Laos and Thailand reaffirm their intention to repatriate all Hmongs at Huay Namkhao camp this year. Meanwhile, the Hmong refugees insist that Thai authorities still pressure them to volunteer to go back. And a delegation of members of the United States House of Representatives visited the returned Hmongs at Phalak village.
The reaffirmation was made at a special meeting held in Vientiane in early July, during which the Joint Lao-Thai Sub-Committee on Border Security again agreed to take every measure to ensure the completion of repatriating all Hmong refugees at Huay Namkhao temporary camp in the Khaokhor District of Phetchaboun Province in northeastern Thailand, by year’s end as set forth in their planned goal.
To ensure completion, Thai and Lao authorities have used various tactics that include both physical and psychological pressures, such as limiting the supply of food and medicines aiming at intensifying the difficulty of their lives in the Huay Namkhao camp. As Hmong woman, who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity, said that many old Hmongs in the camp are often sick, and pregnant women are experiencing weight loss due to insufficient food and nutrition.
In addition to limiting the provision of food and medicines to the refugees, Thai authorities also try to tell them that they will receive assistance and will be taken good care of by the Lao government if they return to Laos. However, there is only a small number of the refugees who have gone back voluntarily, as they are concerned about their safety upon their return to Laos. Ly Xue, a prominent Hmong leader at the Huay Nam Khao camp, pointed out that the Lao Armed Forces have continually conducted siege and persecution of Hmong people in Laos since 1975, because they are considered former soldiers or children of former soldiers who fought alongside US troops or CIA agents during the Indochina War.
For their part, Lao authorities have persistently maintained that there is no such siege or persecution of Hmong people in Laos. And just last week, they took an American delegation led by Ms. Jessica Lee of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives to visit Phalak resettlement village in Kasy District, Vientiane Province, which is currently home to 446 Hmongs, a total of 81 families, who have returned from Huay Namkhao camp since 2007 and been receiving assistances from the Lao government including housing, farming land, education and comprehensive basic services .
Since 2007, Thai authorities have repatriated some 2,807 refugees from Huay Namkhao, a total of 578 families. There are now less than 5,000 remaining in the camp. Thai and Lao authorities have again firmly agreed to return all of them to Laos by year's end without any further delay.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on July 14, 2009. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala.)