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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Hmong refugees reach US
Hmong refugees check lists of those eligible for resettlement in the US (18/06/04)
Thousands of Hmong are set to follow
A scheme to resettle ethnic Hmong refugees from Thailand to the United States has got under way.

The first group of 24 Hmong arrived in the US on Tuesday, and another group was expected to travel this week.

It followed a US agreement last year to accept up to 14,300 refugees now living in Thailand's Wat Tham Krabok camp.

Up to 300,000 Hmong fled to Thailand after Laos fell under communist rule in 1975. The Hmong fought for the US army and have feared reprisals ever since.

Most of the first group to arrive in the US were headed for the US state of Minnesota, where about 60,000 Hmong already live.

Pierre King, senior official of the International Organisation for Migration, told the AFP news agency: "A second group of a similar size of 24 to 25 will leave on June 24 and later we hope to organise more frequent flights".

The US agreement to accept qualifying refugees from Wat Tham Krabok was designed to answer long-running criticism that it had turned its back on the Hmong.

The refugee camp, based near Saraburi, 130 km (80 miles) north of Bangkok, is the only official centre in Thailand for Hmong refugees. It has been regarded by the Thai authorities as a base for rebel activities and Thailand had pushed for it to be shut down.

The Hmong's ties to the US are complicated. During the Vietnam War, large numbers of ethnic Hmong sided with the US army as the conflict spread into neighbouring Laos, and provided an important support role.

But at the end of the war, the US Government stopped its support for the Hmong.

When a communist movement ousted the US-backed Lao royal family in 1975, as many as a third of the Hmong population are thought to have fled.




SEE ALSO:
Hmong's new lives in Caribbean
10 Mar 04  |  Asia-Pacific
US to take Hmong refugees
18 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Laos' forgotten Hmong
02 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Laos frees jailed reporters
09 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Laos
28 Dec 02  |  Country profiles


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