Last night I turned my web browser to read that all charges had been dropped against General Vang Pao. The general stood accused of plotting the overthrow of the Lao Government.
I was a guest in a Hmong house last winter, the first time I'd ever done so. There were marked differences from Akha or Lahu. Notice how it's built on the ground, not so drafty, nice clay oven,also a good roof of split wood not straw. It's the one in the background.
The ending to the story is a lot less melodramatic than the beginning. An out of control ATF agent suggested to a retired American officer that he supply guns to the Hmong. The whole plot was an idea hatched in the mind of a rogue American policeman abetted by a retired American Army Officer and later to include a couple of old Hmong guys. They were about as ready to take over Laos as I am to fly to Mars. No arms purchased, no army raised, just a silly attempt to further some policeman's career.
U.S. Drops Case Against Exiled Hmong Leader - NY Times
Gen. Vang Pao's Last War - NY Times
General Vang Pao
What about the damage done to Lao / Hmong relations?
The whole whoopla gave plenty of cover for both the Lao and Thai governments to be a lot more proactive in resettling Hmong refugees from the camps in Thailand. There was also friction between Lao militias and Hmong in already resettled villages in Bokeo province, and around all sides of Xaysombone. Many Laotians assumed they were about to be attacked by Hmong guerrillas, after all it was just recently that the Hmong stopped receiving arms and money via the porous Thai border.
Vang Pao 1961
Another aspect is the disrespect shown to the old General himself, after all America is definitely in his debt. He not only fought a war for us, in which tens of thousands of his people were lost, and and contributed greatly to the war effort in Vietnam but his forces saved innumerable US air force pilot's lives. He is now 79, in the twilight of a life spent mostly fighting for US causes or recovering from that fight.
I think our government owes an apology for over reaching and a certain ATF agent should be looking at facing a jury.