Thai gov’t: ‘Hmong go home’

As reported by the Associated Press, thousands of Hmong refugees, who were forced to flee their native Laos after being recruited and then abandoned by the United States during the Vietnam War, are being evicted from a refugee camp in Northern Thailand. Under pressure from the Thai government, landlords in Huay Nam Khao reportedly have thrown some 6,500 Hmong out of their bamboo shelters and are refusing to even to sell them food.

According to local Hmong community leader Ger Vang, the Thai government, which considers the Hmong to be illegal aliens, is making a play for international assistance. Because the country is unable under international law to accept refugees, it has long struggled with the influx of Hmong. More than 300,000 have fled there since the end of the Vietnam War to escape persecution by the Communist regime in Laos. The U.S. has taken in about 10,000 Hmong and has agreed to take in some 5,300 more, but those left in Thailand face a life in permanent limbo. Many believe they will be killed if they attempt to return to Laos.

“This group is not covered under the [U.S.] resettlement plan,” Vang said. “Many didn’t pass the screening process to come to the U.S. They are hoping the U.S. will be able to resettle them; that’s why they have all come together in one location.”

But that has led to a situation in which the tightly knit Hmong have become a political gaming chip of sorts. Many of the dispossessed are simply setting up camps by roadsides and waiting for the world community to act.

“The Thai government does not have the resources to support so many people,” Vang said. “The Laotian government doesn’t want to accept them. This is all politics.”

Vang is a member of Oroville’s Fact Finding Commission, which made international news last month when its founding members, Ed and Georgie Szendrey, were briefly detained by the Laotian government after overseeing the surrender of nearly 200 Hmong dissidents who had been hiding in the jungle for years. The Szendreys were interrogated but eventually released unharmed. For more information, visit the commission’s Web site at