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Thailand 6 July 2007

Military bans media from visiting Hmong refugee camp

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the ban which Thailand’s military authorities imposed this week on journalists visiting a Hmong refugee camp at Ban Huay Nam Khao, near the country’s northern border with Laos.

“This news blackout will allow the military to ignore all their international obligations towards the refugees and to quietly carry on expelling people who are in danger of being persecuted by the Laotian authorities,” the press freedom organisation said.

According to The Nation newspaper, the military also asked the media to portray Thai officials in a favourable light and not report the mistreatment of Hmong refugees. The media were also urged to play up the negative aspects of the Hmong presence in the region.

The camp contains about 7,000 members of Laos’ Hmong ethnic minority, who have been fleeing Laotian repression since 1975. On the orders of the Thai authorities, the refugees were moved a few days ago to a new site 4 km north of Huay Nam Khao. Until now, the Laotian Hmong refugees had been living alongside Thai Hmongs.

The Thai government regards the refugees as illegal immigrants and deported 163 of them on 9 June.

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