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NEWS UPDATES 17 July 2010

Hmong activists protest

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Avocates for the Hmong on Friday voiced concern about the new US engagement with Laos, urging the communist nation to improve treatment of the ethnic minority. Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith this week paid the first visit by a senior Laotian official to Washington since the communist victory in his country in 1975, shortly after the fall of US-allied South Vietnam.

Mr Thongloun and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to step up contacts and signed an aviation agreement, part of a renewed focus on Southeast Asia under President Barack Obama. Hmong-American groups, along with Lao-American groups critical of the Vientiane government, issued a joint statement voicing opposition to the Laotian minister's visit.

Mrs. Clinton 'may not know that the Lao military regime continues to engage in widespread corruption and the exploitation of the Laotian people,' said Bounthanh Rathigna, president of the United League for Democracy in Laos, to AFP

Laos 'remains a one-party regime closely allied with corrupt military generals in Hanoi as well as Burma and North Korea,' he said.

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