BANGKOK—Thai authorities have warned some 2,000 ethnic Hmong migrants in its central Saraburi Province that they face arrest starting Wednesday unless they have already registered with United Nations and local authorities.
“Those who are not registered with the military or U.N. officials are urged to go back to where they came from by Aug. 25,” a spokesman for the Hmong in Thailand told RFA’s Lao service.
“After that date, they will be arrested and handed over to immigration authorities who will then take legal measures,” said Norku, who is assistant to Pa Ger Yang, the leader of the Hmong currently living in Saraburi’s Tham Krabok region.
Last December, the U.S. government announced a plan to resettle the Hmong who had been living around the Buddhist temple at Tham Krabok to the United States. But to be considered for resettlement in the United States, the Hmong were supposed to have already registered.
Norku said the “illegal” group of 2,000 was once part of the main group of some 30,000 Hmong refugees living in a temple complex in the area. Over the years, however, they left to farm lands in the north of Thailand.
“Poverty drove them to leave and join relatives in northern provinces of Thailand, where they can farm and make a living,” Norku said. “Since they had learned that those living in Tham Krabok were given the opportunity to go overseas, they decided to come back to claim their rights to resettle overseas.”
A senior official who asked not to be identified confirmed that the military had apparently already begun its crackdown ahead of the deadline.
“They were taken away by trucks,” the official said. “It was unclear whether they were taken to immigration authorities or not. But news received from Amphoe Bang Chang, Tak Province, said that some of the people arrested on Aug. 23 had arrived in Tak.”
Pierre King, a senior official with the aid group Refugees International confirmed to RFA from Tham Krabok that Thai military officials had issued the warning on local radio Saturday.
The broadcast said a search would be conducted to locate people who had no right to reside there, and it urged them to leave, King said.