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Thailand deports hundreds of Hmong refugees

Latest update : 2008-06-23

Thailand deported scores of ethnic Hmong refugees to Laos. The refugees claim they're fleeing persecution back home but Bangkok says they're looking for work. The Thai government also said the refugees returned home voluntarily.N.Rand reports

BANGKOK, June 23 (Reuters) - About 1,200 of 8,000 ethnic
Hmong refugees in a Thai camp have returned "voluntarily" to
Laos this year, a Thai general said on Monday, after 3,000
protested against what they called forced repatriation.
 

Lieutenant General Nipat Thonglek, in charge of refugee
affairs, said 837 Hmong -- America's "forgotten allies" during
the Vietnam War -- were sent back to Laos on Sunday, a day
after the protest at the camp in northern Thailand.
 

"The repatriations, six times this year, have been on a
humanitarian and voluntary basis and we expect more of them to
return later this year," Nipat told reporters in Bangkok.
 

Thailand considers most of the Hmong at the camp in
Petchabun, 350 km (220 miles) north of Bangkok, to be victims
of human traffickers who preyed on their desire to be resettled
in a third country, notably the United States.
 

Bangkok has reached an agreement with Laos' communist
rulers to return those falling into this category by the end of
2008.
 

But human rights groups and the U.N. refugee agency said
some of the Hmong could face persecution back home due to links
with Laos' anti-communist resistance, whose roots got back more
than 30 years to the Vietnam War.
 

Nipat said Thai soldiers did not use force to break up the
Friday protest, in which the Hmong marched 3 km from the camp
to a main highway. Last month, 300 Hmong refugees set fire to
850 of 1,300 shelters in the camp, protesting against the
repatriation.

Date created : 2008-06-23

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