Forced Repatriation of Hmong Refugees to Laos Denounced

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tim Shenk
Press Officer
Direct: 212-763-5764
E-mail: tim.shenk@newyork.msf.org

Forced Repatriation of Hmong Refugees to Laos Denounced

MSF denounces the policy of forced repatriation of the Hmong population of Huai Nam Khao camp back to Laos, and refuses to work under military pressure

BANGKOK/PARIS - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounces the
growing pressure applied by Thailand's army to force the 5,000 Hmong
refugees living in Huai Nam Khao camp, in northern Thailand, to return
to Laos. Increasingly restrictive measures have forced MSF to put a
stop to its assistance activities after some four years of presence in
the camp.

The Thai and Laotian governments effectively reasserted last March that
they aim to repatriate all the Hmong back to Laos before the year is
out, and without any external supervision. The number of refugees being
repatriated has picked up since December 2008, reaching 500 last March.

During the last four months, the Thai army, present in the camp, has
introduced increasingly restrictive measures with the aim of pressuring
the Hmong into dropping their demands for refugee status and returning
"voluntarily" to Laos. The refugees talk of arbitrary arrests and cases
of forced repatriation.

Moreover, MSF denounces the methods employed by the Thai authorities,
who have stamped out any possibility of offering independent
humanitarian assistance to the camp's refugee population: restrictions
on the population's freedom of access to MSF's assistance, the
multiplication of military checks on the Hmong and MSF's staff. In the
light of these conditions, MSF has decided to stop its activities in
the camp.

"We can no longer work in a camp where the military uses arbitrary
imprisonment of influential leaders to pressure refugees into a
"voluntary" return to Laos, and forces our patients to pass through
military checkpoints to access our medical clinic," says Gilles Isard,
MSF head of mission in Thailand.

MSF once again calls on the governments of Thailand and Laos:

• To stop the forced repatriation of the Hmong refugees in Huai
Nam Khao and allow an independent third party to review the refugee
status determinations.

• To allow an independent third party to assess the areas of return and
the adequacy of assistance offered, monitor all repatriations, verify
the voluntary nature of returns, and ensure the continued safety of
returnees.

Furthermore, MSF requests any States that have already resettled Hmong,
or could be ready to do so, to offer them an alternative in accordance
with international law in terms of protection of people fleeing
persecution.

MSF has been providing medical and sanitation assistance to some
7,500 refugees in the Petchabun camp since 2005. Less than 5,000 still
remain. It has been the only international organisation present, and
could provide firsthand accounts of events in the camp. MSF also works
in Maesot, on the Myanmar border, offering care for patients with
tuberculosis and infected with HIV/AIDS. Other teams work in Phang Nga,
providing access to health care for Myanmar migrants, and in
Sangklaburi, where they run a cross-border malaria project supporting
ethnic Mon living inside Mon State (Myanmar).

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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.

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