Thai authorities are facing difficulty in repatriating the Hmong refugees at Huay Namkhao temporary camp in Thailand’s northeastern Phetchaboun Province.
According to military officials of the Third Region responsible for northern Thailand, the difficulty stems from the fact that those Hmongs, who number more than 5,000, have not come forward to express their willingness to return to Laos. And that has stalled the repatriation process and will definitely affect the goal of completing the repatriation of all Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Namkhao to Laos by June of this year. Thai military officers added that the main reason behind the Hmongs’ unwillingness to return to Laos is their hope of being accepted for resettlement in third countries, especially in the United States, as they are waiting to see whether or not the new U.S. government under President Barack Obama will have a policy that may be favorable to their immigration into America. Moreover, there are rumors spread around among the Hmong community that their relatives who have returned to Laos previously, numbering over 2,000, have not been adequately taken care of by Lao officials. Therefore, the more than 5,000 Hmongs remaining at Huay Namkhao camp have strongly united and stood their ground.
In response to this situation, a
Lao delegation headed by Brigadier General Bouasieng Champaphanh, Deputy Chief
of Staff of the Lao Armed Forces, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman
Yong Chanthalangsy, is scheduled to visit Huay Namkhao on February 19, to
clarify and inform the Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Namkhao of the real
situation.However, the refugees maintain that the visit by the Lao official
delegation will serve no purpose, unless they are accompanied by representatives
of the United Nations or other international organizations. A Hmong
refugee told our Bangkok-VOA stringer, on condition of anonimity because of
fear for his own security, that if Mr. Yong Chanthalangsy wishes to talk to
them, the talks must include participation by representatives of the
international community and the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for
Refugees). If the visit consists solely of Mr. Yong, Lao officials and Thai
authorities, it is useless.
The Hmong refugees have been detained at Ban Huay Nam Khao since 2004 when they escaped to Thailand, claiming that they could no longer remain in Laos due to continuous siege and persecution by the Lao government because they were former soldiers or children of former soldiers who fought alongside US troops or CIA agents during the Indochina War. Lao authorities insist, however, that there is no siege or persecution of the Hmong people in Laos and maintain that the Huay Nam Khao Hmongs are not refugees, but victims of labor and human trafficking activities by groups of "bad people," and they were lured to enter Thailand illegally. Nonetheless, Thai officials have repatriated over 2,000 of these Hmong refugees to Laos since 2007.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on 2/18/09. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam)
Listen to our audio files for more details in Lao.