Thailand starts deporting Hmong ethnic group from Laos
New delhi: Thailand deporting ethnic Hmong refugee back from communist Laos. The army began Monday the forcible return of thousands of ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers to communist Laos despite international protests over fears they could face persecution. "The operation started at 5.30 am (2230 GMT Sunday)," Colonel Thana Charuvat, who is coordinating the repatriation, told reporters at an army centre about 12 kilometres (seven miles) from a camp in northern Thailand.This handout photo released by the army shows ethnic Hmong refugees gathered ruing an operation to deport thousands of them to Laos from a refugee camp in Phetchabun on Monday. He said 5,000 soldiers, officials and assisting civilian volunteers had entered the camp in Huay Nam Khao village in the province of Phetchabun to begin rounding up more than 4,000 Hmong being held there. "The operation is expected to take one day," he added. Security forces were seen heading towards the camp by truck armed with batons and shields, according to an AFP photographer at the army centre in Khek Noi village. Media were not allowed beyond that point. The Hmong are seeking asylum in Thailand claiming that they face persecution by the Laotian regime for fighting alongside US forces during the Vietnam War and human rights groups have warned they could resist the expulsion. Thailand says they are illegal economic immigrants, but has come under fire from the international community for refusing to grant the UN Refugee Agency access to them to assess whether any are political refugees. Thana said the group would be removed from the Huay Nam Khao camp by truck and later transferred to 100 buses that carry 40 people each.
"They will be transported from the camp to the army camp in Lom Sak district (in Phetchabun) before moving to immigration in Nong Khai (by the border) and going to Laos," he said.