Hmong: Thailand Sends 190 Hmong Back to Laos
A total of 190 ethnic Hmong from 44 families on Monday [2 Febuary 2009] voluntarily returned to their places of origin in Laos, from camps in northeastern Thailand.
They were seen off at the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge spanning the Mekong River by Thai military officers, led by Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Gen. Worapong Sanganet.
The bridge connects the current terminus of the State Railways of Thailand with the Lao capital of Vientiane.
Thailand has previously repatriated 11 groups of Hmong to Laos and has so far sent back 2,057 people from the ethnic minority group to their homeland to date.
Monday's [2 Febuary 2009] repatriation came after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva visited the Laotian capital of Vientiane late last month.
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has said the problem of about 4,000 ethnic Hmong now living in Thailand is being resolved, with some of them possibly wanting to settle in a third country.
Many men among the Hmong helped the United States fighting against the communist Pathet Lao (Lao Peoples' Army) during the height of the Indochina War in the 1960s and the 1970s.
After the communist victory, many Hmong fled their home country and settled in the US and other Western countries, while many remain in Thailand and are reluctant to return to their homeland for fear that the Lao government might persecute them.