Thailand's prime minister says his government will continue to send ethnic Hmong refugees back to Laos despite appeals by U.S. lawmakers to let them stay.
Surayud Chulanont said Monday that Thailand will ask representatives of a third country to ensure the rights of Hmong refugees are protected after their return to Laos. Mr. Surayud says his government has discussed the idea of involving third-country representatives with Lao officials.
Last Friday, thirteen members of the U.S. Congress wrote to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, asking him to stop Thai authorities from deporting around 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees in Phetchabun province.
A day earlier, on August 2, a special session of the US Congressional Forum on Laos was held to discuss the current situation in Laos and Thailand facing Hmong and Lao dissidents, refugees and asylum seekers. This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Public Analysis, the United League for Democracy in Laos, the Lao Veterans of America, the United Hmong-American for Justice, the Lao Human Rights Council, together with members of Congress and other organizations. During the meeting, many panelists called on the Thai government not to send back for now the Hmong refugees in Phetchabun province. U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher, from California, said America has special relations with the Hmongs , who had risked their lives to help American pilots shot down during the Vietnam war. Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, South East Asian scholar and author of “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, The American and the Secret War of Laos,” said “Thai authorities should not be in a hurry to do any repatriations or deportations because it is quite clear that innocent lives are at stake here.”
Hundreds of thousands of Laotians, mostly Hmong, fled to Thailand after the Communists took power in Laos in 1975. The Hmongs say they fear persecution at home. Some of the Hmong who can’t escape to Thailand, have to go into hiding in the jungle where they say they are being encircled by Lao troops and forced in famine. Those who had escaped joined their relatives in a makeshift camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao in Thailand’s Phetchabun province, and are now at risk of being sent back to Laos.
Listen to our special report for more details in Laos.