Meeting – Tuesday, December
'The Laotian Hmong
the United States'
A talk by Khun
Summary of the talk: Khun
Pongkaset commenced his talk with
a chronology of significant events in contemporary Laos history. He began with
the Dien Bien Phu incident on May 8th
this incident Vietnam,
became independent under a treaty with France.
Fearing that the communist's
aggression in Indochina would
eventually turn the Domino Theory into reality, the South-East Asian
(for mutual defence) and the Pacific Charter were signed in Manila,
Philippines, by the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan,
the Philippines, Britain and France. The treaties established SEATO,
South-East Asia Treaty Organisation, with its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand.
On August 5th 1960,
following an army coup led by
Captain Kong Le, Prince Savanna Phouma was appointed as the head of the
government. However, in December that year, the right-wing Gen. Phoumi
with the help of the Thai government, drove Kong Le and the communists
out of Vientiane.
While retreating northwards, the
Soviet representative met
with Kong Le and offered help with air-drops of supplies. With the
the communist Pathet Laos, the Soviets and the North Vietnamese Army
Kong Le pushed the Hmong people, under the leadership of Vang Pao, out
Xieng Khoung homeland. The Hmong retreated to Ban Po Dong but not for
because the NVA started to shell them again.
Vang Pao was forced to move his
people out of Ban Po Dong
and relocate them in the Pha
Shortly after their relocation, the Americans arrived to ask Vang Pao
support in the fight against the communist invaders. In return for
would provide arms, training and food.
In June 1961, the US
government began to arm the
Hmong and Vang Pao's secret army grew to around 18,000 men; each being
average of 10 cents a day. In December 1961, Vang Pao moved his
Long Tieng, which then became the Laos capital until the mid
In September 1969, with the help
of the US,
army began an offensive against the NVA and the Pathet Laos forces on
de Jars. The battle went on until February 1970 when the communist
recaptured the Plain de Jars, threatening Long Tieng, the Hmong
February 1973, the government of Laos
and the Pathet Laos signed a cease-fire agreement in Vientiane
and the US bombing
ended. South Vietnam
fell in April 1975. One
month later, fighting broke out between Gen. Vang Pao's army and the
refused to help the Hmong with air-support. In May 1975, Long Tieng
50,000 Hmong began the first exodus to Thailand. The second influx
approximately 100,000 Hmong refugees did not occur until 1977 when
political leader Touby Lyfong died mysteriously in a Seminar camp. At
same time, the ex-King Savang Vathana along with Queen Khamboui and
Prince Say Vongsavang were apprehended and incarcerated in Seminar camp
No.1 in Northern Laos. The
crown prince died on May 2nd
1978, and the king eleven days later. The cause of death of both the
prince and the king was starvation. The queen died on December 12th
Some Hmong refugees stayed in
refugee camps for 16 years.
Eventually, most were resettled in France
and the United
Since the closing of the refugee camps in 1995, thousands of the
returned to Laos.
A few thousand still remain in Thailand.
At present, a total of 169,423 Hmong are in the US;
65,095 in California, 41,800 in Minnesota, 33,791 in Wisconsin
and the rest scattered in small numbers in every other state except Wyoming. The
groups of Hmong had a difficult time surviving because they couldn't
English. Also, being animist they had problems carrying out their
rituals and ceremonies. Today, many Hmong are well educated. A few
under-graduate and post-graduate degrees. The older Hmong are still
return to Laos,
if and when it ever becomes a free democratic country. The younger
Hmong and the US born Hmong are well adjusted to their American life
they have no knowledge of their homeland other than what their elders
The Hmong army in Laos
played a major role in
fighting communist aggression. The Hmong fought against the communist
and were instrumental in halting their assault at the Mekong River.
Surf in on one of the Hmong web sites and you're sure to see this
reminder of the Laotian Hmong's relatively unsung role in the history
of South-East Asia, "Do you know
someone who is still
alive today because of the Hmong?"