Angry Thai Official Challenges U.S. to Admit More Refugees

From Reuters

The government today challenged the United States to take more refugees from Thailand after Washington charged Bangkok with serious violations of refugee human rights over Hmong tribesmen.

U.S. Ambassador William Brown called at the Foreign Ministry to "express strong concern" at the forced repatriation of 38 Hmong hill tribesmen to Laos from Ban Vinai refugee camp on March 15, the U.S. Embassy said.

A U.S. spokesman in Washington on Wednesday called the incident a serious breach of human rights and "possibly the most serious instance of forced repatriation from Thailand since 1979."

Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Praphas Limphaphan told Brown that Bangkok was investigating the incident and that Thais were upset by the U.S. charges, spokesman Somphan Kokilanonda said.

Praphas challenged Washington, which has promised to settle 9,000 Hmong refugees this year, to take half of the 50,000 in Ban Vinai camp, Somphan said.

"If the United States is so concerned with the human rights of 38 Hmong, it must be even more concerned about larger groups," Somphan said.

He told reporters that Thailand will continue to humanely treat Indochinese fleeing their homelands but added that any among them who were not genuine refugees would be considered illegal immigrants and eventually returned to their countries.

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