Fears Rise Over Thai Repatriation of Ethnic Hmong to Laos

Story here. This is the latest in a very long saga. The Hmong fought with the US in Laos during the Vietnam War, and since the end of that war, many have languished in refugee camps. They did not all leave Laos at the war’s end; some have made their way here in the years since.

Thailand has grown tired of refugees, especially after the Cambodians and that whole Khmer Rouge period, and really the only thing keeping Thailand from shipping the remaining Hmong back wholesale to Laos is the international spotlight. About a year or so ago, they tried to do just that, tried to pile them all into trucks, but the Hmong violently resisted and managed to stand their ground. I know an Australian journalist who is heavily involved with reporting their plight, especially those in the Phethchabun camp mentioned in the link.

Just shipping the Hmong on over back to Laos would be a utter disaster, right? From the Hmong I know here (there are many thousands in Wisconsin and Minnesota) I get stories of the government hunting down Hmong in the hills like dogs. Seems like dumping a few thousand on the Lao front door is a terrible idea.

What is the long term solution? They cannot stay in the refugee camps for much longer, but (from what I know from word of mouth from the Hmong I worked with) they simply aren’t letting any more in to the US or France…

No one knows how it’s going to play out. Shipping them back to Laos would be a disaster, but Thailand wants to be rid of them and honestly does not care about hat happens to them as long as they’re out of Thailand. The UN has been trying to find third countries, but there seem to be no end of problems doing this for the ones still there for whatever reason. Presumably, the more “desirable” ones have already found homes abroad.

I can’t speak for other countries, but I, too, lived in a place where many Hmong immigrated (Chicago) and when they were brought over there was concern about enabling them to be independent and not on welfare or in a camp for the rest of their lives. That means bringing them to an area by the hundreds, maybe thousands, but you can’t do that with tens of thousands at once.

Even those that live in the community still struggle with finding employment, especially the older the generation. The younger adults and the kids are doing better, as is the usual pattern. There have been a LOT of problems with them adjusting, even with help, and there was a time period where Hmong men were being found dead in their beds that was, I think, attributed at least in part to the extreme stress they were under.

Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing more of them over here but, like I said, there’s the problem of integrating them into the community. Wouldn’t solve the problem to simply dump them en masse in yet another spot. Despite their struggles with adjusting, from what you say the ones that came here are probably a lot better off than the folks left in Thailand.

You are right when you say that the older Hmong have a very difficult time adjusting here in the US. But, as you also mentioned, the young 2nd and 3rd generation (who most likely were born here) are adapting super quickly, especially the girls. Don’t forget that these folks were essentially hill tribes, dare I even say backwards (for lack of a better term… you know what I mean).

There is already a network of Hmong here in the US, willing to help the newcomers adjust. They feel very, very strongly that since the US put them in the position to be in those refugee camps in the first place, that we should let them here to live and prosper. Most that I know are poor, but are certainly not on welfare. They work, they have HUGE families that work in the same factories and restaurants.

The old traditions fade (like arranged marriages at 13 or 14, 3rd generation is resisting that one pretty strongly) and blend with the new here.
I say let 'em in. Screw the deer hunters, they’re good people.

Al Jazeera has had several stories that may be helpful in understanding this situation:


“The Lost Tribe” is particularly affecting.

Another good source of information about the Hmong is a book called The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down. Although it focuses on the conflict between a Hmong family and their white doctors regarding the treatment of a Hmong girl with epilepsy, it gives quite a bit of background about Hmong culture and traditions and how they came to be in this situation.

Agreed. I teach with this ^, then my students follow up with the current status of Hmong in the US and the world.