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Thailand to speed up repatriation of Hmongs : FM  


By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Luang Prabang
Published on March 26, 2009

Thailand will today repatriate 350 Hmong refugees from Phetchabun to Laos, speeding up the repatriation of the remaining 5,500 by the end of this year, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.

The minister discussed the repatriation plan with his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith during a meeting of the Thai-Lao Joint Commission (JC) in the ancient city of Luang Prabang.

The deportation was made on a voluntary basis and outsiders can monitor the whereabouts and wellbeing of the Hmong in Laos, Kasit said.

Laos has prepared areas for the returnees in Vientiane province's Ban Pha Lak with pieces of land for residents and farming, said Thongloun.

If Thailand can repatriate all remaining Hmong refugees this year, Laos is ready in terms of budget and resources to take them back, he said.

After the JC meeting, Kasit handed over assistance funds of Bt 1.5 million to Thongloun to support a public health service in Pha Lak for the Hmong.

Thailand has already deported 2,057 Hmong to Laos since May 2007 after having sheltered some 8,000 ethnic minorities since late 2004.

The two ministers also discussed a so-called roadmap for Hmong repatriation during the JC meeting, Thongloun said.

Thailand's Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc), which takes care of the Hmong in Phetchabun's Ban Huay Nam Khao, is likely to run of out budget by September this year. Kasit said his government would allocate more funds for the Isoc if the repatriation could not be completed in time.

For another group of some 150 Hmong currently detained in Nong Khai's detention centre who want to resettle in third countries, Kasit said he would invite representatives from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States to consult on a possible resettlement plan.

However, first the 150 Hmong would be repatriated to Laos. The resettlement program would then begin, following agreement between Vientiane and the third countries, he said.

The JC meeting also discussed the progress of the land boundary demarcation, of which 676 out of 702 kilometres have been demarcated already. The remainder would be worked out by the end of this year, Kasit said.

The water boundary of 1,108 km, mostly along the Mekong River, would be demarcated by next year, he said.

The government would propose parliamentary approval for the demarcation negotiation framework this week, enabling the Joint Boundary Committee to achieve the task soon, he added.

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