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The French medical charity organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced that it has stopped its humanitarian operations at the Huay Namkhao refugee camp, citing the inability to operate under heavy pressure by the Thai government and disagreement with the way Thai authorities press the Hmong refugees to return to Laos.
The decision was announced by Gilles Isard, Director of MSF in Thailand, who said his organization has officially ceased all activities at the camp, adding that it no longer could operate operating under intense pressure from Thailand’s 3rd Regional Army who oversees the camp. MSF says the Thai army has increasingly pressured the refugees to volunteer to go back, and rejected any request by international organizations to help resettle them although, under international laws, those Hmong refugees have the rights to humanitarian aids and resettlement in third countries. Yet they are denied these rights, added Mr. Isard, because the Thai Army considers them illegal immigrants who are subject to repatriation to Laos.
Mr. Isard also called on Thai and Lao authorities to stop pressuring the Hmongs into volunteering to return to Laos and also allow an independent third party to review the refugee status of the Hmong people.
MSF is the only international organization that has been allowed to provide humanitarian assistance to the Hmong refugees in the Huay Namkhao camp since 2005. Its decision to end operations in the camp will seriously affect the camp residents. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, the Hmong will be under greater pressureto “volunteer” to return to Laos as demanded by Thai and Lao authorities.
Thai authorities forced MSF to withdraw from the camp by preventing the organization from providing medicine and food to the refugees, according to Mr. Ly Xue, a Huay Namkhao Hmong leader, who made this appeal to the Thai government:
“We would like to request that Thai authorities treat us with justice. We are jungle Hmongs, not Communist Hmongs. We are freedom loving Hmongs who helped the Thai military to fight at Ban Ruamkao in 1985. Thus, the Thai government should not have treated us like this.”
Currently, there are almost 5,000 Hmongs remaining in the Huay Namkhao temporary detention camp. The Thai and Lao governments have said they will repatriate all of them to Laos by the end of this year.
Pongern reported from Bangkok on May 21, 2009. (Translated by Buasawan Simmalavong and edited by Dara Baccam)