Monday, February 23, 2009
Forced repatriation of Hmong begins in preparation for Southeast Asian Games
On February 2, 2009, Thai authorities plan on repatriating a group of 187 Hmong to Laos. Sources inside Huay Nam Khao camp claim that roughly 40 in this group are being forced back against their will. Among those unwilling to return is a political refugee Ge Vang. He is reportedly the brother of Phu Bia jungle leader Vang Chia and had been imprisoned in Laos for 3 years before escaping to Thailand back in 2006.
Thai camp authorities had arrested him late last December for buying alcohol outside of camp. As punishment for this minor offense he was humiliated and made an example of by being held in a dog cage for 2 days straight. Many of the others being forced back against their will have also been arrested for such minor offenses as buying alcohol, having a cell phone, photographs, or Hmong knife on their persons. The latter could be considered a weapon by Thai authorities but the Hmong use it for everyday chores, such as cooking and cutting firewood.
High-level authorities have recently told the Hmong population that the Lao government wants the camp cleared out by June due to the fact that they are hosting this year’s Southeast Asian Games in December. Apparently, they don’t want the Hmong refugee issue to tarnish this important event as they are relying on foreign donors to help sponsor it.
The Thai military has barred the international news media and third party monitors access to the camp. Both the Thai and Lao governments have conveniently blanket-labeled all these Hmong as “economic migrants”, even though many carry bullet and shrapnel wounds on their body.
During the Vietnam War, a Thai paramilitary group created by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had recruited and trained these Hmong to fight against the communists in Laos.
Corresponding with tomorrow’s repatriation of these 187 Hmong, a group of high-level Thai military officials are expected to pay another visit to the Hmong refugees held hostage at Nong Khai jail. The Thai Foreign Minister recently stated that all Lao-Hmong will be deported to Laos. This includes a group of over 400 who have already received legal UNHCR refugee status.