Death of General Vang Pao

Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by HTWoodson, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. I was born in Fresno, California USA, and one of the very noticeable features of the city is the large ethnic Hmong population there. When I was growing up I always heard stories about how they came to resettle in Fresno (among only a few other US cities) following the “Secret War” in Laos. One of the residents, or at least very frequent visitor to the city was General Vang Pao. He was a major general in the Royal Lao Army and the leader of the Hmong American community in the United States. He was a local hero among the Hmong where I grew up.


    He passed away last month and his funeral was this week. The community in my home town had 6 days of funeral ceremony to honor him.

    A big piece of history is gone with him, and if you aren't familiar with the circumstances that led to the flight of the ethnic Hmong from Laos, here are some good, interesting articles about General Pao and the Secret War.

    Secret War (especially part 3, "Evacuation of the Hmong")

    General Vang Pao

    NYT Article on Vang Pao's recent arrest

    If you find that interesting I encourage you to do a search and read more on the subject.
  2. There's no doubt of the General's wartime gallantry, however, there are some real questions about financing "the war that never was" partially from the sale of opium. But this is nothing new as the KMT, Contras and even today warlords in Afghanistan enjoy immunity as long as they fight the common enemy.

    There were a number of very good reports both in print and on TV to the Hmong’s continued fight, prior to the General & his cohorts’ arrest, that brought into question his judgement & ethics regarding fundraising as well as the wisdom of keeping his rag-tag “troops” in the field.

    Their struggle & suffering, as well as the associated area cleansing by the Laos army were not felt by the old & bold retired stateside, who appeared to be playing with their people’s lives for what amounted to little more than egotistical reasons.

    The refusal to bury him at Arlington may well have been political, the USG glossing over the past.
    General Vang Pao is best remembered as the tough warrior who took the fight to Pathet Lao when few Laotians were willing to fight for their homeland.

    But imo it was a sad and undistinguished end to many years of gallant service fighting against communism, as he was responsible for unnecessary suffering post the SEA wars by perpetuating an unwinnable fight that did his people a huge disservice and only exacerbated Laos’ ethnic divide.

    The Lost Tribe - 10 Mar 2008 - Pt. 1

    watch parts 2 & 3 as well - via YT's click thru

    Read also some gutsy reporting Still a Secret War, October 2006, by Roger Arnold
  3. Absolutely heartbreaking.
  4. HT - Thanks for the post. I always love this part of history and the twists, turns, and color it weaved through peoples lives, good and sadly not so good.

    In June 2007 Luke and I were travelling offroad through Laos. Unknown to us Vang Pao had just been arrested in California by the Federal governemnt with some of his cronies for plotting an attempt to overthrow the current Laotian government. As Luke and I entered the village of Nga we were accosted by the Laotian army gents and whisked off to a little bamboo detention hut. It seems farang with U.S. passports, GPS's, speaking Lao, and travelling amongst the backwoods caused a bit of suspicion amongst the men dressed in green. Apparently as Vang Pao was just arrested the Army were on high alert, resulting in our bamboo hut detainment. It took two hours of intense questioning before we could convince them we were not running arms for the Hmong.

    Gents such as Khun Sa and Vang Pao along with the current Burmese drug lords really add some color to the region we all now call home.

    Rhodies comment "General Vang Pao is best remembered as the tough warrior who took the fight to Pathet Lao when few Laotians were willing to fight for their homeland" is spot on.

    Once again HT, thanks for the post.
  5. Another book which sheds quite a bit of light on America's secret war in Laos and the role of Vang Pao in it, is "Shooting at the Moon" by Roger Warner.

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