The new Thai army commander, who just ended his first visit to Laos since assuming his post, says the two sides have agreed to forge closer cooperation in counter-narcotics and to more effectively prevent all forms of violence along their common border.
General Anouphong Phaochinda spoke to reporters upon returning from Vientiane where he met with his counterpart and other Lao officials. He said both sides agreed that illegal drug trade has become increasingly widespread along their common border.
On the issue of the more than 7,000Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao in Thailand's Phetchabun province, who are under the Thai army's supervision, General Anouphong told reporters that Lao officials again asserted that they are ready to take them back as well as those being held in a detention center in Nongkhai across from Vientiane. However, the Thai general said his army is not ready to return the Hmong refugees to Laos because of international scrutiny and criticism.
Many western countries including Australia, New Zealand, Finland and the Netherlands have offered to resettle the Hmong refugees, whom Laos and Thailand consider illegal immigrants and say their issue must be settled by the two countries only.
Laos Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh has said those Hmong refugees were economic refugees and victims of transnational human trafficking, but he added that his government would allowed them to live any where they want to, be it Thailand or any western country, if they do not want to return to Laos.
Listen to our Laos Today report for more details.