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U.S. Plan to Resettle Refugees at Wat Thamkrabok Is for Laotian-Hmongs Only - 2004-02-26


Matthew P. Daley, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific, says the U.S. plan to resettlement Hmong refugees at Wat Thamkra-bok focuses on the Laotian-Hmong population that were registered by the Thai government as of Aug. 2003.

He urges the refugees who qualify to take the opportunity offered to them now, because the U.S. may not be able to offer this opportunity again.

The U.S. this week began taking applications for resettlement from the approximately 15,000 Hmong refugees at Wat Thamkrabok.

Here's more of Daley's remarks:

"This plan focuses on the Laotian-Hmong population, not the Thai Hmongs or any other nationality of Hmongs, but the Laotian-Hmong population at Wat Thamkrabok that were registered by the Thai government as of August of last year - 2003. This is a population of about 15,000 people, and the US is prepared to accept for resettlement in our country the entire population that qualify for resettlement. Now, the determination and qualification for resettlement will be made in the process of interviews that will be conducted by the Dept. of Homeland Security in the coming months to come. We’re gonna try to move this process along quickly. I don’t want to set an artificial end date but I certainly would hope that within the next six to twelve months, we’ll have made dramatic progresses in determining who, which individuals and families among this population, are qualified for resettlement, and have begun the process of resettling them in the US.

What we’re doing right now is dealing with the population that is registered at Wat Thamkrabok. And this will, we think, help prevent people from leaving Laos now in order to try to slip into Wat Thamkrabok and become eligible for resettlement in the US. The Laotian Hmongs who chose to leave Wat Thamkrabok - nobody was forced to leave but they chose to leave - are a separate population.

The people at the Dept. of Homeland Security are the one that’s gonna be conducting the interviews and making the determination as to who qualify. But those people who fled because they had a fear of persecution because of their religious activities, their religion, or even their ethnic status. If they fear political persecution on those grounds, those individuals will have a high probability of being accepted for resettlement in the U.S. In some cases, individuals who have circumstances or have done things that make them uneligible to come to the US, - for exemple, people who are addicted to opium, people who have engaged in acts of terrorism, will not be eligible to come to the US. And we will have to look at a subsequent stage at the circumstances of the people who did not qualify. Our focus in the near term is going to be on looking at this population and determining who qualify for resettlement and moving them here as expeditiously as possible.

I have to stress that we may never be able to offer the population of Wat Thamkrabok this opportunity again. If those who qualify do not take it now, they cannot expect that a year from now, or two years from now, or five years from now, that they will have this opportunity. They have to act as if this is their last chance to come to the US, because in deed that’s probably what it is.

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