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Hmong-Lao in Petchabun must be protected

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Medecins Sans Frontieres, an international medical and humanitarian aid organisation, has criticised the government of Thailand for its planned repatriation of Hmong-Lao asylum seekers. The government of Thailand cannot continue to ignore international pressure to protect the Hmong-Lao.

(Bangkok, 2 November 2007) Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) issued a statement on 31 October criticising the government of Thailand for its bilateral agreement with the government of Laos, to repatriate the almost 8,000 ethnic Hmong-Lao people living in the Huai Nam Khao camp in Petchabun province, Thailand.

MSF, the only international organisation allowed in the camp, has been providing medical assistance to residents since 2005. Working directly with the Hmong people in the camp, their opinion on the matter of repatriation should be highly respected. MSF states that the Hmong-Lao that they work with constantly tell them “how afraid they are of being sent back to Laos”. They added that the pending repatriation “not only violates international standards on repatriation of refugees, but shows a basic disrespect for the dignity and safely of people who are living in fear”1. MSF stresses that residents of the Huai Nam Khao camp have legitimate reasons to fear return to Laos.

By the end of 2008, the Thai government has stated that it will repatriate all Hmong-Lao living in the Huai Nam Khao camp. This mass repatriation is building on the May 2007 bilateral agreement between Thailand and Laos to return asylum seekers to Laos as soon as they arrive in Thailand. The government of Thailand has not granted refugee status to the Hmong-Lao, nor does it permit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to any Hmong-Lao asylum seekers to assess their refugee claims.

FORUM-ASIA joins MSF in demanding that the government of Thailand allow the UNHCR or another independent third party to adequately assess the claims of the Hmong-Lao in the Huai Nam Khao camp. Thailand, as a member of the United Nations, has an obligation to protect all people who seek asylum within its borders; repatriating the Hmong-Lao directly violates this obligation.

For more information, please contact:
Ethnic Minorities in Southeast Asia Programme, +66 (02) 391 8801 (ext
105), [email protected]


1 MSF Press Release 31 October 2007