U.S. Deputy Spokesman Sean McCormack on Monday issued a statement regarding Thailand's deportation of some 160 Hmong refugees from Laos who had been detained on charge of entering the country illegally. The statement reads:
"On Saturday, June 9, the Royal Thai Government deported about 160 ethnic Hmong who had fled from Laos in recent months. All had been detained in prisons in Thailand for illegally entering the country.
The United States, with other countries and international organizations, has urged the Thai government not to deport vulnerable people seeking refugee status without first having a screening process that meets international standards. It is a generally recognized principle that no one with a genuine fear of persecution should be returned to a country where he or she might face mistreatment. Unfortunately, continued allegations of human rights violations in Laos, combined with the Lao government’s refusal so far to permit monitoring of returnees, cause concern about the well-being of those who were deported.
Thailand has a long tradition of providing refuge for those in need. Thailand has the right to prevent illegal immigration. However, we urge the Thai government to live up to its traditions and international standards, and to ensure that those with a genuine claim to refugee status are not returned to an uncertain fate. "
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it was "deeply concerned" about Thailand's deportation of 163 ethnic Hmongs to communist Laos, and that it fears for the 8,000 Hmongs currently residing in a makeshift camp in Ban Huay Nam Khao in Thailand's Phetchabun Province, as Thai authorities prepare to send more Hmongs back to Laos.
Ban Huay Nam Khao Hmong leader Ly Seu says his people would rather die in Thailand than go back to Laos.
Listen to our Laos Today report for Lao translation of the U.S. Statement and further details on the Hmong issue.