UN Wants Access to Hmong

The UN refugee agency wants to meet with ethnic Hmong sent back to Laos.

Hmong-Repatriation-III-305.jpg The first Thai military truck carrying Hmong refugees departs for Laos, Dec. 28, 2009.
Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA

BANGKOK—U.N. refugee officials want access to a group of more than 150 ethnic Hmong they believe may have been wrongly repatriated to Laos from Thailand, to find out if they still want to resettle in a third country, according to the refugee agency spokeswoman.

Kitty Mackinsey, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the offer to resettle is still available to the 158 Hmong, who claim they could face persecution in Laos.

The agency hopes to meet with the group to verify claims by the Lao Foreign Ministry that they returned to Laos voluntarily in late December, she said.

“We would like to get access to them to help facilitate their resettlement, because the resettlement countries still are offering them places to go.... The last time we talked to them they did want to go for resettlement,” Mackinsey said.

“We would like to have access to the people in Laos to talk to them and find out what their true wishes are."

The 158, all of whom have been designated "people of concern" by the UNHCR and could face persecution in Laos, were repatriated from Thailand along with a much larger group from another camp in Petchabun at the end of December.

They had been held in a detention center overseen by immigration police in Nong Khai, Thailand.

Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said Monday that all 158 had “changed their minds.”


“They have changed their minds upon arrival and reunited with Hmong communities in their home country,” Khenthong told the Thai newspaper The Nation.

Khenthong said the group had decided to stay after from Lao authorities treated them well on arrival, adding that even Hmong leader Blia Shoua Her had decided to live in the Ban Pha Lak resettlement village outside of the Lao capital Vientiane with his family.

Lao authorities have said the Hmong will receive assistance and be reintegrated into Lao society, but they added they will not grant access to the group until they have been resettled.

The UNHCR has no formal presence in Laos.

Hmong repatriation

Thailand repatriated 4,711 Hmong refugees on Dec. 28 from Petchabun and Nong Khai, despite concern for the group’s treatment by Lao authorities upon their return.

Thai military units equipped with riot shields and batons entered a refugee camp at Huay Nam Khao in Petchabun and forced thousands of Hmong onto buses, sending them back across the Mekong River into Laos.

The forced repatriations ended years of uncertainty over the status of the Hmong.

Known as America’s “forgotten allies,” the Hmong sided with the United States during the Vietnam War and many fled Laos in 1975 when the communist Pathet Lao took power.

Tens of thousands have since been resettled in the United States.

Many Hmong say they fear persecution from the Lao government because of their Vietnam War-era ties with the United States.

Some Hmong fought under CIA advisers during a so-called “secret war” against communists in Laos.

A number of Lao Hmong are still being held in refugee camps in Thailand’s Lopburi and Huay Kwang, but it is unclear what the Thai government plans to do with those groups.

“We do not have any indications from the Thai government that any more people are going to be deported,” UNHCR’s Mackinsey said.

Resettlement process

Lao authorities said they have moved most of the Hmong to a newly developed area in Ban Pattana in Vientiane province.

Hundreds of other returnees have been sent to provinces around Laos that host Hmong communities.

The Lao Foreign Ministry said Lao authorities have given 300,000 kip (U.S. $35) in cash to each member of the Hmong returnees, land for farming, and one year's worth of rice.

Authorities also opened the Hmong resettlement village in Ban Pha Lak to visiting U.S. congressmen led by House Foreign Affairs Committee member Eni Faleomavaega over the weekend.

Faleomavaega told a news conference Saturday he found no evidence of abuse of the Hmong by Lao authorities.

Original reporting by RFA’s Lao service. Lao service director: Viengsay Luangkhot. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Jan 15, 2010 02:26 AM

Oh yeah, the $35 dollar that was given to each member. They will have to share half of everything they owned for the rest of their life.

Jan 15, 2010 01:56 PM

The Thai and Lao Governments did do their part by giving other countries a chance to resettle the Hmong refugees stalling in Thailand for the past four years. Other countries failed to act but continued to criticize Thai and Lao Govs.

Jan 14, 2010 08:38 AM

The problem about hmong being sent back to laos is only political issues playing among Thai, Lao, USA, and part of vietname for the past and in the future for interest. Most people knew that, UN knew that but just blindfold and keep calling for access to Laos. Even though UN would find no answer when gun still point to the hmong head.

Jan 13, 2010 11:03 PM

Too bad, the Congressmen had been seriously blindfolded.

Jan 14, 2010 04:50 AM

i agree with Ray->

Jan 14, 2010 05:58 PM

Did you saw the picture ?
"The first Thai military truck carrying Hmongs..." and
"Thai military units equipped with riot shields and batons entered a refugee camp in Petchabun, Thailand"

Everybody is right when saying those manners are very blamable but those are facts of Thailand army, good friend of US Army.

There is just no reason now in 2010 for those Hmongs to stay "refugiees" because they have nothing to fear from lao authorities anymore because lao authorities have nothing to fear from USA since the Vietnam war ended 35 years ago !

They just recovered freedom and citizenship.

Jan 19, 2010 07:42 AM

I agree with Addulite. It seems to be a very practical idea.In order for your voice to be heard, Hmong peoples have to act now before it's too late. Please sacrifice your time, energy and any resources to save people who have been oppressed by the Lao Totalitarian Regime.

Jan 13, 2010 08:01 AM

Wow. $35. That's more than a month's salary for a teacher in Laos.

Jan 15, 2010 02:23 AM

Of course, the Lao government wants to delay UNHCR request because they want to squeeze out the 158 Hmong whom have been designated "people of concern." The 158 Hmong will probably be the first one to disappear.

Apr 11, 2014 12:49 PM

... of course the war is over. Doesn't mean human life isn't suffer.. Doesn't mean you go and live a happy life.. For some, they hide from those who still want to hunt them down and kill.

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Jan 13, 2010 10:38 PM

This is the great tragedy and shock of these people being forcefully dispatched back to Laos by unwise Bangkok regime. This coup government wants to appease some dogs of Vietnamese invader. Siamese government never thought what might have happened with these American war sympathizers against oppressive communist Vietnam and stupid some Lao Leaders. In Laos, there are lots of illegal migrants Vietnams, they speak, do like the landlords, We lao never welcome them, unfortunately our drunken Vietnamese-installed government protect them in every steps. Hopefully, UN extend all assistance to them.

Jan 14, 2010 12:39 PM

Don't worry. Lao government will take care of the returnees.

Jan 14, 2010 12:56 AM

The treatment of Hmong returnees in Laos remains to be seen. This is only one side of the story from the Lao communist government. We have not heard from the returnees themselves. Remember these people were being forced to return to Laos against their will. The Lao government is still playing the same old game like they did 30 plus years ago. All i can say is that Hmong people have seen it all how bad they were treated by the Lao communist government.

Jan 14, 2010 09:00 AM

The lao govn't only let the U.S congressman visited a camp that were built for repatriatees couple years ago. What about the new camp for the new returnees...Why the lao govn't not let these two congressman visit the new camp?? This proved that there is something wrong here...our US congressman should asked themselves question where is the newly camp for these poor hmongs returnees?

Jan 18, 2010 11:52 PM

If you Hmong people are smart your should march to DC, United Nations headquarter, and the state capital by thousands. I am sure the US would act and do something fast. Stop talking, get your people around the world and start marching and drumming. This is the only way to be heard. It is time Hmong people.

Jan 13, 2010 11:48 PM

You idiot $35 even feed your own pet is not enough, how can this be sufficient for the new repatriatees to spend in Laos which is under complete control of Vietnamese expansionist? The Vietaine regime, slaves of Vietnam, will surely discriminate and secretely prosecute them. United States must address this concern as well as teach the Thai governmentinstalled by army also one lesson.

Jan 14, 2010 01:20 PM

what would you do when you have a visitor coming to your house. r u going to clean your house well? or you just gonna let it b a messy house? they will not kill those hmong in the mean time... but later when everything is cool down..thats what the lao gonna kill them one by one and they will die one after other. what the congressmen saw is not even 1/16 of what the laos done to the hmong... its a ashame of what they had told. we are hmong we know damn well what the lao goverment treat us generation thru generation it hurt us to see our own peeple suffer. peace hmong and join as a group for freedom.

Jan 22, 2010 11:11 AM

stop wiring, war is over, go back and live a happy life and building family and country

Jan 13, 2010 02:32 PM

I do not believe that those Hmong returnees are happy as they had shown on this news. And The Lao government had always planed and told those Hmong returnees what to speak out. If they do not follow the Lao authority's advise then after the foreigners left the Hmong must not have their heads on their necks 1005% for sure. Belief it or not.

Jan 15, 2010 02:56 AM

Hi Khenthong Nuanthasing and his corruption government. You guys are lied and keep lying every day that Hmong are volunteerly return to Laos and do not want to come to the third countries. Actually you forced them, you zipped their mouth,and tried to kill them in the future. You told the world that there is peace in Laos. You secretly kill people in Laos. You killed people in the jungle and these days you are continuing to hunt them like animal. You put our Laotian citizens in jail without a justice and court of law, but we will be one day put you guys into an international court of law, and you will face justice and pay the prize what you have done. If you want to be a good government, you should better change today.

Jan 14, 2010 05:51 PM

If the Lao Goverment want to save those Hmong's life why they did not allow those people be refugee to the countries that they would like to go .However, if the goverment want to murder them that 's ok but we still have a lot of hmong people everywhere we will go after the Lao goverment and bring their staff for justice in ther future.

Jan 14, 2010 03:32 AM

If someone is holding a guy to your head, you won't said a thing. otherwise why would this people escape to thailand the first place. I am gurantee they will disappear if the internation does not want to help.

Jan 14, 2010 09:16 AM

S.O.S......It's immoral, dispecable and inhumane to say that the Hmong people have changed their minds to resettle in Laos instead of third countries. As we've known all along that Pathet Lao is controlled by their revered Vietnamese dictator and they have always deceived their own peoples for about 4 decades. I think that, it's the right time that the whole world will have a chance to discover the true face of the Lao Communist Government if UNHCR could get access to Hmong people and interview them in person now to find out their real intentions. UNHCR, please try to access to those Hmong people ASAP by any means because they really really need your help. UNHCR, please do not forsake and forget those people. They are in danger.

Jan 16, 2010 01:36 PM

We are know so well that Hmong did not want to return to Laos, Hmong know very and deep that one day they will got kill by Communists Lao. What Lao / Thai Government want to return Hmong back to Laos because they are hated Hmong people as well as Hmong supported CIA during Vientnam War. Also, now Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva we can call his is a Communist as Laos and Vietnam too,. Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva will bring the Thai country falling to be communists country as well.
Thai better keep out this bad man out of Thai country soon.... He will try to destroy the Thai King eihter....

Jan 14, 2010 03:35 AM

Oh, if Laos doesn't allow UN to see them, then you all know dam well what is happening here.

Jan 14, 2010 01:04 AM

Can you explain “They have changed their minds upon arrival..." so really they didn't want to go but your forced them to go and once get there you point a gun to their head and say you have no choice. Who is volunteering here?

So US congressman visited the camp that is already set up. Of course, everything will look good because they want to deceive the truth. How stupid can a person be?

Jan 15, 2010 05:40 AM

Respond to Ben Go from Vientiane: You need to see why these harmless Hmong are not safe going back to Laos- They were being hunted like animals while hiding in the jungle of Laos since 1975. If you want to see proof then go to "You Tube" and see for yourself. The communist Lao government kills these people like animals. They raped and and killed these Hmong girls and boys who were hiding in the jungle of Northern Laos. These people suffer tortures since the US left Southeast Asia in 1975. Hope people around the world see this becaus killing an ethnic group is just wrong. This is not 1930s anymore- No more Hitler.