plan to repatriate five-thousand Lao-Hmong refugees is causing concern
that violence last year in the Huay Nam Khao camp could be repeated.
The Hmong people are one of several major tribal groups in Laos. |
Human Rights Watch representative Sunai Phasuk, said confirmation of
the repatriation program follows recent visits to Laos by Thai Prime
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
Mr. Abhisit said a Joint Border Committee of the two countries military would oversee the Hmong repatriation.
"It is very clear that the government of Prime Minister Abhisit
Vejjajiva has reaffirmed its commitment of Thailand to repatriate Lao
Hmong back to Laos, regardless of the lack of transparency inside Laos
as to the point that we do not know what happens to the returnees after
they cross the Thai-Lao border."
Last June, refugee protests against repatriation plans led to the
torching of half the camp and the Thai military halted a protest march.
Afterward, 800 protesters were forcibly repatriated to Laos, while
thousands were sent back to the camp.
Sunai says there there again could be "resistance" and protests among
the refugees, which he fears may be met with a "heavy handed" response
from the Thai military.
"It is a real tragedy that the Thai military failed to understand this
natural fear of the Lao Hmong and instead respond with heavy handed
The repatriation plan calls for sending all the refugees back to Laos by year's end.
Human-rights groups and the U.N. High Commission for Refugees have also
raised concern for 158 Hmong held at an immigration detention center in
Nong Khai. UNHCR spokesperson Kitty McKinsey says the United Nations is
calling for the detainees to be released.
"Our position about the 158 Hmong who are in detention in Nong Khai -
we continue to press for them to be released from custody because there
is no reason for them to be kept in detention."
Human-rights group Amnesty International has called for the Thai
government to "reconsider" the decision to return the Lao Hmong until
they have been granted access to a "full and fair" asylum procedure.
Thailand and Laos say the current refugees are economic migrants, not victims of political persecution.
ted residence in the United States., Australia and other
Translated by S. Bourommavong