12/28/2009, 00.00
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Thais begin deporting Hmong to Laos

by Weena Kowitwanij
Known as America’s ‘forgotten ally’, the Hmong sided with the US in the Vietnam War. Since the end of that conflict, many have lived in exile in Thailand, which has now decided to send them back.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Despite protests by human rights groups, the Thai government has confirmed that it will deport 4,506 Hmong back to Laos where members of their ethnic group are victims of discrimination and repression. Repatriation should begin today. About 100 lorries are waiting to move the Hmong from Petchaboon province to Nongkhai.

According to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the people would be sent back in accordance with human rights rules. Laotian officials have visited the Huay Nam Khaow centre where the exiles live and have promised that the latter would be welcomed home.

Known as America’s ‘forgotten allies’, Laotian Hmong were recruited by the US military during the Vietnam War. Many of them fled in 1975 when the Communist Pathet Lao took over. Tens of thousands were resettled in the United States.

The United States and United Nations have expressed concern about the forced repatriation and the fate awaiting the Hmong once they return to Laos.

“We deeply regret this serious violation of the international humanitarian principles that Thailand has long been known for championing,” the US State Department said.

Some exiles will be able to stay in Thailand if their claim for refugee status is accepted. However, Thai authorities have repeatedly denied the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees access to the camps where the Hmong are held.

Sunai Pasuk, from Human Rights Watch, said that the Thai government should allow United Nation observers in to supervise the process if it wants to avoid international criticism.

Sources told AsiaNews that according to Thai and Laotian authorities at least 159 Hmong could claim refugee status.

However, they too will be deported, but will benefit from an amnesty, and will be held in a hotel until they can be moved to a third country, which should occur within 30 days after their return to Laos.

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See also
Thailand stops forced repatriation of 153 Hmong
Hmong’s war continues 30 years after peace
Forced repatriation of 6,000 Laotian Hmong refugees
Bangkok: 91 asylum seekers to be deported to North Korea
The Hmong ask the UN to stop their extermination


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