Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Thai government to allow international organizations and NGOs to observe the repatriation of Hmong asylum seekers from the army-run detention camp at Ban Houay Nam Khao in Phetchabun province’s Kao Kho district to Laos. HRW suspects that certain groups of the Hmongs are not going back to Laos voluntarily because they fear that their lives will be in danger when they go back there.
Most of the nearly 8,000 Hmongs at Ban Houay Nam Khao say they are former members, or descendents, of the Lao army who worked with CIA during the Vietnam War in Laos, and they escaped to Thailand because they were victims of persecution by the Lao government.
The Lao government, however, has denied this accusation. And Thailand has never allowed international organizations to participate or observe the repatriation of the Hmong refugees. Thailand has recently sent 67 Hmongs back to Laos where they welcomed by Lao officials, who promised to take care of them. Some of these Hmongs will be sent to temporary shelter in Paksane district, Borikhamsay province, and some to Ban Pha-Lak resettlement site in Kasi district, Vientiane province.
Thailand has handed over to Laos 270 Hmongs since 2006. Most of them, especially those who do not have a piece of land to farm or a house have been sent to Pha-Lak. Mr. Yong Chanthalansy, the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson, confirmed that those who still have a farmland, a house and relatives in Laos will be sent back to their own villages, and those who do not have any property will be sent to Pha-Lak where the government will help them resettle and start their new lives. He said so far less than 5 percent of those sent back have gone to Pha-Lak.
Laos and Thailand consider the Hmong refugees victims of human trafficking and illegal immigrants, and both countries had agreed to send all of them back to Laos by the end of 2008. And since these Hmongs are not political refugees, Lao and Thai officials would not allow international organizations to help solve the problem.
Lao officials have said that they are ready to negotiate with third countries and international organizations once all of them have been sent back from Thailand, and Laos has no objection to any country wanting to accept these Hmongs for resettlement.
Listen to our Laos Today for details.