I have mixed feelings about this. There is no doubt that the Hmong are genuine refugees — unlike the majority who make that claim — but they seem in general to be very egocentric and contemptuous of the rights of others (See here and here) — so are very low on acceptability as immigrants. I don’t blame the Thais

Thailand has sent army troops with shields and batons to begin evicting 4000 ethnic Hmong asylum-seekers from Thai camps and send them back to Laos despite strong objections from the US and rights groups who fear they will face persecution. Under tight security, an initial group of Hmong – many of them children – was driven out of the camp in covered military trucks, each manned by several soldiers. Journalists kept at a distance from the camp could see the convoy as it left. Thai authorities said the first batch would include 448 people.

Washington called for the eviction to stop. “The United States strongly urges Thai authorities to suspend this operation,” US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement, noting that the UN and Thailand in the past had deemed that many of the Hmong in this group were “in need of protection because of the threats they might face in Laos”.

The Hmong, an ethnic minority group from Laos’s rugged mountains, helped US forces during the Vietnam War. Many Hmong fought under CIA advisers during the so-called “secret war” in Laos before it fell to the communists in 1975.

The Hmong claim they have been persecuted by the Lao government ever since. More than 300,000 Laotians, mostly Hmong, are known to have fled to Thailand since 1975. Most were either repatriated to Laos or resettled in third countries, particularly the US – but Washington has said it has no plans to resettle more Hmong.

The Thai government claims most of the Hmong are economic migrants who entered the country illegally and have no claims to refugee status, and says it has assurances from Laos that the Hmong will be well-treated. The group was being held at a camp in northern Thailand that the government wants to close.

The Thai army’s co-ordinator for the operation, Colonel Thana Charuwat, said 5000 soldiers, officials and civilian volunteers were involved in the eviction. He said the troops carried no firearms and that their shields and batons met international standards for dealing with situations where people were being moved against their will. Two dozen trucks could be seen heading towards the refugee camp yesterday.