Thursday, July 07, 2005

Hmong vow to kill themselves
6 Jul 2005
Bangkok Post


Phetchabun - One of 6,558 ethnic Hmong seeking refuge in Khao Kho district attempted suicide on Monday and 10 others have threatened to kill themselves after being evicted from temporary shelters pending repatriation to Laos.

Last month, National Security Council secretary-general Gen Vinai Pattiyakul said he would seek talks with Vientiane for the repatriation of the Hmong in Khao Kho, whom he said were all illegal immigrants and unlikely to win permission to settle in the United States since there was no evidence any of them had worked for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

About 2,000 of the Hmong claim they fought in the CIA-backed campaign against the communists in Laos. They were left to fight on their own after the US withdrew in 1975 and later fled Laos after crackdowns by Vientiane. They say they would not be safe if sent back to Laos.

The Hmong refugees, including children, women and the elderly, are now living on the roadside, about 5km from Huay Nam Khao village in Khao Kho. They use canvas sheets for protection from the sun and rain after they were evicted from bamboo houses they had built in the village ahead of Monday's deadline for land-owners to expel them or face charges for sheltering illegal immigrants. The charges carry maximum penalties of five years in prison and a 50,000-baht fine.Yonglee sae Lor, 43, was among the refugees who threatened to stab themselves to death if sent back to Laos. Their move came after Yiawa sae Li, 40, unsuccessfully tried to kill himself using poison.

''If we return to Laos, all of us will die. If we have to die, me and my fellow Hmong want to die here in Thailand,'' Mr Yonglee said, adding hundreds of the Hmong would kill themselves if forced to go back.

He claims to be a son of Bashaw sae Lor who served the CIA and was killed by Lao soldiers in 1971. He said he feared torture by Lao troops if he is sent back.Mr Yiawa who took poison but was saved by doctors on Monday said: ''If we are sent back to Laos, my wife, children and I will take poison and die together because we don't know what to live for.''He admitted he and his family had only fled Laos in April this year.

A National Human Rights Commission subcommittee on ethnic minority rights yesterday issued a statement asking the authorities to postpone the forced relocation and come up with measures that respect the Thai constitution.

Thanongsak On-aim, head of the hilltribe development centre in Ban Khek Noi of Khao Kho, said he sympathised with the Hmong, but must follow government policy. He said he awaited a provincial order to find them temporary shelter or send them somewhere else.Sub-Lt Pajai sae Ma, 57, the Hmong leader who says he is a former CIA soldier, said he believed many Hmong would kill themselves if they were deported.

''Now, we, the Hmong, have no one to turn to. We know we entered this country illegally, but we want the Thai government and the UN to give us humanitarian help and let us stay on or go to third countries. Please don't deport us to Laos because we've just run away from there. We'll die if we go back there,'' he said.

Hmong 'will be forced back'

No chance of US home for thousands of evicted refugees