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Cablegate: 837 Hmong Return From Thailand

VZCZCXRO0942
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHVN #0355 1751117
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231117Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2072
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0635
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS VIENTIANE 000355

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV PHUM LA TH
SUBJECT: 837 HMONG RETURN FROM THAILAND

1. (SBU) Summary: On June 22, Thai authorities
repatriated to Laos 837 ethnic Hmong who had been residing at
the Petchaboun camp. According to Ministry of Foreign
Affairs officials, they are currently in a temporary
processing facility and most will soon be resettled in their
home villages. The MFA officials described this as a routine
voluntary repatriation and denied any link with a
demonstration over the weekend by camp residents. End
summary.

2. (SBU) Following reports of a repatriation of over 800
ethnic Hmong from the Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchaboun
province in Thailand, the Embassy contacted MFA Deputy
Director General for Europe and the Americas Mai Sayavong and
sent an e-mail inquiry to Yong Chanthalangsy, Director
General of MFA's Press Department, who oversees the GOL's
returnee program. The officials confirmed that the GOL had
received 837 returnees on Sunday, June 22. Mr. Yong told us
by e-mail that the repatriation "has been conducted in a
peaceful and orderly manner without any violence in
accordance with the agreement between the Lao PDR and
Thailand." He said that the returnees are at the temporary
processing center in Paksane in Bolikamxay province that has
been used for previous returnees. He said that the GOL was
having no trouble accommodating the returnees. He expects
that the processing will take no more than ten days. He
estimated that only a few of the people will need to be
relocated at the government-established resettlement village
at Baan Phalak in northern Vientiane province; the rest will
be returned to their former villages.

3. (SBU) Mr. Mai told the DCM that the repatriation had
taken place according to the normal procedures established
bilaterally between the Lao and Thai governments. There had
been about a week's advance notice, he said. He denied that
the repatriation had anything to do with protests by
Petchaboun residents over the weekend. Asked why such a
large number were resettled at a time, rather than the
smaller groups that the Lao-Thai agreement appears to
envision, Mr. Mai said that members of the group had realized
that third-country resettlement was not a possibility and
requested to return voluntarily to Laos. Mr. Mai was unsure
about the breakdown among men, women, and children within the
group.

4. (SBU) UN Resident Coordinator Sonam Yangchen Rana told
the DCM that she had heard that 6-8 of the group's leaders
are being held separately from the rest of the group. She
said that she had no additional independent information
regarding the circumstances of this repatriation.
HUSO

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