Reviews of United Nations records and media reports show a patters of questionable if not barbaric treatment of refugees in Thailand. Currently, there are at least two regugee abuse situation inside Thailand and not just one…..
With global media attention on the Thai military’s alleged mistreatment of a group of refugee boat people from Myanmar, a larger and potentially more controversial refugee tragedy is unfolding on Thailand’s northeastern border with Laos.
By Brian McCartan
Thailand agreed last week to repatriate the remaining 5,000 ethnic Hmong refugees to Laos by June of this year. Both Bangkok and Vientiane see the Hmong refugees as an outdated vestige of the Cold War and a hindrance to greater economic integration. The Hmong are the persecuted remnants of a guerilla army trained and paid by the United States to fight a covert war in Laos from1961-74 against communist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces.
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When the Pathet Lao won and established a communist regime in 1975, hundreds of thousands of Laos, including many Hmong, fled to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand. Several thousand remained to carry on a desperate resistance against government forces in remote jungle-covered mountains.
On the run for decades, 4,000 to 5,000 Hmong fled the jungle in recent years to Thailand. By 2007, there were some 8,000 Hmong in Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Thailand’s Petchabun province. Another 2,000 or so armed Hmong and their families surrendered to the government between June 2005 and May 2007. An estimated 1,000 Hmong still remain on the run in Laos.
The United States, like Thailand, would clearly like to see the problem go away so that it can improve ties with the Lao government and counterbalance China’s growing influence in the region. The US in recent years offered to send soldiers to Laos to help build roads and schools; Laos declined the offer. Meanwhile, Washington has shown scant interest in resettling the latest batch of refugees, which would require a legal waver due to strict post-9/11 immigration laws that bar anyone who has ever taken up arms against a government.
In a sign of the US’s shifting attitude, it is currently prosecuting former Hmong resistance leader and ally Vang Pao and several other Hmong in the US for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Lao government. The new Thai government has curiously prioritized Lao relations, with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya making his first trip abroad to Laos and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva scheduled to visit on January 23.
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CNN has an in-depth report on the abuse of the refugees from Myanmar in Thailand:
A group of Rohingya migrants are seen in a boat at sea off of Koh Sai Daeng in southwest Thailand in this undated photo obtained by CNN. Pressure mounted on Thailand on January 26, 2009 to come clean on allegations the army towed Rohingya refugees out to sea and abandoned them in engine-less boats, after CNN showed pictures depicting exactly that.