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Hmong Refugees in Serious Danger of Forced Expulsion from Thailand

Statement by Joel Charny, Acting President, Refugees International


Hmong RefugeesHmong Refugees “Nearly 35 years after first giving sanctuary to refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the Royal Thai Government is allegedly considering the forced expulsion of 4,000 Hmong, the last remnants of an Indochinese refugee population that once numbered 1.5 million, back to Laos. This forced repatriation would place the refugees in serious danger of persecution at the hands of the Lao authorities, who to this day have not forgiven the Hmong for being dedicated allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.

“Reports have emerged from Thailand in recent days that the government has deployed extra troops to Phetchabun province where the Hmong are held in tightly controlled camps. Expelling the Hmong would constitute a serious violation of international refugee law and a severe blot on Thailand’s humanitarian record.

“Since the Hmong first sought asylum in Thailand, tens of thousands have been resettled in third countries, with the majority coming to the United States. For the remaining group, a fair solution is already available. The Thai government has already interviewed the Hmong, screening them to identify those who are truly fleeing persecution and therefore qualify as legitimate refugees and asylum seekers. Those screened out should have the right of fair review before being returned to Laos. Hmong qualifying as asylum seekers should be afforded the opportunity to apply for resettlement in the United States and other countries.

“Refugees International further urges the Thai government not to send any Hmong, whether qualified as asylum seekers or not, back to Laos without reviewing their cases and ensuring that an internationally supported program is in place to monitor their repatriation and treatment after their return. This is necessary in part because of a 2006 repatriation of 26 Hmong boys and girls to Laos resulted in tragedy. The girls were eventually allowed to return to Thailand but were severely traumatized. The state of the boys is still uncertain.

“The Thai and U.S. governments can be proud of their joint response to the Indochinese refugee crisis over several decades, but their relations may be strained if Thailand’s government decides to move forward with the forced expulsions. As U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy indicated in a statement on the Senate floor today, the U.S. is deeply concerned about the safety and protection of Hmong refugees. Should the Hmong be forced back to Laos, ‘it could badly damage the Thai military’s reputation, and put our [U.S.] military collaboration at risk’.”

For Additional Information

The Bangkok Post: Thailand: Repatriation of Hmong to Laos Must be Voluntary


Update:

Concerns Rise for Hmong Forced Back to Laos

There is very little information about the more than 4,500 Hmong refugees forced back to Thailand from Laos on December 28. Transparency has been almost nil. The names of those returned have not been provided by the Thai government.

In Laos, an attempt by a Sydney Morning Herald reporter to reach the returnees from Petchabun Thailand, who apparently are being held in the Paksan area, was rebuffed by Lao security personnel. He saw the returnees behind razor wire barriers. (The full report from the Morning Herald follows below). There are fears that some of the returnees are being questioned separately. Lack of a name list of those returned makes this even harder to verify.

The group of the 158 refugees who had been held at Nongk Khai, who had been of special concern to the UNHCR, are being held at a separate location and there are fears that they may be treated harshly. Ironically, the refugees in this group, while in Thailand, had been offered resettlement in third countries, but were forced back to Laos anyway.

In light of this situation, Refugees International urges U.S. and international efforts to:

  • Obtain the release from the Thai government of the names of he Hmong forced back to Laos;
  • Have the Lao government open access to the returnees and permit on-going monitoring to ensure that they are not subject to reprisals and are secure and in good health.


Read the full report from the Sydney Morning Herald

 

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Vanessa Parra; 202-904-0319;
Vanessa@refugeesinternational.org