officer of the Lao Armed Forces maintain that there is no other choice for the Hmong
refugees at Huay Namkhao detention camp in Thailand but to return to Laos. The
assertion came from Deputy
Chief of Staff Brigadier General
Bouasieng Champaphanh, who spoke in his
capacity as chairman of the Sub-committee on
Lao-Thai Border Security, as he led a Lao delegation to meet with key Hmong leaders at Ban Huay Namkhao, Khaokhor District, in
Thailand's Phetchaboun Province, for the first time on February 19, 2009. The
"There is no other choice for these
Hmong refugees because, first of all, it is not possible for themto go to a third
country, because no country has offered to take them. Both Thai and Lao
authorities have approached the American ambassadors, and they have
categorically rejected resettlement of the refugees in the United States, and
instead urged us to resolve the problems ourselves. Therefore, Hmongs at Huay
Namkhao should not have their hopes set on going to America. Secondly, if the
Hmongs harbored any idea of organizing anti-Lao government activities, they
should be aware that they will not receive support from any country, including the U.S. Hence, they should give up all those ideas,
and return to Laos, where they can find opportunities to live their lives in
happiness. The earlier they return, the better off they will be."
General Bouasieng further reassured
the refugees that they will be welcome by the government, who will take good
care of them and provide them assistance.
The assistance promised by the government
of Laos to those who voluntarily return includes forgiving them of any kind of
wrong doings, extending them the same and equal rights and freedoms enjoyed by
other citizens of the country, providing them shelters and arable land for
growing their food, and job opportunities as well as comprehensive basic
services, such as providing education to Hmong children, primary public health
care, clean water sources, and irrigation canals. The government will also
continue to build and improve roads and provide free electricity service for a year.
During Brigadier General
Bouasieng's visit, Thai authorities deployed hundreds of soldiers to maintain
security around the camps. Only key
leaders of the refugee community were allowed to meet with the Lao delegation,
which was accompanied by some former camp leaders who had returned to Laos.
They were, of course, brought to reassure the refugees of the warm welcome and
good care that they have received from the Lao government. However, the camp leaders were only allowed to
listen to General Bouasieng's remarks, but not to raise any questions or
express their opinions. Journalists who
were allowed to attend the meeting were
banned by Thai
authorities from interviewing and taking pictures of Hmongs inside the camp.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala
and Dara Baccam)
Listen to our audio files for more details in Lao.