Skip to comments.Hmong Tribespeople Surrender After Years on the Run (Recruited by C.I.A., Abandoned)
Posted on 06/03/2005 9:38:45 PM PDT by nickcarraway
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - After decades on the run, 170 women, children and old men of the Hmong ethnic minority - which was once part of a U.S.-backed secret army fighting communists in Laos - emerged from their jungle hideouts on Saturday to surrender to the government.
Their move, expected to be followed by thousands of their fellow hilltribe people, is the first step in closing the book on one of the most tragic episodes of the Vietnam War.
U.S. sympathizers who rendezvoused with the tribespeople said the first batch turning themselves in to the communist government were received warmly when they arrived shortly after first light at a Hmong village in central Laos.
The group, after several days' hard travel, began trekking at about 5 a.m. (2200 GMT Friday) from a mountainside spot where they had encamped overnight to emerge at Chong Thuang village on Highway 7, a major road in Xieng Khouang province, said Ed Szendrey, a pro-Hmong activist from the United States who met up with them in hopes of helping ensure their safety.
The Hmong were recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to fight on behalf of a pro-American government during the Vietnam War, only to find themselves all but abandoned after their communist enemies, the Pathet Lao, won a long civil war in 1975.
Fearing for their lives, many managed to flee into Thailand, and later resettled in the United States and elsewhere, but thousands stayed behind, some adjusting to the new hardline regime and others staying in the jungle, where they faced continuing attacks.
But those animosities seemed to be forgotten on Saturday, as the local police chief greeted them and villagers, also Hmong, prepared rice and other food for the tribespeople, Szendrey told The Associated Press in Bangkok.
If all goes peacefully, they will be followed by several thousand others from various Hmong bands hiding throughout Laos, Szendrey said in earlier interviews in Bangkok.
The U.S.-based organization he helped found, the Fact Finding Commission, has stayed in touch with the far-flung remnants of the Hmong - 20 or so groups scattered around the mountainous country - through satellite telephones.
Little reliable information about their fate was available until late 2002, when two Western journalists working for Time magazine made contact with one of the Hmong groups, and came out with startling photographs and stories of their desperate existence.
Their reports helped highlight the plight of the Hmong, and were followed by more publicity, including several highly critical reports by Amnesty International, which accused the Lao government of gross human rights violations in persecuting the Hmong.
The 170 who surrendered Saturday were apparently part of the group visited by the Time magazine journalists.
Szendrey, of Oroville, California, said that although the plan to surrender was voluntary, it was made in desperation as several pockets of the Hmong, pursued by government troops, believed they would starve if they didn't turn themselves in.
He said no soldiers or armed militia were present when they were received on Saturday.
The local police chief, Wa Neng Lor - himself a Hmong - said he had been told to expect the surrender and that the military had been ordered to stand down.
Some villagers, however, expressed concern about what might happen if Lao soldiers showed up, Szendrey said.
The surrender had been planned for weeks and was debated by many in the Hmong community in the United States, some segments of which opposed any reconciliation with the communists.
Vang Pao, the group's wartime commander and the de facto leader of the Hmong community in the U.S., supported the decision to surrender.
"It looks like the government is prepared to handle it on the local level and not get the military involved,'' said Szendrey speaking to AP via satellite phone.
"It looks like the Lao government is actually handling it pretty well.''
Thank you Kerry and McCain. These two sold out all of the refugees, allies, and vets that served there.
Thank you, Mr. Felt. Without you this never would have happened...
Another victory for the American left and the msm.
Also abandoned 30 years ago, exactly...
Pictures of a vietnamese Re-Education Camp
They were received warmly by the communists alright, wait until the media leaves.
We owe these people something, don't we?
In 1974-75 there were over 60 ethnic groups in Laos. Today there are around 45-47. The other 15 or so, according to the Pathet Lao, simply "disappeared". They didn't just move away, gang. Between the Vientiane side of the Mekong and Non Kai on the Thai side there are 250,000+ bodies on the bottom of the river...all people massacred trying to escape in 1975.
I don't know what our diplomats out there are doing these days, but under Clinton and the unforgettable Amb. Wendy Chamberlain, they did everything possible to protect and prop up the Pathet Lao regime. If ever there was an ambassador who "went native" it was the excerable Chamberlain who ate with her fingers in restaurants and seemed to feel that it was her job to defend the Lao regime and make sure no American interests "hurt the Lao".
The Lao peoples are wonderful, brave, loyal to us and frankly quite noble. It is a disgrace that our government, influenced by the likes of McCann unfortunately, has left them to the tender mercies of the Communists!
What is your source for this claim? Pretty funny considering you can almost walk across that section of the Mekong during the dry season. The river bed by Vienchang is about 3/4th exposed during April/May.
I have very good friends in Laos and hate the government there as much as the next guy but making claims like this doesn't help things.