Monday, August 10, 2009
Writer: KING-OUA LAOHONG
Published: 10/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
The Lao government is sending Hmong refugees who have resettled in Laos to convince others at a Thai refugee camp to return to their homeland.
Refugee Kayua sae Yang, who now lives in Laos, said while she was grateful for the kind treatment she received while living in Thailand, she was glad to leave what felt like a "prison".
The Lao government has sent Mrs Kayua, 55, back to Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun's Khao Kho district to persuade other Hmong who remain at the camp to return home.
She was accompanied by Buaxieng Champaphan, co-chairman of the Thai-Lao general border subcommittee.
Mrs Kayua was one of 190 Hmong refugees who decided to leave the Thai camp and settle in Laos in November last year.
Between May 2007, and July this year, about 2,900 Hmong refugees have agreed to return home.
About 4,700 Hmong remain at the camp.
Mrs Kayua said although Hmong people were treated well at the camp, they felt confined with no freedom of movement.
"It felt like being kept in a prison. I am enjoying being back, as there is no place like home," she said.
The Lao government has promised to take better care of the Hmong refugees when they return home.
The Hmong helped the US Central Intelligence Agency fight the communist Pathet Lao movement in Laos before Vientiane fell in 1975.
They later sought political asylum and resettlement in other countries.
Hmong refugees who agree to go back to Laos are paid 300,000 kip (1,200 baht) each, and are given five rai of land each.
The Thai government also gives the Hmong 15,000 baht each when they return home.
Brig Gen Buaxieng said the ethnic Hmong were part of Laos' "bigger family" and they deserve proper treatment by the Lao government.
"The Lao Hmong will get freedom like other people under the law in Laos," Brig Gen Buaxieng said.
He said the Lao government had also promised not to prosecute the Hmong who have been involved in the drug trade or other crimes.
He said Hmong offenders who return home would be pardoned for their past offences but would be punished if they violate the law again.
Many Hmong refugees at the camp do not want to return to Laos for fear of persecution.
They expect to be repatriated to other countries, including the US.
US embassy deputy chief of mission James Entwistle, who visited the Hmong camp recently, said the US had no plans for a large-scale resettlement programme for the camp's residents.
Lt Gen Nipat Thonglek, chief of the Supreme Command's border affairs department, said all Hmong must be sent back to Laos by the end of this year.
He said the Thai government had done all it could to provide them with the best possible humanitarian aid.
"Lao Hmong refugees have entered the country illegally," he said.
"Solving the problem is a bilateral effort between the Thai and Lao governments.
"Most importantly, the Lao government will not accept foreign intervention of any kind."