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Cablegate: Deportation of 54 Hmong to Laos

VZCZCXRO0209
PP RUEHCHI
DE RUEHBK #6907 3192355
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 152355Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2973
INFO RUEHVN/AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE PRIORITY 2867
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 2673
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1738

UNCLAS BANGKOK 006907

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL TH LA
SUBJECT: DEPORTATION OF 54 HMONG TO LAOS

REF: STATE 186220

1. (SBU) Summary. Thai officials did not respond positively
to reftel demarche expressing opposition to the possible
deportation to Laos of a group of Hmong held in Thai
detention in Nong Khai. UNHCR told the RTG that is also
opposes deportation and warned of a formal protest and press
reports if the RTG returns the Hmong to Laos. UNHCR obtained
informal information from an RTG source that the deportation
took place on November 15 but MFA did not confirm the
information. End summary.

2. (SBU) Per reftel, on November 14 Refcoord delivered
demarche regarding the possible deportation of 54 Hmong in
Thai custody at Nong Khai to RTG Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Director Dusit Manapan. Dusit responded that the Lao
government had raised the issue of the Hmong at Petchaboon
during the recent visit of Thai interim PM Surayud. At that
meeting, the two sides agreed that they would use the
existing mechanism of the Thai-Lao Border Commission to
address the Hmong issue. Following that meeting, the Lao
government had agreed to take back the Nong Khai group. This
was the first time, according to Dusit, that the Lao had
agreed to do this. In response to Refcoord question regarding
whether there was any Lao commitment that deportees would not
be mistreated, Dusit said that he had told Thai Ministry of
Interior and National Security Council officials that the
safety of the deportees needed to be assured. Otherwise,
Thailand could be held accountable. Dusit said he did not
know if the Lao had made such a commitment.

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3. (SBU) In a previously scheduled meeting with new Thai NSC
chief Prakit Prachonpachanuk on November 13, Political
Counselor raised the Hmong issue and U.S. opposition to any
deportation of persons who may have legitimate refugee
claims. While the RTG had a legitimate concern about
protecting its borders, the earlier case of the deported 26
Hmong minors had shown that the Lao government could view
deportees as criminals and mistreat them. The U.S. was very
concerned about the group of Hmong at Nong Khai. Recalling
the international community's response to the Hmong minors
case, Political Counselor urged Prakit to keep the larger
picture in mind.

4. (SBU) Prakit responded that Thailand has laws about
illegal immigrants that the RTG must enforce. The RTG wanted
to deter those who are thinking about entering Thailand
illegally and was tightening its border controls. An NSC
staff person also attending the meeting asked, "The Hmong
keep coming. What can we do?"

5. (SBU) UNHCR acting Regional Representative Giuseppe de
Vincentis told Refcoord on November 14 that UNHCR was aware
of the possible deportation. He had contacted the Thai MFA
the same day and stated that the RTG had not granted access
to UNHCR to interview the Hmong at Nong Khai. The RTG also
apparently did not have a commitment from the Lao government
not to mistreat deportees. De Vincentis said he told the MFA
that the Lao government had not agreed to allow access in
Laos by the international community to Hmong deported from
Thailand. De Vincentis said he told MFA that UNHCR may make
a formal protest and there could be media questions that
UNHCR would answer forthrightly. De Vincentis noted that
while the deportation of the Hmong minors was irregular, the
planned deportation of the Hmong at Nong Khai was a formal
bilateral arrangement between the Thai and Lao governments.

6. (SBU) De Vincentis told RefCoord that Thai NSC staff said
on November 15 that the Hmong deportation was scheduled for
the same day but did not know if it had occurred. Radio Free
Asia is reporting that the deportation did happen. While
UNHCR was not able to get official confirmation from the MFA
that the deportation occurred, it did get informal
confirmation from another agency in the Thai government. MFA
did not return RefCoord telephone calls on this issue.
BOYCE

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