I am deeply concerned to read ongoing reports that describe, at best, serious violations of human rights committed by Thai authorities against Lao Hmong refugees at Nong Khai immigration detention centre.
Photo: Mike Rhodes
According to reports released by Human Rights Watch, the Thai authorities are denying refugees the basic necessities, such as clean drinking water, food, and access to proper sanitation facilities, in order to coerce the Lao Hmong refugees to accept 'voluntary' return to Laos. This puts the Thai Authorities in direct violation of International Law.
Worst still however, is that the Thai Government appears to be buckling beneath the pressure applied by the Lao Government to return the refugees to their homeland despite international fears for retribution.
One US official who did not want to be named said: "It is not unusual for countries of origin to insist that refugees return, claiming that conditions are safe. However, it is unusual for countries of first asylum [such as Thailand] to agree to such demands," as it raises concerns that individuals will again be "subject to persecution and other conditions that caused their flight in the first place".
Source: Three years and counting. The continuing plight of the 158 Lao Hmong held in the Nong Khai Immigration Detention Centre - http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/27490/three-years-and-counting?awesm=fbshare.me_GNmi
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has recognised 158 Lao Hmong as legitimate refugees and those having a genuine need for political asylum. UNHCR acknowledges the real danger many Lao Hmong refugees will face if the International community fails to prevent Thai authorities from deporting them. Some of the Refugees detained by Thai Authorities are known to be witnesses of an April 2006 jungle massacre whereby Lao troops are alleged to have killed 26 Hmong civilians. The Lao Government denies these allegations and claims that such attacks never took place.
Over the last three years, political analysts have painstakingly documented evidence that supports the ongoing persecution of Lao Hmong and Political Prisoners in secret detention centres throughout Laos. It is a broadly accepted view held by the International Community that the Lao Hmong Refugees will face similar persecution, arbitrary detention, torture, and possibly death, if forced back to Laos. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Foreign Prisoner Support Service have independently reported returnee abuse in Laos.
On December 23, 2000, while managing an international security company in Laos, my husband and I were centred in a dispute between our client and corrupt Lao Government officials. We endured brutal interrogations, mock executions, torture, and the forced separation from our three small children for 10 harrowing months. If not for the Australian government's strong intervention and lobbying, we would not have regained our freedom.
During that ordeal I witnessed the torture and ill treatment of many prisoners of which 58 from 100 were classified as 'political', mostly Lao Hmong. None of them had been charged with any crime or sentenced by any court. Some were held for 14 years without ever knowing why they were in prison. Some were legitimate UNHCR refugees but were forcibly deported from the Thai Refugee Camps in Nong Khai to Laos. These prisoners may never see the light of day. They bear the scars of brutal beatings and torture.
It is critical that the four countries, the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia, having agreed in 2006/2007 to repatriate these refugees do so without further delay.
Human rights advocates have been dealing with this issue for many years now. Many of us are frustrated that the situation has become worse when it should have easily been resolved. The UNHCR has called repeatedly for Thailand to end the Lao Hmong Refugee's detention but these appeals continue to fall on deaf ears.
UNHCR Calls for Thailand to end Lao Hmong Refugee Detention:
The conditions in which these Refugees are being held in Thailand are reportedly cramped and overcrowded. 11 babies have been born in detention. Women and children are detained inside two nine-by-nine meter cells and kept there for as long as 22 hours per day. Rarely do they see the sky. Parents are separated from their children, denied mosquito nets and clean clothing. This type of treatment is not only outrageous, it is abominable!
I strongly urge you to sign the 'Support the Hmong Petition' to bring greater pressure to the Thai Embassy and call on them to stop the forced deportation of these genuine refugees to Laos.
Support the Hmong Petition:
The Universal Declaration for Human Rights recognises the inherent dignity, equality and the inalienable rights of all members of the human family. It is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The Government of Laos is a signatory to this agreement. If you haven't read it yet then I urge you to do so now, then CONTACT the Lao Embassy and Thai Embassy nearest your location and demand that they adhere to those principles in which they have pledged to uphold.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Facebook Link: USA Stop the torture of Hmong Refugees in Thailand