A top Thai military official says his people will start the process of repatriating Hmong refugees currently being detained at Ban Houay Nam Khao, Kao Kho district, Phetchabun province this month.
Lieutenant General Niphat Thonglek, director of the Thai Supreme Command's Military Border Affairs confirmed that the repatriation of nearly 8,000 Lao Hmong refugees from Ban Houay Nam Khao will start this month and is expected to finish by the end of 2008, according to the agreement reached by the committees responsible for maitaining order along the Lao-Thai border in Vientiane last month.
Under the agreement, Thai officials are to deliver the Hmongs to Lao authorities in a group of between 200 to 400 people. They will be resettled at Ban Pha-Lak, in Kasi district, Vientiane province, where the Lao government has prepared accommodations for them. There are now around 203 Hmong, who were sent back from Thailand since 2006, living in at this village.
Most of the Hmong refugees do not want to be sent back to Laos, claiming they fear for their lives. Mr. Yong Chanthalangsy, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson said Laos is ready to negotiate with third countries and international orgarnizations after all of the Hmongs have been sent back from Thailand, and Laos has no objection to any country wanting to accept these Hmongs for resettlement.
Laos said the Hmongs at Ban Houay Nam Kao are victims of human trafficking and illegal immigrants, but the Hmong said they are the victims of persecution by Lao government.
Listen to our Laos Today report for more details in Lao.