Ex-French colonel kills self to protest Asian minority-Hmong treatment

AFP , Monday 12 Dec 2011

In a dramatic act of protest, an 86-year-old French colonel shoots himself on the steps of a monument, 'an act of war' to protest the indifference by French officials over the 1950 French war in Indochine

A retired French colonel killed himself at a memorial to the war in South East Asia to protest official "indifference" to the treatment of the Hmong minority, police said Monday.

Robert Jambon, 86, shot himself on the steps of the Monument Indochine in the Breton town of Dinan on 27 October "leaving a note linking his act to what he lived through" during the war in French Indochina, police said.

A suicide letter published by the newspaper Ouest France described his act as a protest over the treatment of Hmong people, whom he fought alongside during France's 1950-54 war in French Indochina, a colony that included modern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

"After a long period of disappointment, I have decided to play my final card, or more precisely my final bullet," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which was posted on the daily's website.

In the note, Jambon said the suicide was aimed at expressing his "shame and to protest against the cowardly indifference of our officials in the face of the terrible misfortune that is hitting our friends in Laos.

"This is not a suicide but an act of war aimed at rescuing our brothers-in-arms facing death," he said.

Jambon, who was named a commander in the French Legion of Honour by President Nicolas Sarkozy last May, had spent decades trying to raise awareness of the Hmong minority's treatment.

The Hmong ethnic group lives mainly in mountainous areas in China, Vietnam and Laos. Many Hmong joined French forces during the war in Indochina and later fought alongside US forces in the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 1970s.

They have faced widespread persecution and Jambon had raised particular concern over the French government's reaction to Thailand's forced return in 2009 of thousands of ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers to Laos.

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