Hmong people of Laos


   Many Hmong are being forced to relocate from their highland homes to                       areas with poor agricultural potential.

                  They were hunted as wild animals.

Little was known about the ethnic Hmong people, and even less about those rumoured to be fighting a low-level war against the Lao Government. But what seems certain, according to numerous human rights reports, is that many of the Hmong in Laos have a poor standard of living, and often feel marginalised by the authorities. And over the last 40 years these people were hunted like wild animals. In public the Lao government has always denied that the Hmong existed.

Now they are recognized but the Lao Government often accuses the Hmong of being the cause of the country’s problems, such as the high levels of deforestation and widespread cultivation of opium.

The problem stems from the Vietnam War, when large numbers of ethnic Hmong sided with the United States army, as the conflict spread from Vietnam into neighbouring Laos and Cambodia. The Hmongs became a Special Guerrilla Unit trained by the CIA and led by General Vang Pao. About 60% of the Hmong men in Laos were assisted by the CIA to join fighting for the “Secret War” in Laos. Between 1962 and 1975, some 12,000 Hmong also died fighting against Communist Pathet Lao troops.

The Hmong are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Hmong groups began a gradual southward migration in the 18th century due to political unrest and to find more arable land. A number of Hmong people fought against the communist-nationalist Pathet Lao during the Laotian Civil War. Hmong people were singled out for retribution when the Pathet Lao took over the Laotian government in 1975, and tens of thousands fled to Thailand seeking political asylum. Thousands of these refugees have resettled in Western countries since the late 1970s, mostly the United States but also Australia, France, French Guiana, and Canada. Others have been returned to Laos under United Nations-sponsored repatriation programs. Around 8,000 Hmong refugees remain in Thailand.

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