UNHCR asks Thailand to clarify situation of BBC guide to Laos

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has asked the Thai government for clarification of allegations that a Lao Hmong man, Joua Va Yang, has been mistreated in Huay Nam Khao camp in Petchabun province, northern Thailand, and is in danger of being deported to Laos. The camp is home to more than 5,000 Lao Hmong to whom UNHCR has never had access.

Joua Va - who led a team of BBC journalists into the jungles of Laos to document the plight of the Hmong in 2004 - is reportedly now in Khao Kho prison in Petchabun with his wife and four children. UNHCR has asked the Thai government to ensure respect for the customary principle of non-refoulement, which means that no refugee or asylum-seeker should be forced to return to a country where he or she could face persecution.

UNHCR continues to urge the Thai government to review the status of Lao Hmong in the country in a fair and transparent manner based on internationally accepted norms. It is concerned that the continued lack of transparency in the treatment of the Lao Hmong in Petchabun undermines confidence in the commitment of Thailand to ensuring that international principles are respected.

Lao Hmong began gathering in Huay Nam Khao camp in large numbers in mid-2005. Some 2,000 have been sent home since Thailand began repatriating them in February 2007. UNHCR reiterates its offer to the Thai government to help find solutions for this group, including by playing its traditional role in voluntary return.