A bill to relax trade relations with Laos is one step closer to becoming law. The U.S. Senate passed the bill on Friday. Now it goes to the president, whose administration has been fighting for the measure for the better part of two years.
Hundreds of letters sit in the Lao Human Rights Council office in Eau Claire. They all have one thing in common, as does a somewhat garbled tape nearby: they represent the voice of the Hmong community, both in the Chippewa Valley and the jungles of Laos.
The human rights council's director says those of us who haven't been there can't understand just how bad the situation is.
"The Lao Government is the criminal Nazi Government in Laos," said Executive Director Dr. Vang Pobzeb, "killing the Hmong people similar to the Nazi Germany killing the Jews in Europe 40, 50 years ago."
Third district congressman Ron Kind also disagrees with the bill, saying these reports of human rights abuses need to be addressed by congress and the international community before we extend trade rights to the Lao government.
"They should obey the basic human rights on earth; if they don't, why should we give it to them, said Hmong community leader Jo Bee Xiong."
Both Xiong and Doctor Pobzeb said more Hmong people will be killed if the president signs the bill into law.
Pobzeb adds that Washington would be partially responsible for the violence since they missed their chance to curtail it.