Thailand deports asylum seekers

KHEK NOI: The Thai army today rounded up thousands of ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers and began returning them to communist Laos despite international protests

over fears they could face persecution.

A force of 5,000 armed with batons and shields entered the camp in Huay Nam Khao village in northern Thailand before dawn to load the Hmong on to trucks, said Colonel Thana Charuvat, coordinator of the operation. Thana said a total of 4,371 Hmong had all left the camp. “The operation finished in the late afternoon and those Hmong are all on their way back to Laos,” he said, adding that they all would have left Thai soil by Monday night. In Geneva, the UN refugee agency said it was “dismayed” by the expulsions and joined the United States in urging Thailand to halt

the operation.

The Hmong were seeking asylum in Thailand claiming they face persecution by the Laotian regime for fighting alongside US forces during the Vietnam War, and the issue has long been a sticking point between the two neighbours.

“I call upon the Thai government to halt the forced return of the Lao Hmong, some of whom have international protection needs,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in a statement.