Southeast Asia’s unwelcome people

Mark Berlin

The Hmong people, who mostly reside in Southeast Asia, have long suffered persecution in Laos. In the '60s and '70s, many Laotian Hmong collaborated with the CIA to fight the communist Pathet Lao. When the Pathet Lao took control of Laos in 1975, the Hmong were singled out for revenge. Since then, thousands of Laotian Hmong have sought refuge in the jungle and across the border in Thailand. The Thai government, however, does not recognize them as refugees. Last week, 5,000 Laotian Hmong attempted to march from a Thai refugee camp to Bangkok. Their aim? To draw attention to their plight and Bangkok's practice of forcibly returning Hmong to Laos. Thai authorities have responded by rounding up thousands of Hmong. On Sunday, 800 Lao Hmong refugees were forcibly returned to Laos by the Thai government, which intends to conduct further repatriations "in the coming days," according to Medicins Sans Frontieres. Earlier this month, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress calling upon the Thai government to stop repatriations and the Laotian government to cease its persecution of the Hmong. Al Jazeera English has this story on the Hmong refugees' miserable state:

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Mark Berlin is an editorial intern at In These Times.
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