August 17, 2007

Hmong: Repatriation Continues Despite Peril

The Thai Prime Minister has caused international concern by suggesting the further repatriation of Hmong refugees to Laos would “ease Thailand’s burden”.

The Thai Prime Minister has caused international concern by suggesting the further repatriation of Hmong refugees to Laos would “ease Thailand’s burden”. 

Below is an article published by Forum-Asia:

The statement made by Thailand’s Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on the status of some 8000 Lao-Hmong refugees in the Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchabun province appears especially insensitive after ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to establish the ASEAN Human Rights Charter during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in the Philippines. The decision to repatriate the refugees according to Prime Minister Surayud would prevent more refugees from flowing into the country to ease Thailand’s burden of taking care of thousands of Lao-Hmong asylum seekers.  

Such an argument is unacceptable since the state’s human rights responsibilities go beyond their own mandate. Furthermore, this announcement comes a mere three days after a more positive statement by the Chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS), General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, that Thailand will allow the Lao-Hmong refugees to stay in the camp for the time being and that  human rights principles would be  taken into account if any repatriation was considered.

None of Thailand’s leaders have come out with a concrete solution to the Lao-Hmong issue that abides by internationally agreed human rights standards. With Thailand due to assume the post of Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2008, the country needs to look beyond narrow self-interest and demonstrate that it respects the human rights of all the people living within the countries of ASEAN. 

The international community has consistently expressed concerns over the consequences Lao-Hmong will face if they return to Laos. The latest intervention comes from an appeal letter issued by 13 U.S. House of Representatives for His Majesty the King to mediate in order to allow the Lao-Hmong to remain on Thai soil until they can be resettled in a third country.

Any decision to repatriate people who face a real threat of persecution at home is deplorable and in contradiction to the international principle of non-refoulement.  On 25th May 2007, the Thai authorities forcibly repatriated 31 Lao-Hmong including women and children back to Laos and their safety and whereabouts remain unknown.

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