Forced Return of Lao Hmong Asylum Seekers

Press Statement
Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 27, 2009

We understand that the Royal Thai Government is now in the midst of an operation to forcibly return Lao Hmong asylum-seekers to Laos. Both the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Royal Thai Government have deemed many of them in need of protection because of the threats they might face in Laos. We deeply regret this serious violation of the international humanitarian principles that Thailand has long been known for championing.

The United States strongly urges Thai authorities to suspend this operation. We also urge the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to treat humanely any Lao Hmong who are involuntarily returned, to provide access for international monitors, and facilitate resettlement opportunities for any eligible returnee. We will remain engaged in this important humanitarian issue.

PRN: 2009/1316