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At her confirmation hearings in Washington last April, Patricia Haslach, the new U.S. ambassador to Laos, said: "First and foremost, I will continue to press the Lao government to respect the rights of its ethnic groups, especially the Hmong population that continues to reside in remote areas of the country." The U.S. is concerned that incidents such as that alleged by Va Char may occur from time to time, not as a consequence of government policy but because Lao soldiers know there will be no censure for their actions. In a statement, the U.S. State Department said that it had no "independent information about the alleged atrocity" described by Va Char but that "such allegations are serious, and we of course will look into them and respond appropriately." The statement went on to urge the Lao government to launch a "serious investigation of this alleged incident." The Lao official to whom TIME spoke said that "of course an investigation will be launched if this tape [is] proved to be true." Asked if foreign observers would be able to monitor such an investigation, he said that it would have to remain confidential.