Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Repatriation of Hmongs

I was lounging on the chair idly, watching CNA when I caught sight of the scrolling words at the bottom of the screen. Thailand is planning to repatriate 4000 Hmongs back to Lao PDR. (Incidentally, it is not Laos but Lao PDR. There have been many gross misrepresentations of the name in the media. It would be good to not perpetuate it further if possible.)

Anyway, I was reading Refugee Manipulation not so long ago. 4000 refugees doesn't seem a lot when you compare it to a mass exodus of refugee in times of crisis. Two schools-worth of people, maybe?

When you are a refugee, you are meat. The term 'refugee' alone, grants you the status of a victim, you are merely waiting for a bully to appear. The Hmongs, now they are really a sad lot for an ethnic group.

After being recruited by the U.S to fight in the 'secret war' against the Vietnamese, the Hmongs are now 'betrayed' after dying for the U.S geopolitical interest. Shepherded around without autonomy, being told by entities that it is safe to go back now, being used and then thrown away.

How safe is it to be repatriated really? How much has been forgotten?

The Vietnam War ended in 1976. It has been at least 30 years. Babies born in refugee camps are now adults and would consider the area that they reside in, home. There have been accounts of brutal treatments after repatriation. It is possible that stories could have been made up because refugees simply don't want to be uprooted and repatriated.

Refugees may also not want to be repatriated because there is a chance that they can be granted refugee status in developed countries. There could be one or two who wouldn't mind telling a horror story so that they can move on to the U.S. Mind you, I am just speculating. Undeniably, refugees face a tremendous amount of stress and pressure with a life of restriction and uncertainty.

That brings to mind the issue of human rights, which I have always found to be a bucket of hogwash under close scrutiny.

Whose rights do you uphold? Don't the Hmongs have a right to a healthy life and mind free from threats? Yet these same rights infringe upon the rights of the Thais. Don't the Thais have a right to their land and a peaceful, healthy life free from stress too?

On a sidenote, as recent as 2007, a plot of Hmongs planning to overthrow the Lao government was discovered and there are still resistance efforts by the Hmongs in Lao. Looking back on the efforts made to crush the ethnic group, it would be nothing short of a miracle if they ever succeed.

How much responsibility do the countries involved in a war half a century ago have? How long do they need to continue the obligations for, especially when a problem like this does not have an easy solution.

I guess sometimes all the options are wrong and we just have to do what we believe is needed. If a clash ensues, all we can hope for is that the end result will be one of lesser evil and we are strong enough to weather the storm and shoulder the consequences, hoping that in time, people will forget. If nothing else, we are pretty good at that.

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