Hundreds of Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao detention camp, who were formerly residents of Wat Tham Krabok in Thailand's Sarabury province, say they fear for their lives if Thai authorities send them back to Laos.
These refugees, numbering more than 900, were part of a large group that had left Wat Tham Krabok before the United States government agreed to resettle some 15,000 Tham Krabok residents in 2004 and 2005, because they heard rumors that Thai authorities were making a list of all the refugees who lived there in preparation for their deportation to Laos.
They said they feared for their safety now, as they did then, because they are descendants of former Hmong soldiers who fought along side American troops during the Indochina War. Besides, they had also helped the Thai government in its efforts to counter Communist influence in northeastern Thailand during the Cold War.
After leaving Wat Tham Krabok in Sarabury, these Hmongs went to live with their relatives in northern Thailand for many years before joining other Hmongs who had fled Laos and were allowed to take refuge at Ban Huay Nam Khao in Thailand's Phetchabun province, in hope of being accepted for resettlement in third countries.
Thai authorities, however, consider those refugees illegal immigrants and have initially reached an agreement with the Lao government to return them all to Laos by year's end. But now officials say they will deport only about 2,000 of the 8,000 or so Hmong refugees from Ban Huay Nam Khao this year, because it will be impossible to return them all by the end of the year.
Listen to Songrit's report in Lao for more details.