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Thailand, Laos Hmong Refugee Crisis

Thailand, Laos Hmong Refugee Crisis: Officials Demand Hmong Volunteer to Return to Killing Fields, Reeducation Camps

Washington, D.C. and Bangkok, Thailand, October 16, 2008

For Immediate Release:

Royal Thai soldiers and Ministry of Interior officials (MOI) at Ban Huay Nam Khao, Petchabun Province, Thailand havetold Hmong refugees that if no one volunteers to return to Laos in thecurrent month of October, then the military will again begin forcingthe Hmong political refugees back to Laos.

Thaisolders have announced that next month, November, 2008, the next Hmongrefugees to be forced back to Laos, will be those Hmong who took partin the 'march to freedom' earlier this year in protest against theirthreatened forced repatriation to the authoritarian military regime inLaos that they fled.

'Reliablesources in Thailand indicate that a major new effort and strategyappears to be underway by some renegade elements of the Thai Third Armyand Ministry of Interior to restart the forced repatriation ofthousands of Hmong and Laotian political refugees to Laos over the nextseveral months,' stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Centerfor Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C. 'Now, many Hmongparticipants in the earlier protest march from Ban Huay Nam Khao whopeacefully rallied against being forced back to Laos are currentlybeing threatened and intimidated in many cases in the refugee camp byThai officials.'

'Thisprotest march from Ban Huay Nam Khao was called by the Hmong refugeesthe 'marching to freedom,'' stated Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt,historian, human rights and refugee advocate.

Dr.Hamilton-Merritt continued: 'At the time, the Hmong refugees in HuayNam Khao reportedly broke out of the razor wire surrounding the campand tried to walk to Bangkok to reach the UNHCR building to seekasylum; Unfortunately, many of the 'marching to freedom' event peoplewere ambushed and never made it to Bangkok, but instead overone-thousand Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers from thepeaceful protest march were forced back to Laos.'

Dr.Hamilton-Merritt is the author of the highly acclaimed book TragicMountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos(Indiana University Press). She was recentlyhonored for her human rights and humanitarian work by the Hmong andLaotian community at events in Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

'According to reports from the refugees and family members, as well asremarks by Thai military authorities in the camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao,the second group to be forced back in the coming months, as soon asNovember, will be the remaining Hmong refugees, which is severalthousand civilians who have been running and hiding for years form themilitary forces of Hanoi and the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR)regime,' said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA inWashington, D.C.

'TheseLao Hmong political refugees finally managed to get out of Laos and arenow detained in Ban Huay Nam Khao; If they are return to Laos, theywill be turned over to the LPDR military and security force authoritieswho sought to kill them for decades and who have killed and imprisonedhundreds of those recently forced back to Laos earlier this year,'Vaughn Vang continued.

'The Lao military continues itshorrible attacks against Laotian and Hmong civilians and religious andpolitical dissident groups hiding in the jungles and mountains who arebeing starved to death,' Vaughn Vang said.

'Manyinnocent Hmong and Laotian civilians are being starved to death,including women and children; hundreds are very ill with no medicine orhumanitarian assistance available and many Hmong civilians were killedor wounded from the recent government attacks, especially in the PhouBia and Phou Tha Pao areas of Laos,' Vaughn Vang concluded.


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