Bangkok – They were once recruited by the CIA to help American troops when the Vietnam War spilled into Laos. The enemies in that war have long made up but the Hmong of Laos are still paying for the sins of their fathers who fought for the losing side. They remain persecuted at home and when they try to flee overseas, nobody - not even their former paymasters - wants them.
The Thai authorities, worried about the growing number of Hmong who have crossed the Laotian border into Ban Huay Nam Khao in Phetchabun province in recent months, want nothing more than have them booted out of Thailand as soon as possible.
There are now some 6,500 Hmong in the Thai district who say that they are afraid to go home because the Laotian government has launched a large-scale crackdown.
According to the BBC, the Laotian government has often accused the Hmong of being the cause of the country’s problems such as the high levels of deforestation and widespread cultivation of opium. There are also unconfirmed reports that the Hmong are fighting a low-level war against the government.
"We know we entered the country illegally. We know it's not right. But we have no place to go. If we are sent back, we’re as good as dead," said 57-year-old Sub-Lieutenant Pajai sae Ma, who claims to be the leader of the Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao. He urged the United States to help his people.
"The US must take responsibility for us because we worked for the CIA-backed campaign against the communists. But in 1975, the US pulled out and abandoned us. We were left to fight on our own," he added.
The Thai authorities are concerned that the Hmong refugees will give rise to a host of problems, such as undermining Bangkok’s relationship with Vientiane. Intelligence reports also reveal that some of the refugees are involved in drug trafficking.
Phetchabun governor, Mr Direk Thuengang, said all the Hmong refugees must either be repatriated or sent to a third country. “All, not a few dozen, must be relocated. Otherwise, they’d sneak back,” Mr Direk said.
* Petchabun's Hmong refugees 'must be relocated' (Bangkok Post, June 19)
* Hmong cry out for US saviour (Bangkok Post, June 19)