The attempted handover of the 152 Hmong refugees at Nong Khai immigration detention centre to Lao government officials on January 30 was a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, as United Nations member states, the Laos PDR and Thailand governments should respect. http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/02/13/letters/letters_30026699.php
We at the Hmong International Human Rights Watch strongly believe that this group of 152 refugees, or any other group of Hmong who have well-founded fear of persecution, should be protected under this international human rights law.
On February 9, the Lao PDR government announced that the group of 53 Hmong that was deported on November 15 last year had returned home safely, and that the group of 152 would receive the same treatment. However, it is critical to understand that the situation for the group 53 is different from this group of 152. Real refugees should not be confused with economic opportunists. The group of 53 revealed that they had houses and businesses - one of them is the owner of a guesthouse in Vientiane. In addition, the group of 53 consisted of victims of human trafficking, while the group of 152 are victims of political persecution and should therefore be treated individually case by case. This applies to the Hmong living at Huay Nam Khao in Phetchabun as well.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has earned the respect he deserves for making a wise decision to help save the 152 Hmong refugees' lives and for acting according to international laws. He deserves praise.
On behalf of the 152 refugees in Nong Khai, we would also like to express our sincere thanks to the diplomatic community for their intervention in the life and death situation on January 30. I also would like to thank Prime Minister Surayud for his great leadership in protecting these vulnerable refugees and giving them the chance to live and enjoy a life free of fear.
The Hmong people are brave and have strong relationships and loyalty to their allies. All they ask is to be able to live in peace, enjoy freedom and equal rights and have the opportunity to integrate with the general population without fear of persecution.
Laura Lo Xiong
Executive director, Hmong International
Human Rights Watch