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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
Hmong refugees receive Thai aid
By Kylie Morris
BBC, Phetchabun, Thailand

A young ethnic Hmong refugee from Laos shelters under a plastic tent along a roadside in Phetchabun province in north-eastern Thailand, Sunday, July 10, 2005.
The Hmong claim to have fled Laos because of continuing persecution
Aid groups in Phetchabun, in northern Thailand, have begun distributing blankets and medicine to as many as 5,000 Hmong refugees.

The Hmong claim to have fled Laos because of continuing persecution by the communist government.

But there is no indication they will be allowed to stay in Thailand.

While a decision has yet to be made on their future, thousands of them are living by the roadside, using plastic sheeting and bamboo to build shelters.

It is now rainy season in Thailand, and nights in the mountains are cool. Doctors working for the aid agency Medicins Sans Frontieres say half the patients they have seen are children, and the majority of them have pneumonia or bronchitis.

There is no sanitation and a shortage of clean drinking water. Many of the refugees say they undertook the arduous journey across the border because they believed the United States was taking in Hmong from Laos.

They have arrived to learn that is not true. The US has no plans to allow more Hmong refugees to migrate, after concluding a programme to resettle 12,000 Hmong who had been living in Thailand.

Desperate

I spoke to one woman who was waiting for medical treatment for her feverish baby son.

She told me that going back to Laos meant death for her and her family, and they would rather die in Thailand than go back.

Local Thai traders have been told not to sell supplies to the newly arrived refugees.

The government has threatened land owners who shelter the families with fines.

There is still debate in Bangkok as to whether the refugees should be sent back en masse into Laos, but the United Nations Refugee Agency has cautioned against any mass deportation, and has asked instead that each case be assessed individually.


SEE ALSO:
Forgotten Hmong find new home
14 Sep 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Hmong ordered from Thai camp
25 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Hmong refugees reach US
22 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Laos' forgotten Hmong
02 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific



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