Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The Hmong, a Southeast Asian ethnic group, were seeking asylum in Thailand saying they risked persecution by the Lao regime for fighting alongside US forces in the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 1970s. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
HANOI - THOUSANDS of ethnic Hmong expelled from Thailand last month, including 158 UN-recognised refugees, have been returned to their original homes in Laos or resettled in new villages, the Lao government said on Wednesday.
Bangkok sparked outrage in late December when it defied global criticism and used troops to forcibly repatriate about 4,500 Hmong from camps on the border with communist Laos.
The Hmong, a Southeast Asian ethnic group, were seeking asylum in Thailand saying they risked persecution by the Lao regime for fighting alongside US forces in the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 1970s.
'All of them, they went back to their homes or to the development villages,' government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said. The 'development' villages are the government's term for newly-built communities.
The dispersal occurred after a 14-day transitional period following the returnees' repatriation, said a diplomat source who declined to be named.
Rights advocates have voiced fear the returnees would face persecution but the diplomat said there have been no reports of mistreatment although some had complained about living conditions in the new villages. Foreign embassies seeking access to the returnees have been told they must wait until the Hmong settle in to their new surroundings. -- AFP