Laos to Hmong: Return, you've no choice

Monday, February 23, 2009

PHETCHABUN : Hmong illegal migrants at a camp here have no choice but to return to Laos, says a senior Lao official, in a new campaign which seems to have failed. ''Don't dream that you will be landed elsewhere,'' said deputy chief of staff of the Lao armed forces Buaxiang Champaphan after talks with 20 Hmong leaders yesterday.

''No country, including the United States, will receive you.

The Lao officer initially planned to visit the camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao in Khao Kho district but changed his mind and met with the Hmong representative s at the nearby Khao Kho Task Force.

A heavy presence of soldiers around the small tents where the meeting was held did not allow any of the Hmong to appear outside or make any protest.

Brig-Gen Buaxiang accompanied Nipat Thonglek, head of the Border Affairs Department, as well as other senior officials from both sides to the meeting.

Since 2004, several thousand Hmong from Laos have migrated illegally to the village to join others from Tham Krabok temple in Saraburi who resettled there in the hope of being sent to a third country.

They were relocated last year to a more restricted holding area uphill under the vigilance of the army while Thailand and Laos worked out ways to solve the problem.

The camp was originally intended to close at the end of last year. But since May 2007, only 2,057 Hmong have been sent back home, while 5,474 remain.

Lt-Gen Nipat said Thailand was still trying to convince the illegal migrants to return home but has not set a new deadline.''It might be considered a delay but we will keep doing so within the humanitarian framework in which [repatriation] is on a voluntary basis,'' said Lt Gen Nipat, co-chairman of the Thai-Lao general border subcommittee.


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