Three ethnic Hmong men from Minnesota were missing in Laos on Monday after being taken into custody by security forces, according to an advocacy group and one man's wife.
Philip Smith, the Washington director of Lao Veterans of America, said multiple sources in Laos said the men were arrested Aug. 25 by Laotian military and security forces.
He said it wasn't known why the men were arrested, and that they had no known political or family ties to dissident groups. Smith said the men were traveling in Laos sightseeing and looking to start businesses.
Laotian authorities were not available for comment Monday afternoon.
Smith identified the men as Hakit Yang, 21; Conghineng Yang, 31; and Trillion Yunhaison, 41. All are from St. Paul, which has one of the largest concentrations of ethnic Hmong in the United States.
Sheng Xiong, Yang's wife, said their children, 8 and 5, cannot understand why their father hasn't called them. "Everybody is just worried and sick," she said. "We just need some answers here."
She said the families of the men last heard from them on Aug. 25, when Yunhaison borrowed a cell phone from a security guard and called his family to say he had been arrested.
Xiong, who said she was related to all of three men, said she was sure none of them were involved in Lao politics. "They were touring to visit families, and look for business opportunities," she said.
Smith said a fourth man may also have been taken into custody. He was Pao Vang, who was reportedly acting as a tour guide for the group. Smith said Vang's age and nationality were not known.
Smith said that based on his sources in the Laos, on Aug. 30 the men were taken from Ponthong Prison in shackles and hoods and loaded into a government truck. They were then taken to an unknown location.
"They are presumed to have been transported to another Lao government prison or detention camp outside of the capital for further detention, interrogation or worse," Smith said in a news release.
Members of Laos' Hmong minority served in a CIA-backed guerrilla army that fought against Lao communists in the 1960s and 1970s. Afterward, thousands fled retribution in communist Laos and settled in the United States. Some refugees now living in Thailand claim they continue to face political persecution and possible harm there.
Smith is also the executive director for the Center for Public Policy Analysis, a group that advocates for democracy in Laos.
By Chris Williams, Associated Press Writer
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)