June 4, 2007

Hmong: Refugees Refouled

31 Hmongs seeking asylum in Thailand were repatriated to Laos on Friday 25 May 2007 where their safety cannot be guaranteed or monitored.

31 Hmongs seeking asylum in Thailand were repatriated to Laos on Friday 25 May 2007 where their safety cannot be guaranteed or monitored.

Below is a letter written by Anselmo Lee, executive director of Forum-Asia:

(Bangkok) FORUM-ASIA condemns the flagitious acts of the government of Thailand in their forced repatriation of 31 Hmong Lao back to Laos on Friday, 25 May 2007. The Hmong Lao were seeking asylum in Thailand but were forced back to Laos where their safety cannot be guaranteed or even monitored. Thailand is obligated to the international law principle of non-refoulment to protect refugees in the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Nong Khai and to allow the UNHCR to assess the situation.

“The government of Thailand must allow the UNHCR full access to all asylum seekers to avoid forced repatriation” stated Anselmo Lee, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

This act is another example of the continued persecution of Hmong Lao. In April last year, 26 unarmed Hmong were massacred in Vientiane Province most of whom were women and children2. In November 2006, 53 Hmong Lao asylum seekers were forcibly deported to Laos; their whereabouts remain unknown.3 In January 2007, 16 more Hmong Lao asylum seekers were deported. The following day, the IDC attempted to deport 154 Hmong Lao but the deportation was cancelled in the final hour4. The government of Laos does not allow repatriated groups or individuals to be contacted by local or international humanitarian organisations, therefore, once they cross the border to Laos their safety and whereabouts are unknown.

In Laos, Hmong faces not only societal discrimination but some that live in the jungles are accused for being part of the remnants of the communist resistance in the 60s, and are under constant persecution by the Laos military. In the past year alone, they have faced violent attacks reported in at least four provinces. In August 2006, the Laos government finally and publicly acknowledged that there was a flood of Hmong Lao refugees moving into Thailand. There are an estimated 7,000 Hmong Lao living in the unofficial refugee settlement in Phetchabun province in Thailand.

The group of 31 asylum seekers that were repatriated to Laos on Friday, 25 May, includes women and children - violating the rights set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Both conventions have been ratified by both governments.

FORUM-ASIA appeals to the government of Thailand and the Lao PDR to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to those seeking asylum in Thailand and those who have been repatriated to Laos. As United Nations member states, Thailand and Laos are obligated under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to protect the right of every individual “to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Thailand must allow the UNHCR to fully assess the situation before any action is taken. Through the act of repatriation, the Thai government is complacent to any human rights violations that are committed by the government of Laos upon its citizens.