Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October 2014, 13:31 GMT

Chronology for Hmong in Laos

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Hmong in Laos, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38b11e.html [accessed 23 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Apr 1990 Mok Mai, a remote district in the mountainous part of Xieng Khouang Province where the majority of the population belongs to the Hmong tribe, is being developed into a new economic zone. The aim is to upgrade the peoples' living conditions and to build new, prosperous rural areas. Militia units have been established in all villages and cantons to conduct regular patrols to search for "bad elements" and suppress their sinister schemes. Villagers are very co-operative with the administration and regional forces (Report of Lao National Radio, Vientiane 0430 gmt 04/26/90).
Nov 1990 The California Department of Social Services has charged General Vang Pao's resistance organization, the United Lao National Liberation Organization, with extorting money from Hmong immigrants and misappropriating social services funds. Both the Lao Family Community (social services organization) and the ULNLO deny the charges. Refugees have recounted stories of demands for contributions and of the selling of phantom positions in a future government of Laos. They also expressed growing concern that the contributions have not been used to finance the guerrilla army back in Laos, but rather to support the lifestyle of resistance leaders in the US.
Jan 1991 Lao National Radio reports that more "misled people" have responded to a government amnesty: about 50 persons fled the bad elements and surrendered to the local administration in Bolikhamsai Province after having suffered from living in the jungle and serving the deceptive schemes of the imperialists and Lao reactionary exiles for over a decade. Upon their return, the misled compatriots received a warm reception organized by the local administration (Vientiane home service 0430 gmt 01/16/91).
Mar 1991 The Voice of America recently summarized the US State Department's annual report on the 1990 human rights situation in over 100 countries including Laos. The report says that minority groups such as the Hmong tribe were the targets of attacks by the Lao armed forces and it blamed the Lao government for not promoting human rights in the country (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 03/16/91).
Apr 1991 Major changes in the top leadership of Laos' Communist Party, at the close of the Fifth Party Congress, are expected to clear the way for political and economic reforms. Acting President Phoumi Thippahavonc and the President, Prince Souphanouvong -- who is known as the "red prince" -- both stepped down to make way for younger leaders. The personnel changes, particularly in the powerful politburo, have improved the chances for ongoing political and economic reforms and for improved ties with the west, stated foreign diplomats in the capital. While asserting that the Lao party could modify communism to fit local conditions, Prince Souphanouvong suggested that the changes sweeping through eastern Europe could reach Laos. "Anything is possible", he said (Inter Press Service, 04/01/91). Official speeches during the congress contained the first-ever frank and strong criticisms of the government's economic and political record over the past 16 years. In its drive to liberalize the Lao economy, a new five-year social and economic plan gives the private sector a larger role in economic development and confirms the shift away from a state-run system towards a more explicit free-market economy.
Nov 1991 To promote national and tribal traditions and culture and to enhance solidarity among tribes in the Lao national community, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee has decided to appoint a high-level central committee to be in charge of directing the celebration of the Hmong tribe's Kin Chiang festival. The committee will be headed by Comrade Maisouk Saisompheng, Chairman of the LFNC Central Committee (Lao National Radio, 11/19/91).
Dec 1991 The LFNC Central Committee organized a grand celebration of the Hmong tribe's traditional New Years festival and the 16th national day in Vientiane. A large number of Hmong cadres and state employees from different agencies as well as Hmong people from different places in the Vientiane municipality participated in the event. Attending the celebration as guests of honor were, among others, Kaysone Phomvihan, the President of the Republic. The President greeted the Hmong ethnic people on the occasion of the festival and invited them to help implement the comprehensive rural development plan the country had devised for the upliftment of rural people, including those living in mountainous and remote areas (Lao National Radio, 12/3/91).
Jul 1992 Lao officials called for talks with Thai military officials about the "rumor" that Cuban and Vietnamese experts are training Lao troops in chemical warfare. A Thai military spokesman said the army had received intelligence reports that a Lao officer was killed in a recent accident involving a chemical weapon during a training course run by two Cuban and two Vietnamese experts (United Press Int'l, 07/03/92). There were unconfirmed reports last year that Lao forces were using chemical weapons against members of the anti-communist Hmong tribes in the north of the country. Relations between Thailand and Laos have steadily improved since a 5-month war in 1987-88 over a remote strip of hilltop forest claimed by both sides.
Aug 1992 During a visit by the Laotian Foreign Minister to Thailand, an agreement was reached on refugees residing on the Thai border. Thai Foreign Minister Asa Sarasin said, "We will discuss constructive issues and try to eliminate the few existing past obstacles to good relations between the two countries. This includes the problem caused by the border terrorists of the Hmong tribe who have infringed on Laos' sovereignty" (BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, 08/28/92). At the Thai-Lao joint commission meeting, both sides agreed to try to persuade the UNHCR not to reduce financial assistance for repatriating the refugees.
Sep 1992 John Kreiger reports in the U.S. News & World Report (Vol. 113, No.10, 09/14/92) about the continuing war by the Hmong guerrillas: "The US may be slowly mending fences with its old enemies, but deep in the mountains of Laos, some of America's old allies are still fighting the Vietnam war. In the 17 years since Laos fell to the communists, some 72,000 Laotians, most of them are from the Hmong tribe, have died in the forgotten war between the Chao Fah, the Lords of the Sky, and the Lao Peoples Army. Chao Fah President Pa Kao Her claims that 4-5,000 Hmong civilians and 2,500 Laotian soldiers are killed each year. Scores of thousands of Hmong have fled across the Mekong river into refugee camps inside Thailand. Almost 90,000 have resettled in the US. But the Chao Fah fight on, clinging to about 5% of Lao territory. The boundaries of their "liberated Zones" tend to change with the seasons, and the fiercely independent and nomadic Hmong, some 180,000 of whom remain in Laos, are constantly moving in and out of them". A decade after the allegations of chemical warfare first surfaced, the Hmong say that spray-boom equipped helicopters sometimes spray them with a Russian-made nerve agent that causes severe dehydration and occasionally death. James Aberdour, a volunteer doctor working at a Hmong camp on the Lao-Thai border, estimates that about 7-8 percent of those sprayed with yellow rain eventually die. Laotian officials deny the charges. However, most Hmong villagers would like to escape Laos and the fighting. In addition to the mines and PLA patrols on the Lao side, Thai troops are blocking illegal immigrants on the other side. Though living conditions in Thai refugee camps are bad, they are still the destination of choice for some 14,000 Hmong trapped in the jungles of western Sayaboury Province. From Phou Bia, the highest mountain in Laos, Pa Kao Her commands his Chao Fah Army. Most of his fighters are under 20 and several hundred are females, testimony to the fact that there are so few young males available for service. "Decades of front-line fighting has decimated the young Hmong population in Laos, upsetting the sex and age structure among the Hmong", says Robert Cooper, a Hmong expert with the UNHCR in northern Thailand. Pa Her sees only three ways to end the civil war. "The first would be to create an autonomous region in Laos, free from Pathet Lao oppression; the second and most drastic way would be to fight until there are two separate countries, one Lao and communist, the other Hmong and free". However, Pa prefers the third solution: a complete collapse of the Pathet Lao now that Soviet support has ended.
Feb 1993 Lao Radio broadcast a report from Bokeo province in Laos stating that 1319 Lao refugees, mostly the ethnic minorities of the Hmong, Yao, Khamou and Lua living in Thailand, voluntarily returned home in late January through border points in Bokeo province. These Lao refugees are originally from many native areas in northern Laos. They were welcomed by the social welfare service of Bokeo province and the representative of the UNHCR in Laos (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 02/15/93).
Sep 1993 The Thai Army has arrested 18 Hmong rebels and expelled hundreds of others involved in rebellious activities against the Laotian government, a Thai Armed Forces spokesman said (Japan Economic Newswire, 09/17/93). Among the 18 arrested, 4 were holding US passports while the rest claimed they were Thais, but could not produce any documents. Some Hmong members were arrested in a series of separate encounters during September 1-15 in the northern Thai province of Nan which borders Laos. In all, 320 Hmong guerrillas were pushed out and 13 weapons seized, including one 60-mm mortar launcher and dozens of shells. Last month, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai ordered the Thai military supreme command to coordinate a stern suppression of rebellious movements using Thai territory to conduct activities against the government of neighboring Laos.
Apr 1994 Some 7,600 highland Lao (mostly Hmong) were repatriated to Laos in 1993, the highest of any year since 1980. Thai authorities are pressing the Hmong to return to Laos. However, thousands of them, afraid to do so and also reluctant to settle in the US or elsewhere, have left the refugee camps and sought shelter at a Buddhist temple some 100 km from Bangkok (FDCH Congressional Testimony, House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, 04/26/94).
Apr 16, 1994 Officials in Thailand state that border security measures will be intensified in order to block the entry of illegal immigrants from neighboring countries. Laos has previously accused the Thai government of supporting the anti-communist movement led by General Vang Pao (The Straits Times, 04/16/94).
Apr 26, 1994 442 Hmong tribe immigrants will be repatriated to Laos on April 28. Thailand has also asked that Laos take back the remaining 13,000 Laotians located in refugee camps (Xinhua News Agency, 04/26/94).
May 1994 Laos is facing the prospect of a major famine that could affect up to 10% of its population. The worst drought in memory decimated the country's rice harvest last year and up to 400,000 people do not have enough food to sustain them until the next harvest. The hill tribe peoples in the north have been particularly hard hit. The UN's World Food Program and relief agencies have been transporting emergency rice supplies to the hardest-hit areas where malnutrition and cholera are already evident (Reuters, 05/02/94).
May 19, 1994 Thailand's Foreign Ministry has rejected a request from the US Congress to halt the repatriation of Hmong refugees to Laos. The US Congress has charged that Thai officials have been accepting bribes from the refugees so that they can emigrate to third countries. The Americans asked for a four year grace period to allow for third country emigration but stopped short of guaranteeing that the emigrations would occur. US congressmen also raised the issue of the disappearance of former Hmong refugee leader Weu Mai. American sources indicate that Mai was reported missing in September of 1993 following his voluntary repatriation to Laos (Reuter Textline: The Bangkok Post, 05/19/94).
May 21, 1994 An Australian hydrologist and five Lao civilians were killed when a grenade was thrown at the Australian's car about 70 kilometers from Vientiane. The main suspects are reported to be Hmong tribes people (BBC, 05/21/94; US State Dept. 1994 Human Rights Report, 03/95).
May 31, 1994 Over 200 Hmong refugees and lowland Lao were sent back to Laos. Another 323 Hmong are scheduled to voluntarily return in a couple of days. According to the UNHCR, this would bring the total number of voluntary repatriations to 17,763 (Reuters, 05/31/94).
Jun 1994 Another 300 Hmong tribes people left refugee camps in Thailand to return to Laos (Reuter Textline: Bangkok Post, 06/30/94).
Jul 1994 Thailand's police forces have issued arrest warrants for Hmong right-wing rebel leader General Vang Pao and his aide Thonglit Chokbounpetch on charges of endangering the country's national security. Police indicate that the two were inciting Hmong refugees in Thailand to rise against the Laotian government and were "engaging in activities detrimental to internal peace and order". The two Laotians have been in exile in the United States since 1975 but officials state that periodically they secretly enter Thailand. Pao's Lao United Independent Front and the Lao United Independent Army are accused of using Thai territory to build up arms and manpower to overthrow the Vientiane government. Reports vary widely on the number of followers Pao has with figures from 100 to 12,000 (Agence France Presse, 02/24/94; Reuter Textline: Bangkok Post, 07/19/94; Xinhua News Agency, 07/19/94).
Jul 28, 1994 A meeting between senior Thai and Laotian government officials and a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has led to a new plan for the repatriation of Laotian refugees. The plan calls for the repatriation to occur during three phases: 5000 by September, 3000 by December, and the remaining during the first quarter of 1995. Of the remaining 12-14,000 Laos in refugee camps, most are Hmong tribes people (Reuter Textline: Bangkok Post, 07/28/94).
Nov 1994 446 Laotian refugees, largely Hmong tribes people, returned to Laos under the repatriation program (Reuter Textline: Bangkok Post, 11/23/94).
Dec 1994 About 5000 Hmong tribes people at a Thai refugee camp signed a petition to the US Congress in September begging that it intercede to stop their forced repatriation to Laos. The Hmong insist that they cannot return until democracy is in place in their homeland. Six of the petitioners were arrested by Thailand's Interior Police, reportedly with the assistance of UNHCR personnel. Of the estimated 50 to 70,000 Hmong in Thailand, under 20,000 are in refugee camps. Approximately 30,000 fled the camps for fear they might be forced back into Laos while around 15,000 have sought sanctuary at a Buddhist temple. Those who have returned to Laos are reportedly resettled on marginal land in unfamiliar territory. They are not allowed to return to their homelands and they lack the basic necessities (Reuter Textline: Bangkok Post, 12/04/94). A number of independent observers have raised allegations not only about widespread corruption in refugee camps but also about the forcible repatriation of Hmongs. Included in the group are various journalists and Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of the award-winning expose Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos (Reuter Textline: Bangkok Post, 12/04/94).
Dec 15, 1994 A group of 207 Hmong and two lowland Lao refugees have returned to Laos. According to the UNHCR, 5.052 repatriations have occurred so far during 1994 (Reuter Textline: Bangkok Post, 12/15/94).
Jan 1995 A recent census by Thailand's Interior Ministry reveals that there are at least 15,000 illegal Laotian immigrants still in the country. Of these, about 13,000 are reported to be Hmong tribes people (Xinhua News Agency, 01/15/95).
Feb 1995 The resistance movement led by exiled Hmong leader General Vang Pao is still reportedly undertaking sporadic raids into Laos. Dozens of Laotian soldiers have allegedly died during these encounters. Thai military sources indicate that a major campaign to suppress the rebels has "convinced" them to retreat from Thai territory (Inter Press Service, 02/13/95).
Mar 1995 The US State Department's Human Rights Report for 1994 asserts that occasional killings still occur in Laos as a result of the Hmong political struggle. Further, Hmong who live near areas of armed resistance report being subject to abuse, discrimination and heavy-handed tactics. The State Department also concluded that there is no evidence that the Laotian government has used chemical weapons against its opponents (03/95).
Mar 2, 1995 A group of 531 Lao and Hmong refugees were returned to Laos under the auspices of the UNHCR (Xinhua News Agency, 03/2/95).
Jun 1995 A nationwide ban on rice exports was issued by the Laotian government due to rising prices and food shortages in mountainous areas. Malnutrition and starvation are reported to be common in Laos' most remote regions which are largely populated by ethnic groups such as the Hmong (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 06/13/95).
Jun 24, 1995 The report of a fact-finding mission sponsored by US Congressman Steve Gunderson has accused the US State Department of "deception" and a "whitewash" to "cover up misdeeds of officials involved in helping pressure and force Hmong/Lao refugees from Thailand to Laos". Further, the March report asserts that the State Department did "cover up their [Lao and Hmong] persecution and murders" in Laos. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is also accused of providing misleading information to the US Congress about the "voluntary" nature of the repatriations. The Gunderson report appears to confirm the claims of many Hmong and various independent observers (The New York Times, 06/24/95).
Jul 1995 Up to four Hmong rebel groups have been engaged in clashes with Laotian troops in northern areas near the Thailand border. The members of one group are reported to be followers of General Vang Pao while another group may have ties with the Thai military. It is suspected that the remaining two groups are involved in drug trafficking (Asiaweek, 07/28/95).
Jul 28, 1995 A small army rebellion was launched last month by a Hmong general near the former royal capital, Luang Prabang. The general was allegedly upset at being passed over for a promotion (Asiaweek, 07/28/95).
Nov 1995 The Laotian government asserts that the United States has delayed the implementation of a UN plan to repatriate Hmong refugees. Under the plan, some 6000 Hmong tribes people in refugee camps were to return to Laos by the end of this year. But the US has stated that it will re-screen the Hmong to determine whether some could obtain residency in the US (Agence France Presse, 11/30/95).
May 20, 1996 The U.S. State Department announced a final, time-limited resettlement opportunity for eligible Lao highlanders and lowlanders currently physically present and officially registered at Ban Hapho and Sikhiu camps. The State Department said there would be no further chance for resettlement to the U.S. from Thailand for Lao refugees. According to State Department figures, fewer than 4,000 Hmong are left in two refugee camps in Thailand. Officials said, the recrimination of the past have ended in Laos. Dawn Calabia, senior external relations manager for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the communist Laotian government stopped hunting down and killing Hmong by 1980. Author Jane Hamilton-Merritt, who covered the Indochina War in the 1960s and 1970s as a free-lance journalist, said Laos continues to persecute thousands of Hmong, while the United States gets set to abandon them. 20,000 veterans and their families who otherwise would be forcibly repatriated are holed up in a Buddhist temple in Thailand, she said.(United Press International)
May 20, 1996 Laotian Hmong Gen.Vang Pao spoke at a conference in Lubbock titled, ''After the Cold War, Reassessing Vietnam,'' sponsored by Texas Tech University's Center for the Study of the Vietnam Conflict, and asked for help in democratizing Laos. (United Press International)
Dec 27, 1996 Hmong tribesmen were blamed for the killing of a French travel agent Claude Vincent on his way to the former royal capital of Luang Prabang. Diplomats based in Vientiane believe the killing of Mr Vincent is merely the latest in a upsurge of roadside holdups by small armed bands of Hmong. Diplomats and analysts in Vientiane believe the culprits form the last remnants of the Hmong rebellion that dates back to the Vietnam War, one of the region's most intriguing and least understood insurgencies. Little is known of what degree of political organization lies behind the latest attacks. There exists slight evidence of links to United States-based Hmong exiles (South China Morning Post).
Feb 1997 The U.S. State Department reported of projects initiated by the government designed to integrate the Hmong into the general society. UN observers of repatriation of Hmong refugees to Laos reported no incidents of abuse or discrimination during the year. (US Department of State)
Mar 19, 1997 Thai authorities were considering moving most of the estimated 13,000 ethnic Hmong refugees from a monastery outside Bangkok to a Vietnamese camp. It was hoped the refugees, originally from Laos, would eventually return home from the camp at Sikhiu, in northern Thailand. Although officials have become increasingly impatient with the flood of refugees they have to cope with, it is believed some of the Hmong will be considered as political refugees. Another 2,635 Hmong and 741 lowland Laotians at Ban Napho refugee camp have already been warned they could be sent back to Laos by the end of June. The Government in Laos claims the monastery is a hideout for members of an anti -communist movement that it says still operates across the border. (South China Morning Post)
Aug 20, 1998 As a reply to Thailand's attempt to renew talks with Laos on the fate of thousands of Hmong at Saraburi province's controversial Tham Krabok monastery, Vientiane reiterated its stance that Thailand resolve the issue internally since it was its own affair. A commentary by Khao San Pathet Lao, the national news agency, quoted Laotian authorities as saying that the Hmong there were not from Laos, therefore, Laos could not welcome them back. Thai government planned to raise the issue at the upcoming meeting of Thai-Laotian military sub-committee on peace and order along the common border. It also planned to discuss with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) about possible assistance in case Hmong identified as Laotians are sent back. (The Nation)

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