BANGKOK—In a rare meeting with senior foreign diplomats and journalists, a number of ethnic Hmong recently resettled in Laos said that they feel unsafe and would like to be resettled in a third country.
“So far nothing has happened, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. We don’t know whether we are going to be alive or dead,” one resident of the resettlement village said.
One woman who appeared to be around 45 years old approached an RFA reporter during the March 26 visit and whispered that she wanted to leave Laos.
“I feel scared and do not want to stay in Laos. If possible I would like to be helped in order to resettle in a third country,” she said.
The Hmong were brought to Baan Phonekham, Borikhamxay province, after being forcibly deported in December back to Laos from Thailand, where they had sought asylum.
Of the 4,371 Hmong that Thailand repatriated despite protests from international rights groups and U.N. officials, 158 had been recognized by the U.N. as people of concern.
The Hmong say they fear persecution from the Lao government because of their Vietnam War-era ties to the U.S. in the CIA’s “Secret War” against the North Vietnamese in Laos.
Meeting cut short
Following the Hmongs’ repatriation on December 28, U.N. officials and international rights groups expressed concern about the treatment of the resettled Hmong and called on Lao officials to allow access to Phonekham village.
Lao officials invited senior foreign diplomats, journalists, and U.N. representatives to a meeting with around 300 residents of the resettlement village, but the tightly controlled visit was cut short after Hmong residents expressed their fears to the visitors.
When the delegation was given time to question the residents who had gathered in a meeting hall, some attendees rushed up to the visitors to express their concerns directly, saying that they wanted to leave.
Afterward, the diplomats were taken in a van on a short tour of the village, instead of having the more comprehensive visit that had been originally planned.
During the visit, Lao Brigadier General Bouaxieng Champaphanh said that the Hmong have received the best possible assistance and that all are safe, though the Lao government still has work to do to develop the village.
Original reporting by Oratai Singhananth for RFA's Lao service. Lao service director: Viengsay Luangkhot. Written for the Web in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.