Laos is the worst-affected country in Indochina in terms of refugees. Over the third of?
Laos is the worst-affected country in Indochina in terms of refugees. Over the third of its 3 million population is estimated to have been displaced or uprooted in more than 15 years of civil war, according to recently published United Nations statistics.
The Pathet Lao has claimed that 800,000 refugees have been displaced in areas which they controlled. A further 400,000 refugees are estimated in areas held by the Vientiane side.
The Laotian coalition government has recently begun to rehabilitate them in temporary refugee camps, scattered across 10 provinces.
Over 22 million Kips (approx. US$ 2.6 million) have been allocated to the Ministry of Planning and Cooepratin for food, medicine, construction and farming materials.
The resettlement camps vary in size, from 70 families at the Nongsa project (40 kms north of Vientiane) to housing for 200 families at Na Phok, 20 kms sutheast of the Laotian capital.
In each camp, the government has allocated 2-4 hectares to each family for farming. The purpose is not only to make them self-sufficient, but also to help the country's sagging economy. Laos imports over US$ 20 million worth of rice and foodstuffs a year.
The refuees are also provided with tools for weaving and making handicrafts, which enable a family to earn US$ 1.50 a day.
Contributions to help rehabilitate and relocate the refugees in Laos have been coming in. Countries such as the United sates, West germany, France and Thailand have contributed a total US$ 28 million, together with donations from organsiatins such as International Red Cross.
The United Nations High Commissin for Refugees has recently pledged US$ 12 million to a rehabilitation programme to be shared by Laos, and North and South Vietnam.