Laos Ambassador to Thailand reaffirms that his government is prepared and ready to take back all Huay Namkhao (HNK) Hmongs from Thailand, and that it is closely coordinating with Thai authorities to complete repatriation by the end of the year.
During a recent interview with VOA stringer in Bangkok, Mr. Ouan Phommachack confirmed that Lao authorities have made every possible arrangement to be ready to receive all the Hmong refugees remaining at the HNK temporary detention camp in the Khaokhor District of Phetchaboun Province in northeastern Thailand, whenever Thai authorities send them back. He added that his government still insisted on completing the repatriation by the end of 2009, as stipulated in the agreement signed by the Lao-Thai Sub-Committee on Border Security.
Earlier, a delegation from the U.S. State Department traveled to the Huay Nam Khao camp on July 30 to see how the Thai Military has been treating the Hmong refugees there. And during their meeting with a group of refugee leaders, the delegation confirmed that the US government has no policy to resettle them in the United States. This means that now all HNK Hmongs not only have all windows of opportunity to resettle in America closed to them, but also will be sent back to Laos according to the plan set forth by the Lao and Thai governments.
However, one of the key HNK Hmong leaders, Mr. Chong Cher Lor, urged Lao and Thai authorities to allow UNHCR representatives to take part in the screening of the refugees' status before repatriating them. This was because, explained Mr. Chong Cher Lor, in reality the Hmongs at HNK camp consisted of two groups. The first group includes those who used to serve with CIA and who lived in the jungle of Laos, while the second group comprises of ordinary Lao Hmong villagers, who fled to Thailand for economic reasons; therefore, the latter group can go back to Laos without any problem. On the other hand, he explained further, the first group which numbers over two thousand members, would not be able to return because they had been constantly under siege and persecution by Laotian troops. And that was their reason for taking refuge in Thailand.
For their part, Lao authorities have persistently maintained that there is no such siege or persecution of the Hmong people in Laos, and allegations that such activities took place are just rumors made by those who live overseas and have bad intention, aiming to create a negative image of the Lao government on the international forum.
Moreover, Brigadier General Bouaxieng Champaphanh, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Lao Armed Forces, who visited Huay Namkhao camp back in February to meet with key leaders of the Hmongs refugees, confirmed that the Lao government has changed its policy regarding the Hmong refugees by forgiving them of any kind of prior crimes or offenses, and will take good care of them as well as guarantee the safety of all Hmongs who return to Laos.
Currently, there are more than 4,000 Hmongs remaining at HNK camp, and all of them be sent back to Laos by the end of this year.