09. Thailand: Exhumation of Hmong Graves at Wat Tham Krabok

By | 1 September, 2011


A/HRC/18/35/Add.1, 22 Agosto 201

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Annex IX
Thailand: Exhumation of Hmong Graves at Wat Tham Krabok
THA 8/2010
1.         In a communication of 17 December 2010, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, called the attention of the Government of Thailand to information received relating to the situation of the exhumation of Hmong graves at Wat Tham Krabok which occurred in 2005. This matter has been the subject of ongoing communications with the Government of Thailand, as reflected in the Special Rapporteur’s 2008 and 2009 annual reports to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/9/9/Add.1, paras. 473-479; and A/HRC/12/34/Add.1, paras. 404-429). In the absence of a response to his communication of 17 December 2010 within 60 days as requested, the Special Rapporteur sent another letter, dated 16 June 2011, in which he reiterated his concerns about the situation and again invited the Government to respond to specific recommendations. Subsequently, by a note dated 11 July 2011, the Government of Thailand responded to the Special Rapporteur’s communications. The full texts of the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 17 December 2010 and the Government’s response can be accessed from the electronic version of the joint communications report (A/HRC/18/51), which is available on the web site of the Human Rights Council.
The Special Rapporteur’s follow-up to earlier communications about the situation
2.         The Special Rapporteur’s letters of 17 December 2010 and 16 June 2010 follow up to earlier communications about the exhumation of Hmong graves at Wat Tham Krabok in 2005 and resulting grievances of Hmong relatives of the deceased. As expressed in previous communications, questions exist about the reasons for the exhumation of Hmong graves that occurred at Wat Tham Krabok as well as the level of the involvement of the Government of Thailand in the exhumations. In addition, ongoing information has been received about the continued harm felt by the relatives of the deceased and the absence of any action by the Government to remedy that harm.
3.         According to information received, Hmong groups have repeatedly sent delegations to dialogue with Government officials in order to achieve a resolution of the pending issues concerning the return of exhumed bodies. The relatives of the deceased Hmong and members of the Hmong communities worldwide have made specific requests to the Government of Thailand and Thai foundations in possession of the remains of the exhumed bodies for what they would consider to be an acceptable solution to their grievances.
These requests include that:
·         The three Thai foundations (Phothi Phavan Songkhao, Buddha Dahma and Wat Thamkrabok) return three petrified bodies they are holding to the relatives of the deceased without cost;
·         The three Thai foundations return the 691 bodies that were confirmed by the Thai Ministry of the Interior to have been exhumed, at no cost. This figure includes 211 bodies currently in Huilin Cemetery and another 480 bodies that were originally falsely reported to have been cremated;
·         The Government of Thailand and the authorities of Wat Tham Krabok allow the reburial of the 691 exhumed bodies at the original temple site at no cost; and
·         The Government of Thailand establishes a memorial park and a monument at Wat Tham Krabok to commemorate the Hmong buried there.
4.         In his letters of 17 December 2010 and 16 June 2011 the Special Rapporteur referred to these requests and urged the Government to give them special consideration, within a process of dialogue with Hmong representatives aimed at resolving this situation.
Response of the Government of Thailand
5.         In its response to the latest communications of the Special Rapporteur regarding the exhumation of Hmong graves in Wat Tham Krabok, the Government stated that, in principle, Thailand does not have any indigenous people. The Government went on to state, however, that given the importance Thailand attaches to cooperation with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, it appreciates the ongoing efforts of the Special Rapporteur to enegage with the Royal Thai Government and his willingness to help in the resolution of the matter.
6.         The Government stated that the facts and position of the Royal Thai Government have been explained in its previous Note No. 21010/497 dated 9 July 2008 and Note No. 52101/884 dated 17 December 2008. Summaries of these letters can be found in the Special Rapporteur’s previous reports to the Human Rights Council on cases examined (A/HRC/9/9/Add.1, paras. 475-478; and A/HRC/12/34.Add.1, paras. 406, 407, 409). In its letter of 11 July 2011 the Government reiterated points it had made on those previous letters, specifically that:
·         Laotian Hmongs had migrated from Lao People’s Democratic Republic to Thailand only from 2003 and thus could not be considered as indigenous people. They were allowed to take refuge in Wat Tham Krabok, a Buddhist Monastery in Saraburi Province, only for humanitarian reasons.
·         Under Thai law, the management of Buddhist monasteries is under the authority of an abbot. The Hmong buried their deceased relatives on the monastery grounds without any permission from the abbot or the administrative committee of Wat Tham Krabok.
·         When the monastery decided to convert parts of its land into a place for various religious facilities, the relatives of those Hmong buried at Wat Tham Krabok were informed in advance of the necessity to relocate he graves from the monastery grounds. Some Hmong came to reclaim their relatives’ bodies for relocation. Additionally, representatives of the Hmong community had given their consent to the monastery to proceed with the relocation.
·         Consequently, unclaimed bodies were exhumed and provided with a public cremation ceremony with full respect of the deceased as well as consideration for their families. In accordance with Buddhist practices, this mass grave exhumation and cremation ceremony were accompanied by rituals to honor the deceased.
7.         The Government further stated that, although there was no official involvement in the exhumation of Hmong graves in Wat Tham Krabok, in July 2008, the National Hmong Grave Desecration Committee (NHGDC) from the United States had a meeting with the government authority of Saraburi Province and later in August 2009, representatives of the NHGDC revisited Thailand to meet with Hmong peoples residing in various areas. The Government expressed its hope that these dialogues would serve to address the concerns expressed by the Hmong families.
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
8.         The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the response provided by the Government of Thailand to previous communications. Notwithstanding the assertions by the Government that no indigenous peoples exist in Thailand and previous assertions by the Government that the Hmong that were present at Wat Tham Krabok were originally refugees from Laos, the Special Rapporteur notes the longstanding presence of Hmong people throughout southeast Asia, including Thailand, and observes that in many respects the Hmong share characteristics similar to indigenous peoples worldwide, including their maintenance of cultural and religious traditions that are distinct from those of the majority. Therefore, the concerns expressed by members of the affected Hmong people are of relevance to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and fall within the ambit of concern of the principles contained in international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
9.         The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate his recommendation that the Government of Thailand engage in a dialogue with the affected Hmong in order to resolve the situation, and takes note of the Government’s information that it has held meetings with the National Hmong Grave Desecration towards this end. He again urges the Government to consider the proposals set out by the Hmong people, mindful of their cultural and spiritual views regarding their deceased with the view to restore a positive relationship with the Hmong. The Special Rapporteur will continue to monitor this situation as appropriate.