Laos, Thailand, Nam Thuen II Dam Consultations by World Bank Deeply Biased and Flawed - Rights Groups Organize Boycott and Blast Proceedings

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Citing a deeply biased and flawed decision-making process by the World Bank and the Lao government, as well as mounting evidence of an increase in ethnic cleansing operations and military attacks against Hmong and Laotian civilians and rebels encircled in Laos, a coalition of rights organizations seeking political and economic reform in Laos will boycott consultations in Washington, D.C. today regarding potential World Bank financial backing of the Nam Thuen II ‘Super Dam” project.

Citing a deeply biased and flawed decision-making process by the World Bank and the Lao government, as well as mounting evidence of an increase in ethnic cleansing operations and military attacks against Hmong and Laotian civilians and rebels encircled in Laos, a coalition of rights organizations seeking political and economic reform in Laos will boycott consultations in Washington, D.C. today regarding potential World Bank financial backing of the Nam Thuen II ‘Super Dam” project.    

“These consultations are largely rigged and fixed and have excluded from invitation the vast majority of the Laotian and Hmong Diaspora community and its major organizations who have a stake in this project,” stated Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc., who is boycotting the consultation event in Washington, D.C.

“The smoke-and-mirrors consultations on the Nam Thuen II Dam project, jointly co-hosted by the World Bank and the Lao regime at a time when the regime is engaged in a major military campaign to kill so many of its own minority peoples calls into serious question the credibility of the World Bank on this project; the consultation process on Nam Thuen II smells very badly because clearly the consultation events have been structured to seek to largely exclude and intimidate human rights, pro-democracy and civil society organizations seeking to promote an open society in Laos,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA). “The World Bank is turning a blind eye to the Dam’s potential for creating deeper debt, corruption and poverty in Laos, and fueling weapons purchases and further ethnic cleansing operations by the Lao military,” Smith continued.

The Lao minister of Defense has made repeatedly made trips abroad in recent months shopping for advanced weapons systems, including armored vehicles, fixed wing and fighter aircraft and other multi-million dollar potential military assets. Defense and security spending consume the lion’s share of spending by the one-party regime in Laos.

Smith also serves as the Washington, D.C. liaison for a coalition of Laotian and Hmong organizations seeking political, human rights and economic reforms in Laos, including the Lao Students Movement for Democracy, the Laos Institute for Democracy, the United League for Democracy in Laos, the Lao Veterans of America and others.

Continued Smith, “Clearly, Nam Thuen II’s fate has already been pre-determined by the World Bank so these consultations are nothing more than poorly organized melodramatic theatre complete with violins to evoke heart-felt compassion for the morally impoverished and corrupt Stalinist regime in Laos that is now massacring its own minority peoples. The Nam Thuen II Dam project has apparently already been given the green-light under the table by the World Bank who is insincere in addressing the root causes of poverty in Laos which is in fact the result of a geriatric, corrupt, one-party old-guard, communist military regime."

"The so-called ‘consultations’ on the project are being held ex-post facto, in terms of Bank backing of the project, and are largely a deceptive hoax from the perspective of the human rights and pro-democracy organizations active on Laos who have suffered a de-facto exclusion from any meaningful part of the decision making process regarding the Nam Thuen II Dam project.” Smith went on to accuse the World Bank and Lao regime of engaging in “a major cover-up and campaign of deception, self-delusion and hypocrisy regarding the reality of the Lao regime’s failed and impoverished, one-party Stalinist political system.”

“We oppose World Bank back-funding for the Nam Thuen II project while it is killing and starving to death thousands of ethnic Hmong and Laotian civilians in the area of the Dam,” stated Colonel Wangyee Vang, National Director of the Lao Veterans of America, the nation’s largest ethnic Hmong and Lao organization.

“This an unprecedented failure by the World Bank and it willfully ignore the genocide and mass killing of the Hmong people; it ignores the recent research and work of Amnesty International, the U.N. Commission on Racial Discrimination in Geneva and what the U.S. Congress has done with the recent passage of H.Res. 402 regarding the deplorable military operations of the Pathet Lao regime,” stated Seng Xiong, of the Hmong Reform Committee.

Dr. Kayasith Rattanavongkoth, President of the Laotian Association of Washington, D.C., who is also boycotting the event asked, "Why did the World Bank and Pathet Lao regime apparently exclude and not invite any of the major Laotian or Hmong human rights, pro-democracy or civil society organizations to the Nam Thuen II consultations in Washington if it serious about this issue? Where is the security for these people in Laos and elsewhere if they attend and the dissidents and opposition groups face the Pathet leadership directly with the reality of situation.”

“The Lao regime is currently engaged in massive corruption and institutional violence in Laos against the Lao and Hmong people and this is the real source of the poverty in Laos that the World Bank is clearly ignoring,” stated Khamphoua Naovarangsy, Director of the Laos Institute for Democracy.

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), in consultation with the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos and a coalition of Laotian and Hmong organizations, NGOs, human rights and pro-democracy organizations as well as religious and political dissidents, scholars and concerned individuals, released a policy paper in opposition to World Bank backing of the project in the fall of 2001 in the U.S. Congress. The CPPA is slated to issue an updated policy paper on the Nam Thuen II later this month recommending the World Bank delay or cancel financial backing for the project.

Jointly issued by the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), the Lao Students Movement for Democracy (LSMD), the Lao Nationalist Reform Party (LNRP), the Hmong Reform Party (HRP), the Lao Veterans of America, Inc. (LVA), the Laos Institute For Democracy (LIFD), the Wat Tham Krabok Watch Committee (WTKWC), the Lao Huam Phao Association (LHPA); Lao American Council Corporation (LACC), the Hmong Emergency Crisis Task Force (HECTF), the United Lao Action Center (ULAC), the Laos Fund (LF) and a coalition of Laotian and Hmong organizations seeking political and human rights reforms in Laos.

These organizations and others participated in the boycott of the World Bank and Lao government consultations on the Nam Thuen II project in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10, 2004.

Contact: Mr. Paul Christopher or Ms. Anna Jones

Center for Public Policy Analysis

2020 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 318

Washington, D.C. 20006

Tele. (202) 543-1444

Fax (202) 318-0266

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