WASSANA NANUAM & BHANRAVEE TANSUBHAPOL
Security authorities have resolved to repatriate to Laos over 6,000 ethnic
Hmong seeking refuge in Phetchabun's Khao Kho district.
Pallop Pinmanee, deputy director of the Internal Security Operations
Command (Isoc), said security agencies met last week to discuss the
presence of 6,558 Hmong in Phetchabun province and resolved that all of
them must be forced back over the border to Laos.
The National Security Council and the Police Immigration Bureau are the
authorities responsible for the repatriation. The Foreign Ministry would
be asked to coordinate with Vientiane to take the Hmong back.
``If Laos refuses to take the Hmong back, the authorities will take all
means necessary to push them back across the border. The Thai government
has no policy to open a refugee camp to house illegal immigrants or
shoulder this burden,'' Gen Pallop said.
He said the Hmong in Khao Kho, if allowed to stay on Thai soil, would pose
problems for the country.
``If we let them stay here any longer, they will form a settlement and
become a `second Tham Krabok'. Our country will be forced to shoulder a
big burden. We just closed down the Hmong settlement at Wat Tham Krabok
and don't want to see such a thing again,'' Gen Pallop said.
Authorities in Khao Kho had asked landowners not to shelter the Hmong or
face charges of sheltering illegal immigrants.
``Now we are waiting for the appropriate time. We will truck them to the
border regardless of whether the Lao authorities accept them or not. We
cannot allow these people to remain in our country,'' Gen Pallop said.
A source familiar with the area said the Hmong fled from Laos to Huay Nam
Khao village in Khao Kho district in September 2004. Many others followed
and their number eventually reached 6,558. They slipped across the border
via Loei's Thali district before being trucked to Huay Nam Khao village,
about 170km from Thali. The Hmong reportedly paid 2,000 baht each to the
About 400 of the Hmong are former soldiers of the US Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA), which fought against the communists in Laos. The former
soldiers and members of their families, about 2,000 people in total, fled
to Thailand to escape crackdowns in Laos.
Another 2,000 of the Hmong are those who previously stayed in the Tham
Krabok settlement but failed to win permission to settle in third
countries. The remaining 2,000 or so Hmong are illegal immigrants.
The source said Laos did not recognise these Hmong as Lao citizens and
does not want to take them back. It has reportedly deployed troops along
the border in Thali district for fear the Thai authorities might push the
Hmong back into Laos.
Third Army commander Lt-Gen Picharnmet Muangmanee said the Hmong in
Phetchabun posed a security problem to the country and must be repatriated.
He said some trafficking gangs had lured Hmong people by saying they would
get the chance to be resettled in third countries, including the US, if
they crossed the border to stay in Huay Nam Khao village.
Phetchabun governor Direk Thuengfang declined to comment on the planned
repatriation of the Hmong, saying that the National Security Council was