From the BBC website:
Thailand is deporting a group of about 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to communist Laos, despite international concerns for their safety.
Thai officials said unarmed soldiers had begun to close a camp for Hmong in northern Phetchabun province.
Thailand describes them as economic migrants. The Hmong say they face persecution in Laos because they backed US forces during the Vietnam war.
The United States has asked Thailand to immediately stop the operation.
The UN urged the Thais to call off plans to deport them.
"The United States strongly urges Thai authorities to suspend this operation," said the US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.
"We also urge the Lao People's Democratic Republic to treat humanely any Lao Hmong who are involuntarily returned, to provide access for international monitors, and facilitate resettlement opportunities for any eligible returnee," he said.
He noted that both the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Royal Thai Government have deemed many of the Hmong in need of protection because of the threats they might face in Laos.
"We deeply regret this serious violation of the international humanitarian principles that Thailand has long been known for championing," Mr Kelly said.
Thai government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn told the BBC that officials had concerns for about 100 of those being deported.
But Thailand had been assured that those people would be pardoned on their return to Laos, he added.
Col Thana Charuvat, who is co-ordinating the repatriation, said about 5,000 soldiers, officials and civilian volunteers had entered the camp in Huay Nam Khao village late on Monday morning.
"The operation started at 0530 (2230 GMT Sunday)," he told reporters. "The operation is expected to take one day."
He said the soldiers were unarmed although equipped with shields and batons.
More than 2,000 Hmong had been removed from the camp by mid-afternoon, he said.
They were being taken to a nearby staging area where they would be put on buses which would take them to the Thai border town of Nong Khai and then across to Laos.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said there had been no resistance among the camp residents to their deportation.
Journalists and other outside groups have not been allowed into the camp.
Sunai Phasuk, a Thai member of Human Rights Watch, said mobile phone signals inside the camp had been jammed so no-one could call out.
Hundreds of thousands of Hmong fled Laos after the communist Pathet Movement took power in 1975.
Many have settled in the United States, Australia and other countries, but a sizeable population remains in Laos and complains of persecution from the authorities.
Some Hmong have been fighting a low-level insurgency against the government since 1975.
See also: Thailand: End Detention of Lao Hmong Refugees
Monday, 28 December 2009
From the BBC website: