UNHCR calls for release of detained Lao Hmong refugees in Thailand

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has called on Thai authorities to release more than 150 Hmong refugees from Laos who are being held in the town of Nong Khai in northern Thailand.

Lao Hmong refugees
Lao Hmong refugees

UNHCR says November 17 marks three years since the Lao Hmong, who have been recognized as refugees, were rounded up in the Thai capital of Bangkok for deportation.

The Lao Hmong refugees fled to Thailand after the Pathet Lao left wing nationalist group came to power following the war that engulfed Laos in the 1960s and 1970s.

Many of the Hmong living in the highlands of Laos had participated in that war.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says that large numbers of the Lao Hmong refugees were resettled in Western countries, mostly in the United States.

"The situation of the Hmong today is very different from what it was in the 1970s, but the Nong Khai group are part of the legacy left by a troubled past. Originally 147 refugees, they were rounded up for deportation and transferred on 8 December 2006 to the Nong Khai immigration detention centre on the Mekong River border with Laos where they have been held since. With babies born in detention, the number now stands at 158."
Four countries - the U.S., Australia, Canada and the Netherlands have offered to resettle the refugees, and UNHCR believes they should be allowed to leave Thailand for resettlement.

It says the refugees have not committed any crime, and their detention serves no purpose.

Diane Bailey, United Nations Radio.


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