Thailand says to repatriate ethnic Hmongs to Laos

Thailand on Friday said it would repatriate thousands of ethnic Hmongs to Laos.

Thailand says to repatriate ethnic Hmongs to Laos

Thailand on Friday said it would repatriate thousands of ethnic Hmongs to Laos.

The Hmong, currently held in a camp in Huay Nam Khao in Phetchabun province, 300 km (186 miles) north of Bangkok, have sought political asylum in Thailand, saying they will be persecuted by Laos' communist government if they return.

The Hmong were recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to fight alongside U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. When the communists took power in 1975, the Hmong exodus began.

Thailand and Laos reached an agreement in March to send back the estimated 4,000 Hmong held in Phetchabun by the end of the year.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday sought to allay fears about their forced repatriation, saying his country would ensure it took place "without chaos and in accordance with human rights principles".

Colonal Surachet Tanyavej, spokesman of the regional army, said about 3,000 Hmong have been sent back on a voluntary basis in the past few years.

UNHCR, diplomats and rights groups believe some of the Hmong could qualify for refugee status if a screening process were allowed to take place.

UNHCR said Thailand had "the responsibility and international obligation" to ensure those in need of protection in their native countries were returned "only on a voluntary basis".

European diplomats in Bangkok met Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya this week to express their concerns about the planned deportation, and about the fate of 158 Hmong granted U.N. refugee status and offered resettlement in a third country.

They are currently held at a police immigration centre in Nong khai province, next to the Thai-Lao border, where they have been since late 2006.

Abhisit dismissed concerns that the group would be sent back to Laos.


Reuters

Last Mod: 25 Aralık 2009, 13:43
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