Laos is now insisting that the 158 in Nong Khai be forced back to Laos, even though the Thai Govt said they could be sent to 3rd countries
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LINK TO THE ARTICLE: Send the Hmong back Laos says, By Supalak GanjanakhundeeThe NationLaos insisted yesterday that 158 Hmong refugees being detained in Nong Khai must be repatriated back to Laos as normal migrants. The Nation – 5/14/09: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2009/05/14/regional/regional_30102668.php (see below)
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Send the Hmong back, Laos says
By Supalak GanjanakhundeeThe Nation
Laos insisted yesterday that 158 Hmong refugees being detained in Nong Khai must be repatriated back to Laos as normal migrants.
"We have cleared a common understanding that they have to return to Laos first. If any-body wants to settle in other countries, we will consider that case-by-case," Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said.
Thongloun is in Thailand accompanying Lao President Choumaly Sayasone on a state visit. He met and discussed the Hmong refugee case - which has drawn condemnation from the UN - with his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya.
If any third countries wanted to resettle the Hmong they should contact the Lao government directly, Thongloun said.
The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all said they are ready to take some of the 158 Hmong, who have been held at Nong Khai Immigration Detention Centre for over two years.
The refugees, who say they fled to Thailand following an alleged massacre near Vang Vieng in April 2006, strongly oppose any return to Laos. They have told supporters they will forcibly resist any such move, as they fear Lao authorities will jail their leaders rather than allow them to go abroad.
Countries such as the US had planned to resettle the Hmong - all of who have refugee status - via Thailand.
The plight of the Hmong in Nong Khai has been uncertain since Kasit said last month they were political asylum seekers eligible for resettlement overseas.
Laos objected, insisting the 158 were normal illegal migrants who should be sent back to Laos with 5,000 other Hmong, living in a camp in Phetchabun's Ban Huay Nam Khao.
"Shall we stick to the policy which we have already agreed?" Thongloun said. "All ethnic Hmong should return to Laos. Thailand is ready to repatriate and Laos is also to receive them," he said.