Hmong History in Laos And the Secret War



After the Hmongs fled into Southeast China, they spread across Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Burma where they survived by hunting and farming up in the hills. In the early 1960s, during the Vietnam War the United States was prohibited by the Geneva Treaty Agreement from allowing American ground troops to enter into Laos, only allowing air strike. The United States Air Force planes were stationed and flying out of the bases in Thailand, dropping more than 2 million tons of explosives on targeted communist in Laos, making this one of the most heavily bombed county in the nation of history. Because the American troops were not allowed to enter into Laos, the United States CIA convinced and recruited over 30,000 young Hmong men, as young as 10 years old, to be part of a special task forced called the “Special Guerrilla Unit” in exchange for the promise of freedom in America. This special task force was set up so the Hmong men can help fight against the Communists of North Vietnam and Laos, and was led by General Vang Pao. This ground war was a CIA-run operation and because of the strict secrecy of the Hmong involvement in the war, the war became known as the “Secret War”.

At first, the Hmongs were used only to gather intelligence on the North Vietnamese movements in Laos but by the mid-1960s, under the leadership of Major General Vang Pao, the Hmong soldiers were rescuing any downed U.S. Air Force pilots and/or injured soldiers, flying combat missions, and fighting the ground war. The Hmongs saved numerous U.S. Air pilots that were shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Many Hmong people (over 100,000) have died as a result of the war. Today in America nearly every Hmong family has terrible stories of loss and tragedy relating to the war.  The Hmong people fought at the request of the United States CIA with incredible bravery, tenacity and suffered many causalities. Many Hmongs lost their lives in this war. Hmong casualties in the war were even greater than U.S. casualties. Out of an estimated 3,000,000 prewar Hmong population, less than 200,000 made it to safety.

When the war ended in 1975, the United States withdrew its’ troops in Southeast Asia, going back on their word and leaving the Hmong people to be faced with genocide.  Laos had fallen completely into the Pathet Lao (communist party) hands and the lives of the Hmong people were in jeopardy for their involvement with the United States during the war. The Pathet Lao Communist stated in a newspaper declaring that they would “wipe out the Hmongs and their families to the last root” in a genocidal extinction. They began to prosecute the Hmongs by hunting them down, killing, torturing, and sending them into labor camps. Women and children were being captured and forced into a life of sexual slavery where they were repeatedly raped by countless Lao soldiers. Chemical and biological warfare, “Yellow Rain”, were used against the Hmongs. Hundreds and thousands were killed and perished. Tens of thousands of the Hmong people fled for their lives. Hmong men, women and children began their escape on a long and dangerous journey across the mountains and through the jungles working their way toward the Mekong River and eventually into makeshift refugee camps in northern Thailand where they stayed unit they would be resettled in another country.

In 1976 the Hmongs were finally able to come to the United States until the end of 1993. In May of 1976 about 11,000 Hmongs enter the United States and by 1978 about another 30,000 arrived. The first wave was made up mostly of men who were directly associated with General Vang Pao’s secret army. And in the 1980s Hmong families were able to come in the United States. This was the becoming of the second wave of the Hmong people. Since the closing of the refugee camps in Thailand in 1995, thousands of Hmongs have returned to Laos where there are continuing reports of torture and abuse. There are a few thousand Hmong people who still remain in Thailand.

Unfortunately, in the year of 2011, the genocide against the Hmong still continues in Laos to this present day. The Laos government is still targeting the Hmong people because of the war in the 1960s when they fought with the United States CIA against the communists. Many people are unaware or do not believe that the Hmong genocide is still happening today because of “lack of evidence” proving the Hmong genocide. Some evidence that clearly shows that the Hmong genocide is still happening today is; in 2008 there is a documentary film by Rebecca Sommer called “Hunted Like Animals” and it shows “survivors of military attacks on the Hmongs and shocking images of men, women and children; and in 2011 a Vietnam broadcast was called out for genocide against the Hmong people.  With some of these clearly rock hard evidence that has been provided, the United States CIA and United Nations are still doing nothing about this situation. It seems like there are some Hmong’s in the United States that are trying to do all they can but just don’t have the “resources” to get the attention it needs. And although there is not a single government out there that will acknowledge it or do something about it, there are still many Hmong people who are being killed and persecuted today in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

According to the U.S. 2010 census, there are approximately more than 270,000 Hmong people who reside in the United States.

California – 91,224

Minnesota – 66,181

Wisconsin – 49,240

North Carolina – 10,864

Michigan – 5,924

Colorado – 3,859

Georgia – 3,623

Alaska – 3,534

Oklahoma – 3,369

Oregon – 2,920

Washington – 2,404

Arkansas – 2,143

Kansas – 1,732

Missouri – 1,329

South Carolina – 1,218

Florida – 1,208

Massachusetts – 1,080

Pennsylvania – 1,021

Texas – 920

Illinois – 651

Ohio – 589

Iowa – 534

Utah – 426

New York – 296

Nevada – 254

Montana – 253

Arizona – 229

Connecticut – 225

Indiana – 218

Nebraska – 188

Virginia – 188

Alabama – 122

South Dakota- 94

Hawaii – 87

New Jersey – 83

Kentucky – 71

Louisiana – 49

Idaho – 44

New Hampshire – 27

District of Columbia – 26

Wyoming – 8

Maine – 7

West Virginia – 5

Delaware – 3

Puerto Rico – 3

Vermont – 1

The Hmongs also fled to other countries like France, Europe, and other parts of Asia.

Anywhere and everywhere the Hmongs migrated to, they assimilated with the surrounding culture. (They’ve adapted to their surroundings and picked up different customs.) As you can see the Hmongs migrated to the U.S. and are now assimilated in the American customs. Majority of the 2nd and/or 3rd generations are unaware of their history and/or their language.  And only know their history from what was told to them through their elders.



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