Thai officials say they have to delay the scheduled repatriation of Huay Nam Khao Hmong refugees to Laos, pending new policies by Thailand's newly-formed government.
Thailand's National Security Council says the Thai military cannot at the moment carry out the plan to return to Laos the more than 7,500 Hmongs being held at Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp in Phetchaboun Province, because it does not know what stance the new government will take regarding this issue.
Under a bilateral agreement with Laos, Thailand is scheduled to repatriate all the Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao by the end of this year. The agreement also covers the 149 Hmongs being held at a detention camp in Nongkhai since December 2006, after they were rounded up in Bangkok during a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
The Thai government has also been under close scrutiny and criticism by the United Nations and international human rights organization for rejecting calls to let those Hmong refugees to leave Thailand to resettle in third countries. Thailand and Laos consider them illegal immigrants.
Laos has built facilities to receive the returning refugees in Kasi district, Vientiane province, and has invited foreign officials and journalists to see the village for themselves.
UNHCR recently issued another call on Thailand to allow the Hmongs being detained in Nongkhai to resettle in third countries.
Listen to our Laos Today report for details in Lao.