Lao govt reiterates policy for Hmong returnees

Monday, February 1, 2010

A senior diplomat has announced that the Lao government will be happy to arrange visits to Hmong returnees requested by foreign ambassadors when they have been properly resettled, while reiterating the government's humanitarian policy to the returnees.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phongsavath Boupha restated the position to ambassadors of European Union countries, the United States and Australia recently when the ambassadors called on him to request information on the situation of the Hmong returnees.

Hmong returnees would be able to live in villages of their own choice, he told the ambassadors, adding that the government had provided them with food, clothing and medicines on arrival in their homeland.

Later, the returnees were transported to their original villages or to live with relatives or in government-resettlement villages.

Mr Phongsavath said the government's long-term plan was to build a house for each family in the resettlement villages and allocate land for farming activities.

The government will also build gravity-fed water systems, toilets, roads and schools as well as expanding the electricity network to include the villages, he said, adding that hospitals would also be available in village groups.

The government will also provide food to the returnees until they are able to make their own living, as well as one year of free electricity use.

The deputy minister reaffirmed to the ambassadors that receiving the returnees reflects the extension of the government's humanitarian policy to its citizens.

During the meeting, Mr Phongsavath thanked foreign diplomats for their concern for Lao citizens and explained that the Lao government was even more concerned about its citizens than foreigners, because these Hmong people had been lured to a foreign country. The Hmong were the concern of Laos and it was the duty of the Lao government to protect them and agree to bring them home.

Mr Phongsavath said the Lao PDR is a party to many UN human rights treaties, and the government took care to implement these treaties as fully as possible, especially those relating to political rights and citizenship.

Being deceived by people smugglers, in 2004 the Hmong began flocking to Thailand . More than 7,000 departed Laos and became economic migrants in Thailand , including 158 who were detained in the Immigration Detention Centre in Thailand 's Nong Khai province.

Most had paid a large amount of money to people smugglers to take them from Laos to a detention camp in Thailand 's Phetchabun province. Many became homeless after selling everything they owned in Laos and their children received no schooling.

The Lao and Thai governments deemed the migrants to be illegal and agreed to address the issue through bilateral channels.

I n 2006, the two governments began cooperating to repatriate them until the last group was brought back to Laos on December 28 last year.

Since then the Lao government has arranged for visits by international delegations and foreign ambassadors to Phalak, the government resettlement village in Kasy district, Vientiane province, to witness the situation first hand.


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