Hmong Forced Back to Laos

Thai authorities force members of an ethnic group to return to Laos where some may face persecution.

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

BANGKOK—Thai military armed with riot shields and batons have emptied a refugee camp in northern Thailand and have begun forcibly repatriating to Laos thousands of ethnic minority Hmong, despite protests from U.N. refugee officials, international rights groups, and the United States.

Col. Thana Charuvat, who is overseeing the deportation of the 4,371 Lao Hmong, who had sought asylum in Thailand, said in an interview that the initial busloads departed peacefully.

Neither journalists nor independent observers were permitted to witness the operation at Huay Nam Khao camp.

Some 300 Hmong, including leaders of the group, initially refused to leave the camp but agreed after several hours of negotiations, he said.

By late Monday, at least three busloads of Hmong had crossed the Mekong River into Laos and were sent to the Rassavong Hotel in Vientiane, the Lao capital, and then on to villages in Borikhamxay province officials said.

Each Hmong family of four was paid 10,000-15,000 baht (U.S. $350-400) to aid their resettlement, officials said. Thai officials said they expect to finish the repatriation within the day.

An anonymous call from a Hmong man in Bangkok claimed that about a dozen Hmong leaders who refused to go were beaten, blindfolded, and thrown into prison transport vans. His claim couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Another group of 158 Hmong asylum seekers in Nong Khai who have U.N.-certified refugee status were also repatriated to Laos but are supposed to have been given access to the UNHCR and allowed to settle in third countries within 30 days.

The UNHCR had described this group as "people of concern" who could be persecuted if they were sent back to Laos.

International protests

The route used to repatriate the Hmong to Laos. Credit: RFA
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Monday it was dismayed by Thailand's move to deport thousands of ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers to communist Laos and urged Bangkok to halt the expulsions.

“I call upon the Thai Government to halt the forced return of the Lao Hmong, some of whom have international protection needs,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in a statement.

The UNHCR said it had no access to the camp in Phetchabun province, abot 200 miles (320 kms) north of here, but understood from the Thai government that "a number of [the Hmong held there] have international protection needs."

“UNHCR has long maintained that the process should be transparent and that no one with a valid protection claim should be forcibly returned to Laos,” it said.

New village

A Lao official in Borikhamxay said the repatriated Hmong will be resettled in several villages.

“We can assure 500 houses. Now 90 percent of the houses have been completed. The rest will be completed by the first month of 2010,” he said in an interview.

The new villages will have a school, health facility, and land for crop cultivation, he said.

Electricity and water haven’t yet been installed.

“For the first two years the Lao government will help the Hmong have rice and food to eat, and clothes to wear, because they are not able to produce yet,” he said.

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

Many Hmong fought under CIA advisers during a so-called “secret war” against communists in Laos. Thailand has insisted the Hmong aren’t genuine refugees but illegal migrants.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has repeatedly expressed concern about the fate of the asylum-seekers, noting they have been denied access to the agency to determine their reasons for fleeing.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Thailand’s decision to return the Hmong to Laos is a “serious violation” of international humanitarian principles and urged Thai authorities to suspend the operation.

“We also urge the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to treat humanely any Lao Hmong who are involuntarily returned, to provide access for international monitors, and facilitate resettlement opportunities for any eligible returnee,” the statement said.

Phil Robertson, deputy director for the Asia division at Human Rights Watch in New York, said that international monitors must be granted access to the Hmong returnees.

"There should be access granted by the Lao government to international monitors—to impartial monitors—to ascertain the protection needs and make sure that these people are treated humanely," he said.

"And ideally, of course, if they are found to have protection needs, to allow them to resettle to third countries."

Original reporting by Apinan Thammavongsa, Zin Lat Aung, and Pimuk Rakkanam for RFA's Lao service. Lao service director: Viengsay Luangkhot. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Jan 02, 2010 01:55 AM

Thailand is a member of U.N., a democratic Country and respect human rights. I do not understand why the Government of Thailand would force Lao Hmong refugees back to Laos. I personally had experience in Seminar Camp #6 for seven Years at Viengxay, north of Laos. If the Government of Thailand trust the Lao Communist Government, then not too long, the Thailand Country is going to be in the same situation as the former Royal of Laos.
May God protect all the Lao Hmong in Laos.

Jan 26, 2010 01:16 PM

My opinoin I think that Hmong Retrunees to laos will not be safe. Laos Communist regime never forget the Hmong role that played and served for the CIA. As You know that The foreign minister just Said that the Hmong leader General Vang Pao need to served life in jail before visiting Laos. Laos government never give Excuse for him. The Laos people Democratic Republic Civilian law still keeping and remembering the HMong people's role served in the CIA. The Hmong Village Chief in K/M 52 Mr.Koua Lee was reported to be missing by the Loas Local Authority last year.

Jan 05, 2010 04:29 AM

People please understand that our country and government are nothing but bloodshed, money is power. Why don't you understand it, it has been going for several thousand years or biggening of time. I bet everyon of been in Thailand camp before we moved to 3rd world country. I am so sorry for those people and hoping Buddha will protect them.

Dec 29, 2009 04:13 PM

American, How many people did these Hmong had save American life during Vietnam Var? Now you are living in peace and enjoyed your life style, did you even think about us anymore? Please don't let Chinese Communist gouverment do to all asian countries as they please. Please save their life; they will die because of their mistake of helping you during those war, OK?

Dec 30, 2009 06:44 PM

I personally condemned the undemocratic government of Thailand for its plans of deportation. Thailand made a big mistake by forcibly return the Lao hmong back to a country that they do not trusted and have no hope for the future. I strongly believe that many of the leaders of the returnees will sooner or later be disappeared, just like Vue Mai who had been disappeared back in the '90. Many of the Lao hmong men and women will be send to re-education camps to be tortured, raped, sentenced, and killed like the King of Laos. I urge the government of United States, EU, and UN to do whatever they can to halt or make sure the returnees are safe. God blesses them.

Jan 12, 2010 04:59 AM

The US does not see the importance of these refugees. They are blinded by greed, money, and power. The US must have forgoten that the Hmong people played a big role in the Vietnam war. Who were the people who helped the CIA during those time? The hmong people did. The hmong people shed and sacrafice their blood for the US goverment and in return they get nothing. They just get sent back to where they fear the most, Laos. Everyone knows that al those refugee are going to get slaughter secretly by the laos goverenment. I give it a few months and there will be a headline of Hmong Refugee's slauter in loas... God Bless those Hmong refugee's and our prayers are with them. Hope they will make it through the tough times again.

Jan 26, 2010 12:45 PM

To all Laotiane and lao -Hmong, the hmong people recently return to laos by the agreement between Thai- lao Authorities have snd to Kolikhamxay camp or detention Camp in LAOS. The lao LPDR authority are still need to investigate those Hmong people because some 158 are really hmong 30 years of Chao fa resistant fighter in the Jungle of Laos. They came from the Phoubia and the Phoulamphao Hmong resistant area the Lao Regime call the Hmong Chao Fa torristories. So today in Xiengkhouang province Laos soldiers have surrounded to kill them now. The hundreds of Hmong resisitant in the Phoubia today are prepare to move to Phonesavanh but the Lao Soldiers have set up a Soldiers Camp surround them in the Phaphai the former Hmong CIA SGU Soldier camp. They are very scare to move to the Lao Government. Mr. Bouasieng said everything I believe is not True. Laos will proscuted the 158 people from Nong Khai. Now the young men and elders men have been sapereted.

Dec 30, 2009 02:28 AM

All I can say as a Hmong American and an ex-refugee from Thailand myself it that May God watch over these innocent souls. It is unfortunate that the Thai government is willing to let these people return to a country that is ready to persecute them upon arrival. The Laos government is more than ready to secretly plan to get rid of these refugees and the Thai government knows that. In these times, our American allies will turn a blind eye and let these Hmong people suffer despite their many years of sacrifice.

Dec 30, 2009 02:00 AM

I believe that Thai is a membership of UN and respect human right. I do not understand why they were forced those Hmong refugees back to Laos. Is Thailand running a by ditactorship? Yes, according to my view. Thailand soon is going to be rule by military ditactorship just like Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. Those countries are no respect human right. Now Thai is one of them.

Dec 30, 2009 02:44 PM

I think is good for them,and their kids. so they can go to chool. it nice to be back home.

Dec 31, 2009 08:36 AM

It is disappointed to find out that the UNHCR, US, Australian and Canadian Ambassador supporting the forcibly deportation of the 158 Hmong refugees in Nong Khao detention centre back to laos. They know very well that these are genuine refugee and some country, including Australia already accepted 200 to resettle in Australia.

I don't understand their plans of helping the Thai and Lao government. What power do they have? How are they going to get them out of Laos? This is an extraordinary decision and an un-usual or the first time. Why Hmong refugee are not valuable like others? Why no return any other ethnic group?

Dec 30, 2009 02:47 AM

If I am not wrong, Thailand also is an actif member of UN, Thai govement should understand about all the refugees related policies who still living in Thailand. For my point of view, Thailand is a dictatorship country which is runing by a family, the Royal Family. The election for the prime ministor is just a joke, not a real democrate. This type of govement never repected any human right at all. I am also was once time a refugee in Thailand too ...

Jan 10, 2010 10:16 AM

i think this is so wrong that they wend so much hmong to LAOS... do anyone know how are they doing now or been taken care of. Is the Laos goverment helping them to get a home and food to feed the family. as my opion. I don't think any thing been done. I feel sorry for them... FREE THE HMONG... Cry out loud. send them to the US!

Jan 03, 2010 01:38 PM

lao control loas country about 35 year now still do bad things never ever change. one pig can feel hold city, or one cow can feel hold bag city. that why still poor country and no education, no healt, no free low land high land peoples.
still hunt people like animals untill now
laos country sure change new leader and new peoples to handle, I will garranty 10 year after education school, hospitals, healts probelms econimics any kind peoples will have same lever, and no hunry, no kill, hunt human agains. that build my country every fast, every single city will have power. see future .

Jan 01, 2010 05:08 AM

if i am right. if thai is free country, i think thai should not send those Hmong men and women back to Laos. the reason why Thai could not do anything for those Hmong because Lao is communist country and Lao has more power than thai authorities. however, i hope God bless those Hmong at all time.

Dec 28, 2009 12:19 PM

May the Heavenly father protect them where ever they are. People around the world are watching and make sure that nothing unhumane and negative will arise. God bless all of you and stay strong.