the products of Laos.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Obama administration has opened up relations with Laos. President Obama visited Southeast Asia in November of 2009 at the same time that more than 1,100 Laotians were arrested for alleged opposition to the authoritarian military regime. Many Laotians have sought President Obama&rsquo;s help to stop arrests of political dissidents. As Vaughn Vang, executive director of the Lao Human Rights Council said, &ldquo;the Laotian and Hmong people, along with international human rights and humanitarian NGOs, are urgently appealing to U.S. President Barack Obama to help end the political violence and institutional violence in Laos that the Lao Army and LPDR continue to inflict of ordinary people who want only to live in peace and freedom&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Obama has also removed Laos and Cambodia from a blacklist of countries. If a country is on that list, US businesses cannot use US government-backed loans while operating there. Obama removed these countries because he said both have &ldquo;ceased to be a Marxist-Leninist country.&rdquo; Six countries are still on that list: Cuba, Iran, Burma, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> Significant areas of bilateral cooperation include the recovery of Americans missing in action</div> <div> (MIAs), counter-narcotics efforts, and the removal of land mines. In October 2005, the United States signed a cooperation agreement with Lao officials in which it pledged $3.4 million to the LPDR for controlling outbreaks of avian flu.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Other policy issues include pressuring the Lao government to accept international monitoring of</div> <div> the resettlement of former Hmong militia members and their communities, appropriating Economic Support Funds (ESF) for judicial and economic reforms, granting trade preferences to least developed countries, including Laos, and supporting International Military and Education Training (IMET) for English language programs for Lao citizens involved in joint MIA accounting efforts.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> US foreign assistance to Laos remains relatively limited and channeled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rather than&nbsp;through the government of Laos, due to strained bilateral relations and to the country&rsquo;s status as a Tier 3 country on the State Department&rsquo;s 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report. US foreign assistance to Laos focuses on counter-narcotics and de-mining programs.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> Methamphetamine use has risen among Lao youth. The LPDR also receives assistance through the Leahy War Victims Fund ($917,000 in 2004-2007) to assist victims of unexploded ordinance from the Vietnam War.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> A total of 168,707 people identified themselves as being of Laotian ancestry in the 2000 US census. Immigration began en masse in the late 1970&rsquo;s, when the plight of Laotian refugees in Thailand became well known internationally. Between 1979 and 1981, 105,000 Laotians immigrated to the US. The vast majority of Laotians live in California, though sizeable communities exist in Texas, Minnesota, and Washington.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The Hmong, a significant ethnic minority in Laos and Southeast Asia, have also immigrated in large numbers to the US. After the communist government took power in 1975, a third of Laotian Hmong were killed, a third fled to Thailand, and a third remained in Laos. Along with Cambodian and Laotian refugees, they came to America in significant numbers during the early 1980s.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In 2008 alone, the US Government provided more than $18 million to Laos, and George W. Bush also signed a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries, which has caused an increase in Lao exports to the US. The Lao government is now not only trying to uphold this bilateral agreement, but is also trying to gain membership to the World Trade Organziation.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In 2006, 46,829 Americans visited Laos. The number of tourists has increased erratically, from a low of 30,133 to a high of 47,427 in 2005.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> That same year 1,837 Laotians visited the US. Tourism has nearly doubled since 2002, when 1,190 Laotians came to America.</div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div> <div> <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS20931.pdf">Laos: Background and U.S. Relations</a> (by Thomas Lum, Congressional Research Service)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.lana-usa.org/">Laotian American National Alliance</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.lasga.org/">Laotian American Society</a></div> <div> <a href="http://laoamericanyouth.org/">Lao American Youth Organization</a></div> <div> <b>&nbsp;</b></div>
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Where Does the Money Flow
<p> The United States conducts a modest <a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5530.html#2009">amount of trade with Laos</a>, which has been increasing over time. Trade more than doubled in 2008, after the US signed a bilateral trade agreement with Laos<span>.</span></p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> US exports to Laos in 2009 totaled $20.3 million, an increase of $2.0 million from the previous year.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The US imported $43.4 million worth of goods from Laos in 2009, which is a dramatic increase from 2007, when imports totaled only $20 million. The leading imports are apparel and household goods (cotton and other textiles combined), which totaled almost $11 million in 2007. &nbsp;Laos&rsquo;s total export in 2008 was $1.0 billion, most of this consisting of gold, copper, wood, garments and coffee. Its imports for the same year totaled $1.3 billion and included fuel, food, consumer goods, machinery, and equipment.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The U.S. allocated $6.055 million&nbsp;in aid for Laos for FY 2011, which is $1.558 million more than in 2010. The biggest increase in aid is allocated for development assistance, which totals $1.455 million (an increase of $942 million from 2010). $1.9 million is going towards nonproliferation, antiterrorism, demining, and related programs (a decrease of $3.1 million compared to 2010), and $1.5 million is going towards international narcotics control and law enforcement. In addition, $3.6 million is going towards peace and security, which is $2.5 million less than in 2010. The US hopes this assistance will enforce local drug laws.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The US 2011 &nbsp;budget states that the US is expanding technical assistance to Laos to help it modernize so it can better uphold trade agreements. Another $1 million is going towards AIDs relief programs in conjunction with USAID, which has also been pushing for the full implementation of the US-Lao Bilateral Trade Agreement and towards helping Laos gain admission to the World Trade Organization.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/product/enduse/imports/c5530.html">Imports from Laos</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/product/enduse/exports/c5530.html">Exports to Laos</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/137937.pdf">Congressional Budget for Foreign Operations 2011 (pages 279-282)</a> (pdf)</div> <div> &nbsp;</div>
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Controversies
<p> <b>US-based Plot to Overthrow Laotian Government Thwarted </b></p> <div> A retired California National Guard lieutenant colonel and&nbsp;a prominent Hmong leader were arrested in 2007 in connection with a plot to buy missiles, mines, assault rifles and other arms&nbsp;to topple the communist government of&nbsp;Laos. A total of 10 people were arrested, including Gen. Vang Pao of Westminster, who worked with the CIA during the Vietnam War and&nbsp;was a leader among Hmong refugees who settled in California 30 years&nbsp;ago. Also named in a federal complaint was former Lt. Col.&nbsp;Harrison Ulrich Jack, of Woodland, CA, who allegedly met with&nbsp;an undercover agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms&nbsp;to discuss air-dropping arms into&nbsp;Laos. The arms were supposed to be delivered to a remote location&nbsp;in Thailand and smuggled into Laos. Though no weapons were delivered,&nbsp;the group allegedly was on the verge of launching a sophisticated plan&nbsp;to overthrow Laos&rsquo; communist&nbsp;regime.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In September 2009 charges were dropped against Pao. Twelve other people were prosecuted for trying to bring down the Laotian government, however.</div> <div align="center"> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/magazine/11pao-t.html">Gen. Vang Pao&rsquo;s Last War</a> (by Tim Weiner, New York Times Magazine)</div> <div> <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/05/local/me-laos5">U.S. Accuses 10 of Plotting Coup in&nbsp;Laos</a> (by Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell, Los Angeles Times)</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>US Lifts Trade Barriers on Laos, Prompting Violence among Hmong</b></div> <div> President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2004 that restored normal trade relations with Laos. The move was years in the making, stalled by complaints by members of the Hmong community in the US and some lawmakers over the Laotian government&rsquo;s poor human rights record. Democratic Senators Russ Feingold and Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin objected to the bill on the basis of human rights violations against the Hmong population in Laos. The two senators agreed to drop their opposition to the bill after persuading their colleagues to adopt a resolution calling on Laos to improve its human rights record.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Meanwhile, several arson attacks against Hmong homes and businesses and a drive-by shooting rocked the tight-knit Minnesota Hmong community in April 2004. A Hmong police officer was arrested in connection with the drive-by (no one was injured in the incident). Members of Lao Veterans, a St. Paul-based nonprofit run by and for former Hmong soldiers from Laos, believed the violence was triggered by the dispute over granting Normal Trade Relations (NTR) to Laos.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Granting NTR to Laos would introduce handicraft products such as clothing, wicker baskets and food to the United States and create jobs in Laos, according to Edward Gresser, an international trade researcher with the Progressive Policy Institute. But for Hmongs in America, the debate has reopened longstanding emotional wounds. Opponents of NTR alleged that human rights abuses will continue against family members in Laos if trade is normalized.</div> <div> <a href="http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2004/December/20041207151704mbzemog9.823024e-03.html">Bush Signs Law on Miscellaneous Tariffs, Laos Trade Relations</a> (America.gov)</div> <div> <a href="http://news.pacificnews.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=ed7b9084130b8bac39d2b630868b65be">U.S.-Laos Trade Ties Split Hmong</a> (by Pha Lo, Pacific News Service)</div> <div> <a href="http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2003/05/07_hughesa_laostrade/?refid=0">U.S. ambassador to Laos gets earful over increased trade possibility</a> (by Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio)</div>
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Human Rights
<p> The primary human rights problems cited by the State Department for Laos include citizens being unable to change their government, harsh prison conditions that at times were life threatening, corruption in the police and judiciary, government infringement on citizens&rsquo; right to privacy, lack of respect for the right to free speech, the press, assembly, or association, trafficking in persons, especially women and girls for prostitution, and discrimination against minority groups, such as the Hmong.</p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> According to the Department of State, &ldquo;there continued to be reports of actions by military units against small Hmong insurgent groups that resulted in deaths, including a November 20, [2007] attack in the Phu Bia area of Vientiane Province that reportedly killed two women and one child.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> There were no developments in the cases of persons allegedly killed by the military or police in previous years, including the deaths in northeast Thailand of four foreign and two Thai citizens, all of Lao ethnicity and connected to the former Lao regime. An April 2006 killing allegedly by troops in Vientiane Province of 26 involved unarmed Hmong, 25 of them women and children, who were foraging for food. A June 2006 killing allegedly by police in the former Saisomboun Special Zone involved a Hmong farmer who was a cousin of a Hmong insurgent leader and the shooting of his six-year-old son.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Police reportedly abducted an ethnic Thai Dam resident of Oudomsay Province who had been an active leader in the Muang Houn Christian community. On January 23, 2007, a businessman in an ecotourism company in Luang Namtha Province was abducted after being told to report to the Luang Namtha district police station. The businessman reportedly had been outspoken in his criticism of what he viewed as excessive rubber planting in Luang Namtha.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Members of the police and security forces sometimes abused prisoners, especially those suspected of associations with the insurgency.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The&nbsp;State Department also reported that &ldquo;detainees have sometimes been subjected to beatings and long-term solitary confinement in completely darkened rooms, and in many cases they were detained in leg chains or wooden stocks for long periods. Former inmates reported that degrading treatment, the chaining and manacling of prisoners, and solitary confinement in small unlit rooms were standard punishments in larger prisons, while smaller provincial or district prisons employed manacles and chains to prevent prisoners from escaping.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Prison conditions varied widely but in general were harsh and occasionally life threatening. Prisoners in larger, state-operated facilities in Vientiane generally fared better than those in provincial prisons. Food rations were minimal, and most prisoners relied on their families for subsistence.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Impunity remained a problem, as did police corruption. Many police officers used their authority to extract bribes from citizens. Corrupt officials reportedly were rarely punished.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Senior government and party officials were known to influence the courts. Impunity was a problem, as was corruption. Reportedly, some judges could be bribed.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The report also noted that &ldquo;there are three well-known political prisoners. Colonel Sing Chanthakoumane, an official of the pre-1975 government, was serving a life sentence after a 1990 trial that was not conducted according to international standards. Sing reportedly was very ill, but the government ignored numerous requests to release him on humanitarian grounds. At least two persons, Thongpaseuth Keuakoun and Seng-aloun Phengboun, who were arrested in 1999 for attempting to organize a prodemocracy demonstration in Vientiane, continued to serve 10-year sentences for antigovernment activities.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In December 2006 three prisoners were pardoned and released from prison--Thongdai of Meune Manh Village, Feuang District, Vientiane Province; Norneng Siva of Tham Krabork Village, Salaboury District, Trad Province, Thailand; and Herporyang, of Lao Ou Village, Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Another 10 persons also described as political prisoners had their sentences reduced in December 2006: Khamlaab, of Meung Va Tha Village, Sikhottabong District, Vientiane Capital; Phavanh, of Nongbone Village, Saysettha District, Vientiane Capital; Thongsai of Nakhandai Village, Lakhonepheng District, Saravane Province; Sounthala, of Laksi Village, Lakhonepheng District, Saravane; Senglith, of Champi Village, Sanasomboun District, Champasak Province; Bounnar, of Nongveng Village, Lakhonepheng District, Saravane; Thitfanh, of Laksong Village, Saravane District, Saravane; Thongchanh, of Thin Village, Xay District, Oudomsay Province; and Lao Cao Va and Lao Tou Va, both of Phiangthor Village, Houn District, Oudomsay.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> In addition, &ldquo;the government continued its program to relocate highland slash-and-burn farmers, most of whom belonged to ethnic minority groups, to lowland areas in keeping with its plan to end opium production and slash-and-burn agriculture. In some areas district and provincial officials used persuasion to convince villagers to move to relocation areas. In other areas villagers relocated spontaneously to be closer to roads, markets, and government services. Although the government&#39;s resettlement plan called for compensating farmers for lost land and providing resettlement assistance, this assistance was not available in many cases or was insufficient to give relocated farmers the means to adjust to their new homes and new way of life. Moreover, in some areas farmland allotted to relocated villagers was of poor quality and unsuited for intensive rice farming. The result was that some relocated villagers experienced increased poverty, hunger, malnourishment, susceptibility to disease, and mortality rates.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The law prohibits participation in demonstrations, protest marches, or other acts that cause &ldquo;turmoil or social instability.&rdquo; Participation in such acts is punishable by prison terms of one to five years.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The government registers and controls all associations and their activities. Political groups other than popular front organizations approved by the Laotian government are forbidden.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> The government continued to refuse the request from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to reestablish a presence in the country to monitor the reintegration of former refugees who returned under the UNHCR resettlement program. The government stated that the UNHCR&#39;s mandate expired in 2001 and all former refugees had been successfully reintegrated. However, there were estimates that since 2005 more than 2,000 Hmong had surrendered, mainly in the provinces of Xieng Khouang, Bolikhamsai, and Vientiane (part of which composed the former military-administered Saisomboung Special Zone).</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Lao Hmong refugees have faced poor and abusive conditions in Thailand, where 158 of them have been since 2006. The Thai government has kept them to make the Hmong believe they will not receive refuge in Thailand, or anywhere else for that matter. Brad Adams, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said that &ldquo;the government should immediately end this immoral and unlawful policy.&rdquo;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Nine peaceful protesters have also been missing since their arrest on November 2, 2009. Although the Lao government denies any arrests, other sources from Amnesty International say that more than 200 farmers and workers were rounded up that same day. These people were going to submit a petition to the capital over their loss of land, and lack of monetary and social support. Of this group, nine of the most vocal protesters were arrested, and their family members say they have been unable to contact them. Amnesty International has reported that the Thais forcibly returned these 4,500 Laotian Hmong back to Laos,158 of whom were recognized refugees, and that it is not allowing the UN to monitor its actions. Many relatives of these refugees accuse the Lao government of executing these returnees. Even though other countries had expressed willingness to take in the refugees, the Thai military forcibly returned them back to Laos. Amnesty International has also received unconfirmed reports of more petitioners being taken into custody. Despite these compalints, in January 2010, January Eni Faleomavaega, US chairman of the <a href="http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/subcommittees.asp?committee=3">House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment</a>, visited Hmong returning to Laos and said he found no human rights violations.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <b>Southeast Asian Games in Laos</b></div> <div> While the motto for these games, which were held in Laos in December of 2009, was &ldquo;Generosity, Amity,</div> <div> Health Lifestyle,&rdquo; Lao authorities stopped 150 people heading to Vientiane to stage a pro-democracy</div> <div> protest at the Pautaxay monument. Some media sources reported that more than 100 citizens who supported government reform were arrested.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> <a href="http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2009/11/20/games-controversies/">Games Controversy</a> (by Simon Creak, New Mandala)</div> <div> <a href="http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135997.htm">U.S. State Department</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/laos">Human Rights Watch</a></div> <div> <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/asiaandpacific/southeastasia/laos">Amnesty International</a></div>
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors
<p> Donald R. Heath</p> <div> Appointment: Jun 29, 1950<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Dec 29, 1950<br /> Termination of Mission: Superseded, Nov 1, 1954<br /> <span>Note: Heath was received as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary upon presentation of a copy of his letter of credence, Jul 29, 1950. Also accredited to Cambodia and Viet-Nam; resident at Saigon. </span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Charles W. Yost<br /> Appointment: Aug 18, 1954<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Nov 1, 1954<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 27, 1956<br /> <span>Note: Legation Vientiane was raised to Embassy status, Aug 10, 1955. </span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> J. Graham Parsons<br /> Appointment: May 29, 1956<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Oct 12, 1956<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 8, 1958</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Horace H. Smith<br /> Appointment: Mar 26, 1958<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Apr 9, 1958<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 21, 1960</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Winthrop G. Brown<br /> Appointment: Jul 5, 1960<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jul 25, 1960<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 28, 1962</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Leonard Unger<br /> Appointment: Jul 3, 1962<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jul 25, 1962<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 1, 1964</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> William H. Sullivan<br /> Appointment: Nov 25, 1964<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Dec 23, 1964<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 18, 1969<br /> <span>Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 18, 1965.</span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> G. McMurtrie Godley<br /> Appointment: Jun 13, 1969<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jul 24, 1969<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 23, 1973</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Charles S. Whitehouse<br /> Appointment: Jul 24, 1973<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 20, 1973<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 12, 1975</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Galen L. Stone<br /> Appointment: Jun 11, 1975<br /> Presentation of Credentials: [see note below]<br /> <span>Note: Did not serve under this appointment. </span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Note: From 1975 to 1992, the following officers served as Charg&eacute; d&#39;Affaires ad interim: Thomas J. Corcoran (Aug 1975&ndash;Mar 1978), George B. Roberts, Jr. (Mar 1978&ndash;Sep 1979), Leo J. Moser (Sep 1979&ndash;Oct 1981), William W. Thomas, Jr. (Nov 1981&ndash;Nov 1983), Theresa A. Tull (Nov 1983&ndash;Aug 1986), Harriet W. Isom (Aug 1986&ndash;Aug 1989), and Charles B. Salmon, Jr. (Aug 1989&ndash;Aug 1992). Chiefs of Mission were designated Charg&eacute;s d&#39;Affaires after Jan 9, 1987.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Charles B. Salmon, Jr.<br /> Appointment: Jul 14, 1992<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Aug 6, 1992<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, July 26, 1993</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Victor L. Tomseth<br /> Appointment: Nov 22, 1993<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Jan 8, 1994<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 20, 1996</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Wendy J. Chamberlin<br /> Appointment: Jul 2, 1996<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 5, 1996<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 14, 1999</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Douglas Alan Hartwick<br /> Appointment: Jul 11, 2001<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 18, 2001<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 21, 2004<br /> <span>Note: An earlier nomination of Feb 9, 2000, was not acted upon by the Senate.</span></div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Patricia M. Haslach<br /> Appointment: May 12, 2004<br /> Presentation of Credentials: Sep 4, 2004<br /> Termination of Mission: Left post, May 26, 2007</div> <div> &nbsp;</div>
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Laos 's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Soukhathivong, Seng

Seng Soukhathivong has served as Laos’ ambassador to the United States since June 28, 2010.

 
Born February 10, 1955, Soukhathivong earned his B.A. in Economic and Social Sciences at Lycée Luang Prabang in 1975 and his M.A. in Foreign Languages (English and Russian) in Russia in 1982. After graduation, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1984 to 1990, he served at the Lao embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. He spent the years 1991-1993 as secretary for the deputy minister of foreign affairs and with the Secretariat of the Lao-Thai Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation.
 
For four years (1993-1997), Soukhathivong worked at the Lao embassy in Washington, D.C., as first secretary and then as counselor. Returning to Laos, he served as deputy director general in the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1997 until 2001.
 
Soukhathivong was back at the Lao embassy in the United States in 2001, beginning a five-year stint as minister counselor and deputy chief of mission. He returned to Laos in 2007, serving first as deputy chief of the cabinet in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then, beginning in February 2007, as director general of the ministry’s Asia-Pacific and Africa Department.
 
In addition to English and Russian, Soukhathivong speaks French.
 

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Laos 's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
<p> &nbsp;</p> <div> <a href="http://www.laoembassy.com/">Laos&#39;s Embassy in the U.S.</a></div>
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U.S. Ambassador to Laos

Clune, Dan
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The landlocked, isolated Southeast-Asian nation of Laos will soon have a new ambassador who may value the relative quiet after the last two years of public controversy. Since 2010, Dan Clune, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

 

As such, he has been the State Department’s point man in its process of deciding whether to permit TransCanada (2012 revenues: CAN$8 billion) to build the proposed 2,000-mile long, $7 billion Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would deliver tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. If confirmed by the Senate, Clune would succeed Karen Stewart, who has served in Vientiane since 2010.

 

Born circa 1949, Clune earned a BA at Boston College in 1971 and a J.D. at Boalt Hall, the law school at the University of California-Berkeley, in 1974.

 

After practicing law for ten years in Chicago, Clune joined the Foreign Service in 1985 and served early career postings at the U.S. embassies in Lima, Peru, and Jakarta, Indonesia, and as an economic officer in the European Affairs Bureau in Washington, DC, from 1990 to 1992.

 

Clune spent four years working on trade issues, including service as director of Middle East and Mediterranean affairs at the Office of U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky from 1997 to 1998 and as trade advisor at the U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris, France, from 1998 to 2000.

 

From 2000 to 2002, Clune served as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Nassau, Bahamas.

 

Clune then worked economic issues for the next five years, serving as director of the Office of Economic Policy and Public Diplomacy from 2002 to 2005, and as director of the Office of Monetary Affairs and Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Paris Club from 2005 to 2007. Clune served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy in Canberra, Australia, from February 2007 to 2010.

 

He has been married for 37 years to Judy Clune, an artist, and has three daughters.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Q&A with the U.S. State Dept. Official Leading the Keystone XL Pipeline Review (by Luiza Ch. Savage, MacLeans)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Laos

Huso, Ravis
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Ravic R. Huso served as the ambassador Laos until September 2010. Huso received his undergraduate degree from the College of Idaho (1973) and earned a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Virginia (1976). He was selected by the State Department for senior training and chose to attend the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, graduating with the Class of 1993.

 
Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1980, Huso was a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Senegal (1976-1978) where he worked in rural development. He subsequently worked for the US Agency for International Development’s Senegal mission.
 
His first State Department assignments were to the US embassies in Burkina Faso (1981-82), where he served as general services officer, and in Burundi (1982-85), where he worked as a political and economic reporting officer.
 
He returned to Washington where he was assigned to the Office of Philippine Affairs (1985-87) and then to the Office of Australia and New Zealand Affairs (1987-88). After a year of language training, Huso went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as deputy political counselor. He was the deputy chief of mission in Niamey, Niger (1993-96).

He served as the State Department’s deputy director and then director for Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam Affairs (1996-1999). From July 1999 to August 2000, he was a director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
 
He then served as deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand (2001-2004). and as foreign policy advisor to the commander of the US Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii, from 2004-2007. 
 
Huso has commented on Laos’ decision to change from its Marxist-Leninist past, saying it was not political. Although Laos is still a one-party state, Huso has said this change “was intended to apply to the way the economy was run.”
 
He speaks fluent French and conversational Thai, Bahasa Malaysia and Italian.

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