Hmong refugees at Huay Namkhao detention camp are calling for help and support from Thailand's Human Rights Commission and other international organizations, saying that they are seriously being pressured to go back to Laos by Thai authorities who recently arrested four of their leaders, accusing them of drug trafficking and murder in Laos.
The Lao Hmong refugees at Huay Namkhao camp in Khaokhor District, Thailand's northeastern Phetchaboun Province, have issued a statement calling for support from Thailand's Human Rights Commission and international organizations. The statement says the Hmongs refugees are seriously being pressured to go back to Laos by troops of the Third Region Command of the Thai Armed Forces so that the Lao and Thai governments can complete the repatriation of these Hmongs to Laos as soon as possible as stipulated in their agreement. The statement also claimed that Thai authorities arrested four of their leaders on March 5, accusing them of drug trafficking and committing murder in Laos before fleeing the country to take refuge at Ban Huay Namkaho camp since 2004. The Hmongs responded in the statement that those leaders never committed the alleged crimes, adding that the allegations were just an attempt by Thai and Lao authorities to find a way to push all Hmongs at Huay Namkhao to go back to Laos.
However, Lieutenant General Nipat Thonglek, Director of theThai
Armed Forces' Border Affairs Department, has stated earlier that there will not
be any pressure on the Hmongs to make them return to Laos against their will; but
he stressed that the Hmongs at Huay Namkhao have only one choice, and that is to
go back to Laos, their homeland, where they can live happily.
The Hmong refugees, on the other hand, insist that they will not go back. Ly Xeu, a Hmong leader at Ban Huay Namkhao, said during his interview with our VOA Bangkok stringer, that the more than 5,000 people remaining at the camp unanimously confirm that they will never voluntarily return to Laos, and that they would rather die in Thailand than being forced to go back because they do not want to fall in the hands of Lao authorities who still continue their siege and persecution of Hmongs that began in 1975.
Mr. Ly Xeu also stressed that he and his fellow Hmongs at Huay Namkhao will not cooperate with Thai officials in any aspect, and will obstruct in every possible ways the Thai government's attempts at forcing them to return to Laos involuntarily,. However, he did not specify what measures his people will use in response to Thai government's pressure.
Last year, as a way to express their objection, the refugees staged a protest at the entrance to the camp as well as setting fire to their shelters, destroying over half of the camp. However, the issue of the fire is still controversial as the Hmongs claimed that it was an arson by the Thai military as a way to force them to return to Laos. Thai authorities, on the other hand, assert that it was the Hmongs who burned down their own shelters because they wanted to intensify the situation to draw attention from the United Nations and the international community.
For their part, Lao authorities maintain that there is no siege or persecution of the Hmong people in Laos.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on 3/11/09. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam)
Listen to our audio files for more details in Lao.