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Fate unknown – ethnic Hmong children at risk in Laos


Makeshift tents for ethnic Hmong refugees, Phetchabun Province.
Some 23 ethnic Hmong children risk torture and other ill-treatment while being held in an undisclosed location in Laos.

Deemed "illegal" immigrants by the Thai authorities, they were arrested in November 2005 whilst visiting a church, and deported on 5 December. They have been in detention since then, for no known reason; separated from their parents and families for more than four months.

According to sources, the children – 20 of whom are girls – have endured appalling conditions. Aged 12 to 16, they are said to be "in bad condition", and to have suffered ill-treatment. Some of them may have been tortured.

The children were living among a community of some 6,000 Hmong refugees in the Thai village of Ban Huay Nam Khao. Many of the refugees claim to have sought sanctuary in Thailand after being persecuted for their connection to the armed resistance against the Lao government.

But the Thai government defines them as illegal immigrants while the Lao authorities do not believe them to be of Lao nationality. The community thus clings precariously to its position, rejected by one country and unrecognized by another.

Despite the children’s detention in Laos, reportedly in a village in Bolikhamsay province east of the capital Vientiane, the authorities continue to deny any responsibility. They claim they are searching for the children, but have refused offers of humanitarian assistance from UN agencies and international missions to help reconcile them with their families.

Please send appeals:
  • express concern that up to 29 Lao ethnic Hmong, at least 23 of them children have been detained, ill-treated and possibly tortured since they were forcibly returned from Thailand on 5 December 2005;

  • urge them to establish the group's whereabouts and to ensure that they are released immediately and allowed to return to Thailand to be reunited with their families;

  • urge them to launch an independent and thorough investigation into the events, and to bring those responsible to justice;

  • call on them to ensure that they fully uphold their obligations as a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    Send appeals to:
    Bounyang Vorachit - Prime Minister
    Office of the Prime Minister
    Ban Sisavat, Vientiane
    Lao People’s Democratic Republic
    Fax: + 856 21 213560
    Salutation: Dear Prime MinisterKhamouane Boupha
    Minister of Justice
    Ministry of Justice
    Lane Xang Avenue, Vientiane
    Lao People’s Democratic Republic
    Fax: +856 21 414 102
    Salutation: Dear Minister

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