The United Nations refugee agency today called for an end the detention of 158 Lao Hmong, who have been held ever since they were rounded up in Bangkok for deportation three years ago.
“UNHCR calls on all parties to play their part in finding a humanitarian solution to their plight and end the detention of this group,” Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told a news conference in Geneva.
The children, women and men who are being held in two cells in an immigration detention centre in Nong Khai, Thailand, have been recognized as refugees, Mr. Mahecic said.
He noted that many of the Hmong living in the highlands of Laos took part in the war that engulfed Laos in the 1960s and 1970s. When the Pathet Lao came to power in 1975, many tens of thousands of Lao Hmong fled to Thailand seeking asylum, and large numbers were resettled in Western countries, mostly in the United States.
Four countries – the US, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands – have offered resettlement places to the refugees.
“We believe they should be allowed to leave Thailand for resettlement,” said Mr. Mahecic. “They have not committed any crime, and their detention serves no purpose.
“We believe that a solution for this group will not only respond to an urgent humanitarian need but also help turn one of the final pages in the refugee history of the Hmong in Thailand.”