FORUM-ASIA deeply regrets and condemns the attempted forcible deportation of 154 Lao Hmong refugees
29 January 2007 6:00 pm

FORUM-ASIA deeply regrets and condemns the attempted deportation of 154 Lao Hmong refugees detained at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Nong Khai by Lao and Thai authorities this morning. FORUM-ASIA has received information that prior to the attempted deportation, the governments of Lao and Thailand officially signed a bilateral agreement to deport the group in Nong Khai at 10:00 (GMT +07:00). While we welcome the decision by the two governments to halt the deportation today, we remain concerned about the possible risk of deportation in the future.The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a Bangkok-based human rights and development NGO, deeply regrets and condemns the attempted deportation of 154 Lao Hmong refugees detained at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Nong Khai by Lao and Thai authorities this morning.  FORUM-ASIA has received information that prior to the attempted deportation, the governments of Lao and Thailand officially signed a bilateral agreement to deport the group in Nong Khai at 10:00 (GMT +07:00). While we welcome the decision by the two governments to halt the deportation today, we remain concerned about the possible risk of deportation in the future.

FORUM-ASIA urgently appeals to concerned UN agencies, governments and donors, particularly those in Geneva, Bangkok and Vientiane, to take immediate action to guarantee the safety of the 154 refugees, as well as the 16 asylum seekers who were forcibly deported last Friday. Specifically, the 154 refugees must be guaranteed their resettlement to third countries as soon as possible, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should be allowed access to the 16 for screening.  The previous deportation to Laos of the 16 causes serious fear of arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment, including torture, by Lao authorities. The whereabouts of the 16 has not been officially confirmed to date.

All of the 154 are officially recognised as refugees by UNHCR.  FORUM-ASIA demands the governments of Laos and Thailand to confirm publicly the official cancellation of the deportation, nullify the bilateral agreement to deport the Lao Hmong, immediately release the 154 from the IDC, and allow UNHCR to resettle them in third countries.  We also call upon the concerned institutions to publicly express their concerns regarding the forcible deportation of the 16, the attempted deportation of 154 and violations of international human rights law, including the principle of non-refoulement and the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women that have been ratified by Thai and Lao governments (please refer to FORUM-ASIA Public Statement on 29 January 2007, hereby attached).  

This is another case in a series of targeted persecution of the Lao Hmong in recent history, including the 6 April 2006 massacre of unarmed 26 Hmong, who were mostly women and children, and the forcible deportation of 53 asylum seekers on 15 November 2006.  The 154 includes 77 children and 10 infants, who are in particular need of protection.  The international community must not only express its concerns, but also take consolidated action immediately.

FORUM-ASIA also appeals specifically to the following UN experts to take immediate action on this matter, including reporting to the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council (12 March – 5 April 2007):

  • Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Doudou Diene;
  • Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen;
  • Independent Expert on minority issues, Ms. Gay McDougall;
  • Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and
  • Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Detailed information regarding the attempted deportation:

In the morning of 30 January 2007, two buses from Laos were parked outside the IDC in Nong Khai.  Lao and Thai authorities forcibly placed 76 women and children, including two pregnant women, onto one of the buses.  The remaining 78 men and children resisted to be put on another bus by countering the force by the authorities to break into the cell.  At the same time, Lao and Thai authorities attempted to persuade the group to be deported, despite their refusal.

Even before the signing the bilateral agreement to deport the group at 10:00, two hospitalised refugees were transferred onto a Thai ambulance. One of them suffers from a serious liver condition, while the other has suffered from a bullet wound on the face.

At around 16:30, 76 women and children on the bus were returned to the IDC cell, and the two refugees were returned to the hospital. Unconfirmed information indicates that on the night of 29 January, local officers in charge at the IDC were replaced by those in higher-ranking positions.

For further information, please contact:

Miwa Igawa, Mekong Countries Programme Coordinator, FORUM-ASIA: e-mail (mekong@forum-asia.org), phone: +66 2 391 8801.
Momoko Nomura, UN Advocacy Programme Coordinator, FORUM-ASIA: e-mail (unadvocacy@forum-asia.org), phone: +66 2 391 8801.