I guess it is a done deal. Those 4,000 plus folks from Huay Nam Khao Camp in Northern Phetchabun Province are handed over to Laos Government. It seems like both countries are trying to carry out this mission without much of media affair. The Thai Government will not allow any media or any international agencies near the camp.
Now the focus shifted to Laos Government, how are they going about to relocate these folks. From this article I just read, they will be locate them to Borikhamxay Province. I wonder if Laos will allow any human rights group to follow these folks progress. It all remains to be seen.
Last illegal migrants return home
(Borikhamxay province) — A total of 4,508 Lao citizens who were detained in Thailand for several years after illegally entering the country returned to Laos yesterday.
Brigadier General Bouasieng Champaphanh ( right ) shakes hands with Lieutenant General Nipat Thonglek after the signing ceremony.
The migrants had crossed the border after being misled into believing they could travel from Thailand to the United States .
Prior to their return the migrants were held at Thai detention camps in Houaynamkhao village, Khaokhor district, Phetchabun province, and in Nong Khai province.
A signing ceremony to return the migrants was held between Chairman of the Lao-Thai General Border Sub-Committee, Brigadier General Bouasieng Champaphanh, and Lieutenant General Nipat Thonlek of the Royal Thai Armed Forces’ Department of Border Affairs.
The ceremony took place in Borikhamxay province and was attended by senior officials of both countries.
Brigadier General Bouasieng Champaphanh spoke to Lao and Thai media at a press conference after the ceremony, saying the returnees would be initially sent to a temporary centre in Pakxan district, Borikhamxay province.
Here government officials and local authorities would check the personal background of each returnee before, if possible, sending them to their hometown.
Brig Gen Bouasieng said those with homes would be sent back there, or otherwise go to live with their relatives, while those who no longer had a home or had previously engaged in shifting cultivation would be relocated by the government.
Homeless people are expected to live with families who had previously returned and are now living in Phalak village, Kasy district, in Vientiane province.
Brig Gen Bouasieng said Lao officials will educate the returnees to make sure they are not tricked into leaving the country again, and to prevent them falling victim to human trafficking.
Both Brig Gen Bouasieng a nd his Thai counterpart Lt Gen Nipat Thonlek commented that the increase in the number of returnees had been stimulated through efforts by Lao and Thai officials to prove that previous returnees are enjoying a better standard of living and safety in Laos .
After receiving information on the good hospitality and cooperation provided by the Lao government to previous returnees, in marked contrast to past rumours that returnees had experienced difficulties, more Lao migrants living in Thailand have returned.
“We have not forced them to return, they have all come back to Laos voluntarily,” said Lt Gen Nipat.
“We are happy to see the cooperation between our two countries bear fruit and I can confirm that there was no force involved.”
The repatriation of all illegal migrants to Laos is in line with the minutes of the 37th meeting of the General Border Sub-Committees of Laos and Thailand held last year in Vangvieng district, Vientiane province.
The meeting reached consensus to return all the illegal migrants by 2008, but the timescale for the plan ultimately failed.
The sub-committees met again in September this year in Luang Prabang province when they accorded to repatriate all Hmong migrants by the end of this year.
A total of 7,761 illegal migrants have been returned to Laos , with yesterday’s being the last group before the Thai detention camps are officially closed on Monday.
By Phaisythong Chandara
(Latest Update December 30 , 2009)