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    Thailand Repatriates the Hmong to Laos


    by NTDTelevision

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    Thailand has started repatriating thousands of ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers to Laos, despite international objections that they could be persecuted upon their return.

    Around 5,000 soldiers, policeman and civil servants are repatriating 4,400 Hmong who are considered by Thailand to be illegal economic migrants.

    The colonel in charge of the operation says some have agreed to repatriate voluntarily, while others are resisting.

    [Colonel Thana Charuwat, Military Coordinator]:
    "There are still about 300 refugees who have refused to go back. We are trying to negotiate and convince them to stop resisting so that we will not have to use force. They will go back peacefully."

    Most of the Hmong facing repatriation have been living in a camp at Huay Nam Khao since 2004 to seek political asylum.

    The Hmong are known as America's "forgotten allies" because of the intelligence role they played alongside U.S forces during the Vietnam War.

    They say they will be persecuted by Laos' communist government if they return, despite assurances from Laos that they will be safe.

    The UNHCR, diplomats and rights groups believe many Hmong asylum seekers would qualify as refugees, however Thailand has not allowed the U.N. refugee agency access to the camp.

    The U.S. State Department has also expressed concern about reports of forced repatriation.