A key leader of the Hmong refugees detained at the Huay Namkhao temporary camp in the Khaokhor District of Phetchaboun Province in northeastern Thailand told our VOA Bangkok stringer by telephone that Thai security authorities have set November 25 as the deadline for all Hmongs at the camp to volunteer to return to Laos; otherwise, they will lose all rights and benefits and be forced to go back to Laos eventually.
Since Thai authorities consider
these Hmongs illegal immigrants, not refugees fleeing war or political
conflicts in their homeland, they insist on returning the Hmongs to Laos, saying
that is their only choice. And if they do not volunteer by the deadline set
above, they will face legal actions, meaning they will be charged with illegal
entry and forced to go back.
In the past, the Thai government has provided 5,000 bahts per person to all Hmongs at Huay Namkhao who volunteer to go back to Laos, while Lao authorities offer an additional 300,000 kips to each returnee. Those who still have relatives in their villages and wish to go back to live with their relatives are allowed to do so, while those who have no relatives or property left in Laos are sent to live at the new government-built resettlement village in Kasy district, Vientiane province, where the government provides them with all the necessities that they need to start a new life.
However, the majority of the 4,000 or more refugees remaining at Ban Huay Namkhao are unwilling to go back, and resist all cooperation with Thai authorities. Thai and Lao officials have set a goal of repatriating all the refugees by the end of this year, but Thai officials have said recently that they will not employ a forceful measure to send the refugees back. Therefore, it is likely that the goal of completing repatriation by year's end will not be reached.
Listen to audio in Lao