Hmong forced repatriation and human rights

31 12 2009
PPT has posted on the forced repatriation of Hmong and there is now plenty of international condemnation of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government on this. PPT wants to make just two additional comments based on recent reporting.

First, in The Irrawaddy (28 December 2009), Marwaan Macan-Markar comments on the forced deportation in a report well worth reading. He comments on this as “a move that places greater weight on growing regional solidarity over historical ties with a western superpower,” meaning the United States.

While Eric Schwartz, the US assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration has complained that the deportation “is a deeply disappointing decision by the government of Thailand,” the Abhisit government appears not to care. Building relations regionally (except with Cambodia) seems to be safer for a government that is little interested in “Western” human rights issues. The government’s acting spokesman, Panitan Wattanayagorn, says the “time for negotiations is over…”.

This position was made especially clear by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya (Bangkok Post, 29 December 2009). Kasit rejected human rights groups’ claims the deportation would do them more harm than good.Kasit was critical of rights groups: “Why not have trust in Laos? He added: “Western countries do not trust in the cooperation between Thailand and Laos and between the peoples of the two countries…. Don’t look down on us.

Kasit has been a failed foreign minister, and each crisis – Rohinga, lese majeste, Cambodia and now this forced repatriation – has had to be handled by others, most usually Abhisit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Taugsuban, because Kasit is unable to comprehend the complexity of the issues involved and to articulate an appropriate and diplomatic response to international events and crises.

Second, Marwaan reports that the government’s acting spokesman as stating that the Abhisit government gave “instructions to the military officers that this move has to be conducted ensuring the safety of the Hmong and with no violations of their rights…”. As we previously reported, Prime Minister Abhisit made similar “rights” and “international practice” noises.

However, according to Human Rights Watch, Thai authorities have violated international refugee laws by using ‘intimidation’ to silence the Hmong. The coercive tactics included ‘light deprivation,’ separating parents from children and cutting off ‘access to clean water and proper sanitation.” Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ spokeswoman, Ariane Rummery is reported (Bangkok Post (30 December 2009): “We would express our dismay that they have gone ahead with the group of 158 people in Nong Khai who had been recognised as refugees by the UNHCR…. The forcible return of refugees to their country of origin is a violation of international customary law. It’s a departure from Thailand‘s longstanding humanitarian practice as a major country of asylum in the region and that’s a very grave example internationally.” Thailand acknowledges that these 158 had “obtained legal protection as people of concern” from the UNHCR.

According to The Nation (29 December 2009), the UNHCR pleaded with Prime Minister Abhisit to halt the repatriation but the premier rejected this and stated that “the deportation went smooth as planned and there was no resistance from the Hmong.Abhisit specifically rejected “concerns for their [the Hmong] wellbeing raised by the international community.” He said that all the returnees were “safe.”

This is just one more example of Abhisit’s human rights and rule of law rhetoric. In fact, Abhisit’s actions repeatedly demonstrate a disdain for these values. Thaksin Shinawatra once contemptuously said that democracy was a tool, not an end. Abhisit shows the same contempt. He uses high sounding terms as it suits him but has no respect for them as values.

It is high time the international media and rights groups recognized that Abhisit and his government now have an established track record as rights abusers.



5 responses

31 12 2009
12 01 2010
Migration, Deportation, Censorship « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] few weeks ago, we posted on the forced repatriation of the Lao Hmong asylum seekers in northeastern Thailand. Today, we have […]

3 10 2010
Kasit on Burma « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] law and would be resisted by the UN and the international community.” Well, yes, but if the Hmong forced repatriation has told Kasit and Abhisit anything, it is that critics are weak-kneed and have short attention […]

1 01 2011
What the mainstream media won’t report III | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] it has to be muted because of its power and centrality. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of Rohinga, Hmong and Burmese have all been thrown out, forcibly in recent years, and inhumanely. Where’s the […]

6 03 2011
Kasit at the U.N. Human Rights Council | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] much as the intolerance of border-crossers and asylum seekers (see a selection of PPT’s posts here and […]

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