Hmong refugee transported by military truck from Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in northern Thailand to Laos. Photo credit: Narong Sangnak/European Pressphoto Agency.

In a quick, one-day operation, Thai soldiers with riot shields and clubs evicted more than 4,000 Hmong asylum seekers from a holding center Dec. 28 and forcibly repatriated them to Laos, where they say they face retribution from their government. According to the New York Times, Thailand acted despite protests from the United Nations and human rights groups. Even as the soldiers were trucking the Hmong over the Mekong River into Laos, the United States government was calling on the Thai government to stop. A total of 4,371 men, women and children were removed from the camp and sent by bus for processing, said Sunai Pasuk, the Thailand representative of Human Rights Watch, who has been closely monitoring the eviction, which was closed to reporters. The 4,000 asylum seekers are a last remnant of as many as 300,000 Hmong who have fled Laos over the years since the Communist victory in 1975. Half of these were settled in the United States, and many others returned to Laos, most of them voluntarily. The current group of 4,000 is the largest to be sent back to Laos in many years.

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