In the June 1st community forum with Ambassador Huso and Sen. Franken, we witnessed a deeply underwhelming visit. Legitimate questions regarding Laos were left unanswered and Lao Minnesotans must ask the sincerity of efforts to engage us.
We were given limited notice in the Lao Minnesotan community to RSVP and few had enough lead time to compose questions for pre-screening by the organizers. For many of us, there was no visible process of meaningfully soliciting inquiry from the 25,000+ Lao Minnesotans about what we would like to see on the agenda during the ambassador’s last visit.
Considering this was Ambassador Huso’s final visit to the US before leaving office, more notice was surely in order. We can only hope this does not embody the future of how we will be contacted and engaged with our politicians.
During Ambassador Huso’s visit, we received no updates on the timeline, details and implications of mandated agreements to be developed between the LPDR and the United States on the deportation of Lao-born individuals or individuals born in the refugee camps. Such policies will have a very wide effect on our community in many ways.
We received no updates on efforts to ease family reunification, an issue of increasing sensitivity with immigration reform gaining momentum.
There was no meaningful discussion of US efforts to assist Lao judicial systems and the nature of increased counter-narcotics assistance. Given that many narcotics charges carry death sentences, this should be an issue of interest.
UXO clearance was given only passing mention, despite the Convention on Cluster Munitions going into effect in August.
There was no discussion on how Lao can effectively provide strategic philanthropic support in-line with US policy, which, given recent developments over the years must be of concern to us.
Our list goes on.
While I can appreciate the limited time available to everyone, we can and must still expect better of our legislators and future meetings with the US Ambassador to Laos.