The Thai Foreign Minister, Mr. Kasit Piromya, confirms that there will be a discussion between Thailand and Laos about the issue of the 158 Hmong refugees being detained in Nongkhai before his government takes any action regarding them.
Mr. Piromya had said earlier that those Hmongs, who are being detained at an immigration jail in Nongkhai on charges of illegally entering the country, will be resettled in a third country. Acknowledging he was sending a confusing signal earlier, the Thai top diplomat now says whatever decision Thailand reaches regarding those refugees, it will come after a discussion with Lao authorities. But he emphasizes that Thailand will not unilaterally decide the fate of those refugees, because they are Lao citizens.
However, regarding the estimated 5,000 Hmong refugees in Huay Namkhao in Thailand's Phetchabun Province, the Thai Foreign Minister says they will all be sent back to Laos by year's end.
Meanwhile. Laos' Vice President and Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith insists that all Hmong refugees, both those in Nongkhai and Huay Namkhao, must be returned to Laos, and only then the Lao government will decide on a case by case basis whether or not to allow them to resettle in a third country. Mr. Thongloun goes on to say that his country is happy to take the refugees back, adding that his government welcomes requests to resettle them from any country but that country has to come and discuss the issue with his government, and so far no country has formally made such request .
Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States have previously expressed willingness to resettle the 158 Hmongs, who have been detained in Nongkhai since 2006. But nothing has come out of the discussions regarding this issue because of lack of cooperation on the part of Thai authorities, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.
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Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on 5/19/09.
English summary by Dara Baccam.