Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Hmong returnees unloaded their belongings upon arriving in Laos from Huay Namkhao in late December 2009
Lao authorities re-affirm that they will allow foreign embassy and organization representatives to visit the Hmong returnees from Thailand and check on their living conditions upon completion of the arrangements for their resettlement and allocation of lands for their living.
During his recent meeting with ambassadors from the European Union, the United States, and Australia who requested the meeting to seek information on the well-being of the returnees, Lao Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phongsavath Boupha asserted that his government will be happy to take foreign diplomats and representatives of international organizations to visit and check on the living conditions of the Hmong as soon as arrangements for their shelters, allocation of lands for their farming activities, and construction of needed infrastructures have been completed.
Jessica Lee of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives and other US representatives visited Phalak village in July 2009
He added that officials will then respond to any request from foreign diplomats and international organizations with transparency and will take them to visit the Hmong in any province they would like to, in line with the humanitarian policy that the government has consistently practiced regarding the Hmong.
Mr. Phongsavath's comment echoed Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavad Lengsavat's statement stressing that the Lao government's treatment of the Hmongs repatriated from Thailand has been open and transparent and that, since 2008, Lao officials have taken delegations and representatives of international organizations as well as foreign reporters to visit the Hmong resettlement sites many times. And that is because the Lao government considers these Hmong Lao citizens. Therefore, it has to take good care of them even though they had made a wrong decision to leave Laos and enter Thailand illegally, hoping for opportunity to resettle in a third country, especially the United States.
US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega visited Phalak village in early January 2010
The Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently released a statement confirming that the 4,711 Hmong who were repatriated from Huay Namkhao temporary camp in Khaokhor district of Phetchaboun province, in northeastern Thailand, between December 28-29, 2009, have all been returned to their home villages or sent to new resettlement sites. The majority of them chose to settle down in Bolikhamsay province and the new resettlement area in Kasi district, Vientiane province, while the rest went back to their home villages in Bokeo, Xiengkouang, Luangprabang, and Xayabouly and Oudomsay provinces.
As for the 158 Hmongs who were held in a Nongkhai immigration jail and considered "People of Concern" by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Khenthong Nouanthasing said they had changed their mind and chose to return to Laos instead of waiting for resettlement in a third country, as they felt that they would be well taken care of and well provided for by the Lao government.