The remaining Hmong refugees in Ban Huay Namkhao detention camp, in Thailand’s Phetchabun province, have asserted that they will not volunteer to go back to Laos even though they are offered cash assistance by Thai authorities. According to 19 year-old Va Xiong, those who went back to Laos earlier this year volunteered to do so because they received between 3,000 and 5,000 Baht each, which is considered a lot of money for a family of ten who could receive as much as thirty thousand to fifty thousand Baht.
Currently there are approximately 6,000 Hmong refugees remaining in HuayNamkhao. Va Xiong said his people will flee the camp and live in hiding in jungles if Thai authorities force them to return to Laos. During the last three-four months, over 400 Hmong refugees have left the camp to live in the jungles, added Va Xiong. Many of them were former soldiers or children of former soldiers who fought along side US troops or CIA agents during the Vietnam War. So they fear they will be persecuted by the Lao government if they return home. Va Xiong added that their only wish is to resettle in the United States.
The government of Laos, on the other hand, insists that there is no persecution toward the Hmong returnees, and that there are no anti-government groups in Laos. Authorities maintain they welcome all those who return voluntarily. Similarly, the Thai government denies that its authorities have ever forcibly repatriated the refugees.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.