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Thai authorities have allegedly arrested a Hmong refugee who once guided a BBC TV team to Laos to document atrocities committed against the minority group, a Hmong advocacy group claimed Sunday

March 29, 2009

Thai authorities arrest blacklisted Hmong refugee for deportation

“Around 8:30 pm Saturday night, Thai authorities in Huay Nam Khao camp arrested Joua Va Yang, a former guide for the BBC,” Chicago-based Hmong Advocate Joe Davy said in a statement.
“Witnesses on the scene claim that authorities had beaten Mr Yang very badly during the arrest,” Davy said.

In 2004, Yang led a team of BBC journalists into the jungles of Laos to document the ongoing plight of the Hmong, who claim to be hunted by the Lao military due to their past association with the US’s “secret war” in the South-east Asian country.

“Currently, the Thai military is believed to be rounding up other Hmong refugee leaders for deportation,” Davy claimed.

On March 25, Thailand agreed to repatriate the 5,400 ethnic Hmong living in Huay Nam Khao since 2004 to neighbouring Laos within the year.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand would pay 1.5 million baht (42,860 dollars) to the Lao government to help finance buildings at a village outside the current capital of Vientiane to receive the repatriated Hmong, the Thai News Agency reported. About 350 Hmong were repatriated Thursday from Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Phetchabun province, 250 kilometres north of Bangkok.

Past efforts to repatriate the Hmong, an ethnic minority group that formed the main anti-communist guerrilla force in the US military’s “secret war” in Laos in the 1960s and 70s, have met with resistance and raised concerns of human rights abuses.

For those unwilling to participate in the repatriation programme voluntarily, Kasit claimed the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry plans to contact third countries – including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – to consider accepting the Hmong for resettlement.

Earlier this month, the Thai military blocked food supplies to Ban Huay Nam Khao in an apparent effort to force the 5,400 “illegal immigrants” to return to Laos.

The Thai military reportedly cut off the food supplies to punish the Hmong camp inmates for refusing to be counted, which was seen by some Hmong as an initial step toward forced repatriation to Laos.

After Laos went communist in 1975, hundreds of thousands of Hmong fled and were resettled in the United States. Thousands more have stayed in Thailand, but they are under increasing pressure to join repatriation programmes.

Huay Nam Khao, supervised by the Thai military, has provided a home for Hmong refugees since 2004. Last month, the camp invited Lao officials to try to persuade the residents to return to Laos.

Camp residents claimed Thai authorities have been using new tactics to persuade the Hmong to return, such as making frequent arrests for minor offences, such as gambling.

Since November, about 200 Hmong have voluntarily returned to Laos from the camp each month, aid workers said. Thailand identifies the camp residents as “illegal migrants,” refusing to acknowledge them as refugees despite their claims of political persecution in Laos.//DPA

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