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Laos, Hmong Refugee Crisis

Laos, Hmong Refugee Crisis: Thailand’s PM Abhisit, Anupong Should Stop Forced Returns

Washington and Vientiane, December 8, 2009

As the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games open in Laos, The Honorable Howard Eugene Douglas, the former Ambassador at Large and U.S. Refugee Affairs Coordinator, has issued a statement on the Lao Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand and Laos. Douglas and the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) are urging Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to seriously address this humanitarian crisis and emancipate the Lao Hmong refugees for resettlement abroad.

“Tragically, Lao Hmong political refugees who fled egregious human rights violations and religious persecution are still enduring unspeakable violence and forced repatriation from Thailand back to the Stalinist military regime in Laos that they fled,” said Philip Smith, Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. http://centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

“Recently, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the U.S. Congress, European Parliament, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Lao Hmong Human Rights Council (LHHRC) have made appeals to end the repatriation of the Lao Hmong refugees,” Smith continued.

Smith explained: “Thailand’s Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, as well as Minister of Interior (MOI) Chavarat Charnvirakuland and Army Chief Anupong Paochinda, have ordered more Third Army and MOI troops to prepare for the mass forced repatriation of 5,100 Lao Hmong political refugees at Huay Nam Khao and Nong Khai at the apparent orders of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Unfortunately, Abhisit, Prawit, Anupong, and Chavarat have repeatedly defied appeals by humanitarian organizations and the U.S. Congress to His Majesty, Bhumibol Adulayadej, the King of Thailand, to grant asylum to the Laotian refugees until they can be screened by the UNHRC and resettled abroad.”
Ambassador Douglas stated:

“No country likes to be bossed about by another country, regardless of cause or disparities in power or cultures. Likewise, no country or its leaders are immune from criticism, or in some instances outright condemnation, for abuses against human dignity and the established norms of civilized behavior. Thailand and the Thai government of Prime Minister Abhisit seem intent to erase their country’s past record of compassion toward refugees and replace it with a program of repeated cruel abuse of the human rights of thousands of helpless Lao Hmong who fled their country for refuge in Thailand.

”Despite offers from several countries, numerous human rights groups and the UNHCR to arrange alternatives for those Lao Hmong who do not want to return to Laos, the Thai Government, the Armed Forces and police seem determined to send the Lao Hmong back to Laos against their will. This could be involuntary repatriation writ large. What drives this action by the government in Bangkok? Is it a diversion by a fractured military and civilian leadership to hide their impotence in dealing with the real business of governing?

”I have known Thailand first hand since the 1960s and have worked with its military and civilian leadership through many a crisis. Given my association with the country, it pains me to see the Thai Government act as though it were deaf to the cries of the Lao Hmong, to the offers of assistance from other countries, and to the high ideals that have previously earned Thailand such praise for its compassionate grant of temporary refuge.

”No one doubts that the Thai government can organize the manpower and force to deliver the helpless Lao Hmong back to Laos against their will. That would not be a proud day in the history of the Kingdom. In this eleventh hour before a mass involuntary repatriation, the Thai civilian and military chiefs might profitably remember that the costs of such gratuitous cruelty and indifference can be high: for their country and perhaps even for themselves.”

“In protest, MSF departed the Lao Hmong camp in Thailand because of the forced repatriation the refugees, including many Hmong involved in a protest march to the UNHCR,” said Vaughn Vang of the LHHRC in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The U.S. Congress has appealed to Thailand, Secretary of State Clinton, U.S. Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz, and Ravic Huso, the U.S. Ambassador to Laos. Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Edmund McWilliams, Michael Benge and B. Jenkins Middleton have also made appeals.

ENDS

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