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Thai military authorities maintain that the Hmong refugees at Huay
Namkhao temporary detention camp have no alternative except to go back
to Laos voluntarily, and reiterate their goal of returning all of the refugees by the end of 2009.
In their 17th annual meeting recently concluded in the Laotian capital of Vientiane, the Secretariat of the Lao-Thai Joint-Committee on Border Security reached agreement on 21 points, including the need to complete the repatriation of all Hmong refugees in Thailand, both those at Huay Namkhao and the 158 Hmongs being detained at a Thai immigration jail in Nongkhai.
The Thai 3rd Regional Army have so far repatriated some 2807 refugees from Huay Namkhao, a total of 578 families. There are now less than 5,000 in the camp, in Thailand's Phetchabun Province.
The head of the Thai committee said the Hmongs really had no other choice but to go back because no country has come forward to offer them resettlement in the past two years, stressing that anything they have heard to that effect is just rumors.
Officials of both sides expressed confident that they will be able to meet their goal of repatriation by year's end, now that the French charity organization "Medicins Sans Frontieres" has withdrawn from Huay Namkhao, which means the end of any humanitarian and medical assistances for the refugees.
Hmong refugee leaders, however, said they would resist all attempts to send them back to Laos, and will flee into jungles. A few hundred have already done so.
Songrit Pongern reported in Lao from Bangkok on May 28, 2009. Dara Baccam summarized in English.
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