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(New York, December 22, 2011) – Authorities in Thailand forcibly handed over a registered refugee, Ka Yang, and his family to Laotian officials at the Thai-Lao border in Ubon Ratchathani province on December 17, 2011. The move violates international law, Human Rights Watch said today.

International refugee law, binding on Thailand and Laos, prohibits “refoulement,” which is the forcible return of anyone to persecution or to a place where their life or freedom is threatened. Thai authorities previously forced back Ka Yang, an ethnic Lao Hmong, to Laos in 2009.

Ka Yang is a registered refugee recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok. On December 24, 2009, the US government accepted his application for resettlement to the United States. However, later the same day, the Thai authorities forced Ka Yang and 157 other Lao Hmong back to Laos.

Ka Yang subsequently fled Laos and returned to Thailand. Thai immigration authorities detained him and his family earlier this year at Bangkok’s immigration detention center. Both UNHCR and the US embassy in Bangkok asked the Thai authorities not to return Ka Yang to Laos again, but those requests were not heeded.

Human Rights Watch has been unable to establish the location of Ka Yang and his family in Laos.

“The Thai government has shown callous disregard for the most basic right of refugees not to be returned to face persecution,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “By twice returning Ka Yang to Laos, which has long mistreated its Hmong population, Thailand is saying it cares little about protecting refugees and respecting their basic rights.”

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