Thailand moves to send 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to Laos

PHETCHABUN, Thailand — Thailand sent army troops with shields and batons to evict some 4,000 ethnic Hmong from a refugee camp Monday and send them back to Laos despite concerns they will be persecuted by the Laotian government.

PHETCHABUN, Thailand — Thailand sent army troops with shields and batons to evict some 4,000 ethnic Hmong from a refugee camp Monday and send them back to Laos despite concerns they will be persecuted by the Laotian government.

The Thai government claims most of the Hmong are economic migrants who entered the country illegally and have no claims to refugee status, and says it has assurances from Laos that the Hmong will be well-treated.

Hmong tribe members fought during the Vietnam War era on the side of a pro-American government in Laos before it fell to the communists in 1975, and the Hmong claim they have been persecuted by the government ever since.

The Thai army’s co-ordinator for the operation, Col. Thana Charuwat, said 5,000 soldiers, officials and civilian volunteers were involved in the eviction. He said the troops carried no firearms and that their shields and batons met international standards for dealing with situations in which people are being moved against their will.

Two dozen trucks with about 20 soldiers each could be seen heading toward the refugee camp early Monday. A large contingent of troops already were inside the sealed-off camp. Journalists were barred from the camp and were allowed no closer than a press centre about 7 miles (12 kilometres) away.

The army would ask the Hmong to go voluntarily and hoped the operation would be completed within 24 hours, Thana said. The Hmong were to be put on buses going to the Thai border town of Nong Khai, and then across to Laos, heading to the Paksane district in the central province of Bolikhamsai, Thana said.

There was no resistance about an hour into the operation, Thana said.

Human rights groups expressed fear that the Hmong would resist, as they have during smaller-scale repatriations, and that the eviction could turn violent.

Sunai Phasuk, a Thai representative for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, said mobile phone signals inside the camp had been jammed. Soldiers, police and other security personnel are on standby near the camp with body armour, the group said.

“It never happens smoothly,” Sunai said. “If the Hmong resist it and there is an eruption of violence, the army may react in full force.”

The United States and human rights groups have said some of the Hmong could qualify for refugee status and should not be sent back. State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that to repatriate such people would “imperil the well-being of many individuals” and violate international principles.

Laos has in the past denied the Hmong are Lao citizens, describing them as Thailand’s problem, though Bangkok says Laos has agreed to take this group back.

“We have assurances from the top level of Laos that these people will be safe and sound,” Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

Just Posted

Cannabis legalization won’t impact one Red Deer pot dispensary

Nothing changes for Compass Cannabis Clinic in Red Deer despite legalization

Cannabis retail store will open later in October in Red Deer

Two cannabis stores coming to downtown Red Deer

Neighbours drop opposition to Red Deer County communications tower

Communication tower to be located in Balmoral Heights

Legal cannabis comes with many unknowns: Red Deer County councillors

Councillors question how rural municipalities will be able to enforce cannabis regulations

Kitten season puts pressure on Red Deer shelter

More public education needed to control cat population

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

‘Start low, go slow’: Experts walk bud beginners through cannabis 101

With the countdown to cannabis legalization Wednesday ticking towards 4-20, some novice… Continue reading

NHL stays with status quo as Canada pot legalization looms

As Riley Cote took and delivered countless punches over more than a… Continue reading

Paul Stanley: Kiss farewell tour could include ex-members

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It won’t be all night, but former members… Continue reading

Judge tosses Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump

WASHINGTON — A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President… Continue reading

Canada open to growing trade with China now that USMCA is a done deal: PM

TORONTO — Canada is open to doing more business with China now… Continue reading

Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

VANCOUVER — Police departments across Canada are fully prepared for marijuana legalization… Continue reading

Campers will be able to smoke cannabis at campsites in Canada’s national parks

Parks Canada says visitors should do their research on cannabis before going… Continue reading

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to deny Canadian producers’ ‘competitive advantage’

WASHINGTON — An American cannabis producer is warning President Donald Trump that… Continue reading

Most Read