HUAY NAM KHAO, Thailand — When Lao Teng and his wife, members of Laos’ ethnic Hmong minority, fled their homeland last June, they had hoped that they could leave their fear of persecution behind.

Harsh reality quickly set in when they were arrested for illegal entry into Thailand upon their arrival at Huay Nam Khao, where about 8,000 other Hmong refugees have been living in limbo, wondering if their future holds a forced return to Laos.