About the Author: Andrea Doyle serves as a Refugee Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, where she covers regional refugee issues.
Earlier this month, I walked through the marketplace at the Phonekam development village in Laos, with Ambassador Karen Stewart and several colleagues from U.S. Embassy Vientiane. As we observed residents going about their shopping, a young family with two small, well-fed children smiled at the embassy’s delegation before driving off with their purchases on their own motorcycle. An amazing variety of items can be purchased at the market: TVs, nails, flashlights, clothes, shoes, hats, fruit, and more. We spoke to two shopkeepers, who can travel daily by bus to the provincial capital to purchase inventory. Ambassador Stewart noted the increase in livestock — including roosters, chickens, goats, huge pigs and little piglets — for sale at the market, compared with her last visit.
In December 2009, approximately 4,500 Hmong who had sought refuge in Thailand were forcibly… more »