The Standing Deputy Prime Minister of Laos affirms that his government will take good care of all Hmongs repatriated from Thailand, and will guarantee their safety.
A Thai civilian, police, and military joint task force began the repatriation of Hmong refugees at Huay Namkhao temporary detention camp in the Khaokhor District of Phetchaboun province in northeastern Thailand in the morning of December 28, 2009 and delivered all of them to Lao officials the next morning.
According to Thai authorities, a total of 4,518 Hmongs were transported to Laos via the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge linking Nongkhai to Vientiane capital. The refugees were then taken to a temporary receiving center in Paksan, Bolikhamxay province, where they will undergo screening and orientation before being sent back to their former home villages or to new resettled village.
However, the forced repatriation of these Hmongs by the Thai and Lao governments has been widely criticized by the group Human Rights Watch, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the European Union as well as the United States, who have expressed concerns about the well-beings of the returnees.
Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai Prime Minister, reaffirms that Lao authorities have assured his government that the returnees will be well treated, taken good care of and well provided, and added that his government believes that Lao officials will truly keep their promise. That was why the repatriation was carried out, and conducted in accordance with the agreement between the two governments, said the Thai Prime Minister.
For their part, Lao authorities responded that they have treated the repatriated Hmongs well and criticized the expressed concerns of the international community.
The Hmong refugees had been detained at Ban Huay Nam Khao since 2004 when they escaped to Thailand, claiming that they could no longer remain in Laos due to continuous siege and persecution by the Lao government because they were former soldiers or children of former soldiers who fought alongside US troops or CIA agents during the Indochina War. Lao authorities, however, 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 toward Laos, aiming to create a negative image of the Lao government on the international forum.
In addition, Thai and Lao authorities have said that they do not consider these Hmongs as refugees; thus, they absolutely would not allow any third party to be involved with the Huay Namkhao Hmongs issue. Between 2006 and the last repatriation in December 2009, a total of 7,691 Hmongs were returned to Laos.