Thai authorities handed over 11 Hmong refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao in Thailand's Phetchaboun province to Lao officials in Vientiane on February 28. The refugees were the third group to be repatriated to Laos since the two neighbors reached an agreement last year to return all Hmong refugees in Thailand to their homeland by the end of 2008.
The agreement covers the more than 7,500 refugees in Ban Huay Nam Khao, plus another 150 or so being detained at an immigration detention center in Nongkhai. So far 203 refugees have been repatriated. Lao officials said the repatriation was voluntary, but the refugees claimed they were forced to return.
Although Thai officials have agreed to complete repatriation by year's end, they express doubt that it will be done because they have to take into consideration humanitarian and human rights concerns on the one hand and Lao-Thai close relations on the other, as well as international scrutiny and pressure.
Listen to our report for more details in Lao.