Thai authorities forcibly return recognised refugee to Laos –HRW

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22 Dec 2011 11:48

Source: alertnet // Thin Lei Win

By Thin Lei Win

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Thai authorities forcibly handed over a registered Hmong refugee and his family to Lao officials on Saturday, in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.

Ethnic Hmongs regularly flee Laos saying they face routine attacks by the Lao military and that they would face torture if they returned home. Distrust between the two sides runs deep, and mounted in the Vietnam War when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited Hmongs to fight alongside U.S. forces.

According to the rights group, Ka Yang is a registered refugee recognised by the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR in Bangkok and this is the second time he has been forcibly returned to Laos.

“The Thai government has shown callous disregard for the most basic right of refugees not to be returned to face persecution,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW.

“By twice returning Ka Yang to Laos, which has long mistreated its Hmong population, Thailand is saying it cares little about protecting refugees and respecting their basic rights,” he added.

HRW said it has been unable to establish the location of Ka Yang and his family in Laos.

Thailand has been deporting Hmongs from its shores forcibly since 2006.

Although the country is not party to a 1951 global convention on the status of refugees, the principle of non-refoulement – where no refugee or asylum-seeker should be forced to return to countries where they face persecution – still applies.

On December 24, 2009, the day when the U.S. government accepted Ka Yang’s application for resettlement to the United States, the Thai authorities forced Ka Yang and 157 other Lao Hmong back to Laos, HRW said.

After Ka Yang fled Laos again and returned to Thailand, Thai immigration authorities detained him and his family at Bangkok’s immigration detention centre.

Both UNHCR and the U.S. embassy in Bangkok asked the Thai authorities not to return Ka Yang to Laos again, HRW said.

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)




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