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Cablegate: Lao Hmong at Petchabun: Recent Movements Include

VZCZCXRO8073
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #2109 2331023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211023Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8018
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2152

UNCLAS BANGKOK 002109

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR PRM/ANE, PRM/A, AND EAP/MLS
GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM TH LA
SUBJECT: LAO HMONG AT PETCHABUN: RECENT MOVEMENTS INCLUDE
SOME FORCED RETURNS TO LAOS

REF: A. BANGKOK 2041
B. BANGKOK 2042

1. (SBU) In an unusual early morning repatriation on August
18, 45 Lao Hmong men, women and children resident in the
Petchabun camp were returned to Laos. Royal Thai Armed Forces
(RTARF) personnel involved in the movement told RefCoord that
all departed voluntarily. The NGO Catholic Organization for
Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR), the only outside
presence in the Petchabun camp, did not witness the
repatriation due to the early hour of departure (4 a.m.)
However, COERR reported that they did not subsequently hear
allegations from remaining residents that force was used.
Royal Thai Government (RTG) immigration officials said that
the return was done as a "normal" deportation via the border
control point at Nong Khai. Unusually, the group was moved
directly from the camp to Laos, rather than stopping first at
a military barracks 20 miles away used as a transit point for
the previous 15 movements. In some cases, the Lao Hmong had
spend several weeks at the barracks before being sent across
the border. RTARF officials were unwilling to say if this
new, more direct procedure will be followed in future returns
as well.

2. (SBU) We learned that there was an earlier, forced return
of Lao Hmong belonging to the "Chao Faa" sub-group (the
so-called "jungle Hmong".) On August 9, local military
commanders called police to arrest 7 male Chao Faa leaders
who have been staying in a small area adjacent to the NGO-run
food distribution warehouse. The group has refused to enter
the camp proper since May in protest of MSF's decision to
leave the camp. (Comment: RefCoord spoke to the group on two
prior visits, and was given a letter requesting UNHCR
intervention. All said they did not wish to return to Laos.
End Comment.) Several of the Chao Faa group embarrassed the
RTARF by shouting and waving banners during the recent visit
by Lao Brigadier General Bouaxieng Champaphahn. (Refs.) COERR
witnessed the movement of the men, several of whom sat down
in protest and were lifted into a waiting truck by soldiers.
COERR did not observe any physical abuse or tasering of the
group, however, as alleged by U.S.-based Hmong advocacy
organizations. The men were brought to an undisclosed
location until their family members were located and sent to
join them several days later. According to COERR, the women
and children entered the truck without any RTARF handling.
Local RTARF personnel involved in the movement told RefCoord
that a total of 25 Chao Faa Hmong were then deported to Laos,
entering on August 12. Lao officials told their Thai
counterparts on April 18 that all had been sent to
Borikhan,Laos.

3. (SBU) RTARF psychological operations designed to
persuade the remaining 4,300 Lao Hmong in the Petchabun camp
to return to Laos now feature a billboard at the entrance
with PRM PDAS Sam Witten's and the DCM's photographs. (An
earlier billboard counting down the days until the
long-advertised September 30 closure of the camp has been
taken down.) A Hmong-language "quotation" next to the
photograph states that the U.S. will not resettle any more
Hmong. In addition, at intervals during the day the RTARF is
broadcasting (via loudspeaker) a similar Hmong language
statement attributed to PDAS Witten. We will tell the RTARF
that using the constructive visits by Witten and the DCM in
this way is inappropriate and will ask that the posters be
taken down, and the broadcasts stopped.
JOHN

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