The government of Laos expects to spend up to 200 billion kip on a new resettlement site it is building for the Hmong refugees repatriated last year from Thailand. Construction is expected to be finished at the end of 2010. The returnees, meanwhile, reaffirm that they will remain in Laos permanently and become good citizens of the country.
Visiting some of the repatriated Hmong recently at Phonkham village, a new resettlement site that is being developed in Bolikhamxay province, Lieutenant General Douangchai Phichit, Laos' Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, confirmed that the site development is progressing well, and the government is currently focusing on building more houses and providing sufficient basic necessities for each family.
the general added that his government will speed up land clearances for agricultural and cultivation purposes so that the task will be completed before this year's rainy season. Construction of the necessary infrastructures, such as roads, irrigation system and electricity transmission grid, will also be accelerated so that the work will be finished by the end of 2010.
According to the Lao Ministry of Defense, the development of this Ponkham resettlement village to accommodate the needs of repatriated Hmongs is estimated to cost 200 billion kip or four times higher than Bolikhamxay province's expected revenues.
The new village will sit on a 2,000-hectare lot, of which 100 hectares will be used to build houses, while the rest of the area will be designated as agricultural land to be allocated to an estimated 499 families, or 2,923 Hmong, who have expressed their willingness to live in this new resettlement site.
In return for assistance from the Lao government, the repatriated Hmong have re-affirmed that they will never again flee the country and promised that they will be good citizens and will not be misled again as they were in the past .
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on 23 Feb. 2010. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao, or read our Lao text.