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Hope Comes for Hmong Refugees in Thailand

Christmas Day Hope Comes for Hmong Refugees in Thailand, Laos

Washington, D.C., Bangkok and Ban Huay Nam Khao, Thailand, December 24, 2009

The Center for Public Policy (CPPA) welcomed a statement today issued in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Department of State urging Thailand to cease the repatriation of thousands of Lao Hmong refugees from Thailand to Laos.

“We welcome the long-overdue official statement today by the U.S. Department of State urging Thailand to halt the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong refugees to Laos,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C.

“Today’s last-minute Christmas Eve State Department pronouncement comes on the heals of an important U.S. Senate letter by nine Senators to Prime Minister Abhisit, released yesterday on Capitol Hill, with a crystal clear statement by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy that calls into question the deplorable policy of General Anupong Paochinda, Prime Minister Abhisit and other Thai defense and military policymakers in seeking to force the Hmong to Laos,” Smith continued. "There is finally, at the last hour, Christmas hope for Hmong Refugees in Thailand who fled persecution in Laos and who do not want to return."

“U.S. Senators, Russ Feingold (D-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN) , Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent the letter to Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on December 17, 2009, and released it on December 23, 2009, in Washington, D.C. following reports of more Thai soldiers and a large troop convoy of over 50 army trucks and buses being deployed at the main Hmong refugee camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao to force nearly 5,000 political refugees back to Laos over the Christmas and New Year holiday season,” Smith concluded.

“Multiple sources inside the Hmong refugee camp have reported that a large Thai military convoy with dozens of buses and army trucks has arrived in the early morning of December 23 and assembled outside the camp in Petchabun with additional special troops and transport vehicles,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ).

"Prime Minister Abhisit, Thailand’s Defense Prawit Wongsuwon, Minister of Interior ( MOI ) Chavarat Charnvirakuland and Army Chief Anupong Paochinda have relentlessly deployed additional Royal Thai Third Army and special MOI troops, with more truck and buses, to prepare for the mass forced repatriation of some 5,000 Lao Hmong political refugees and asylum seekers at Huay Nam Khao back to Laos," Smith explained.

The following is the text of the statement by the U.S. Department of State on the Lao Hmong refugee crisis in Thailand:


Office of the Spokesman

Involuntary Deportation of Ethnic Lao Hmong from Thailand to Laos

The United States is deeply concerned about reports of the imminent and involuntary deportation by Thai authorities of 4,200 ethnic Lao Hmong to Laos from Huay Nam Khao Camp in Petchabun province, Thailand. We note that the Royal Thai Government had determined that many of the Hmong at Huay Nam Khao are in need of protection. The United States is also concerned about the situation of the 158 ethnic Hmong in a Thai immigration detention facility in Nong Khai province, Thailand, all of whom have been determined by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to be refugees in need of protection.

Forced returns of persons entitled to protection is inconsistent with international practice and Thailand’s long history of protection of refugees. Such returns would violate the international principle of non-refoulement and imperil the well-being of many individuals.

During the past two years, the United States has expressed concerns about the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong repeatedly to Thai leaders, as recently as during a visit by Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration to Thailand this week. The United States and others have been working actively with the Governments of Thailand and Laos to find a mutually acceptable resolution in line with international principles. We are confident such solutions are achievable, but they require that the Royal Thai Government refrain from involuntary return of those who merit protection.

We again urge the Royal Thai Government to uphold the international principle of non-refoulement and refrain from forcibly returning Lao Hmong who merit protection.


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