One of the first batches of Laotian refugees to be repatriated to their home villages were flown out of the capital Vientiane, on Wednesday (January 29).
One of the first batches of Laotian refugees to be repatriated to their home villages were flown out of the capital Vientiane, on Wednesday (January 29). Some 130 people were repatriated.
The repatriation follows the peace agreement between government and Pathet Lao forces in the country. Under its terms, all those who fled their homelands in the wake of the fighting are now to be allowed to return.
The families -- men, women and children carrying sacks of rice and some livestock -- were brought to Vientiane airport by Pathet Lao soldiers. There, they boarded military aircraft to be flown home.
They were among the estimated 800,000 people who were forced from their homes in the civil war that ravaged Laos until shortly after the ceasefire in February, 1973.
The refugee problem has been a main concern to the two sides who have been working together on the repatriation since they formed the coalition government last April.
The displaced Laotians were reported to be wary of returning to areas controlled by the other side -- even if peace was guaranteed.
For the majority, moving back is something they cannot do on their own. Old people and children would find the journey difficult. They need rice for at least a year, houses must be built and field cleared.