WASHINGTON — ; Groups of ethnic Hmong refugees have begun arriving in the United States this week, the first of around 15,000 people awaiting resettlement following a U.S. promise three decades ago, RFA's Lao service reports.
Four Hmong families became the first of nearly 15,000 people to leave the Wat Tham Krabok temple complex in Thailand for resettlement, fulfilling a promise made by the United States after the communist takeover of Laos in 1975.
Eleven Hmong refugees have already arrived in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota, the first in a wave of 5,000 immigrants expected to arrive in the state this year.
Hmong guerrillas were used by the United States to form a secret army when the conflict against communism in Southeast Asia spilled into Laos during the Vietnam War.
In December last year, Washington announced details of the resettlement program for up to 14,300 Hmong living in the community centered around the Buddhist temple in Saraburi Province, 150 kms (95 miles) northeast of Bangkok.
The resettlement program is part of a wider project that has seen more than 300,000 Laotian refugees moved since 1977 to 29 countries.
Numbers at the Wat Tham Krabok camp have mushroomed since it was set up in the early 1990s, and more than 50 percent of its occupants are children, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The presence of Hmong refugees in Thailand has long been a source of aggravation between Vientiane and Bangkok.
The influx will add to the largest urban concentration of Hmong in the United States, who are based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
State estimates put Minnesota's Hmong population at 60,000, an increase of 32 percent since the 2000 census. Two more Hmong families are due to arrive Thursday, with more scheduled to arrive next week.
Related RFA Stories:
Thailand Cracks Down on Hmong Migrants 2004-08-24
Hmong Voice Relief, Hope on Arriving in U.S. 2004-06-24
U.S. May Take Thousands of Lao Hmong Refugees 2003-12-19
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