Thursday, August 20, 2009
On Tuesday, Thai soldiers from BAT 28 unit in Lom Sak, Petchabun province forcibly deported a group of about 18 Hmong refugee women and children to Laos, along with a group of volunteer returnees. The soldiers reportedly hit the women and children with batons rounding them onto the deportation vehicle. The Thai military had separated these women from their husbands back on August 9, when they were taken from Huay Nam Khao camp. Since then, the women had been refusing to eat until they were reunited with their spouses.
It has since been learned that their husbands were forcibly deported to Laos on August 12 or 13 and are currently being held in Paksan jail, awaiting interrogation by Lao officials. Their wives and children have now joined them there. The heads of households of this group are Shoua Lor, Nao Va Yang, Ka Choua Lee, Toua Vang, Lee Yang, Nhia Shong Yang, and Hue Cheng Vang (aka: Lee Pao Vang). Thai authorities had dealt with these men very harshly, tasoring one in the head and beating four of them severely in order to get them to return to Laos.
In 2003, Shoua Lor’s wife, children, and parents were captured during a Lao military attack in the Phu Pha Thi jungle area and have not been heard from since. A couple years later, due to continuing military attacks Shoua Lor fled to Thailand. When the Thai military began blanket-labeling the whole Hmong population in Huay Nam Khao camp as economic migrants and threatening to forcibly deport the group Shoua Lor began protesting this, which led to his being targeted by the Thai military.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he attempted to put up a sign protesting the August 7 visit of Lao General Bouasieng Champaphanh, who is reportedly behind the continuing unacknowledged military attacks against the jungle Hmong. During the visit, General Bouasieng told one refugee leader, reportedly within earshot of American Embassy officials, that the Lao government knows how to deal with Hmong trouble-makers like him and that they get sent to “seminar” – a direct reference to the harsh re-education camps where so many died in the years following the war.
General Bouasieng has repeatedly told the news media that these Hmong returnees have absolutely nothing to fear from the Lao government yet on the other hand threatens those who claim to have legitimate fears of returning. As soon as the refugees said they had photos and documents for the General to look at to prove their persecution stories he became irate and began accusing all the Hmong of leaving Laos because they were drug dealers, wife-killers, and common criminals involved in illegal businesses.
Somehow, this voluntary repatriation scenario seems quite absurd.