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The Two Faces of Communist Laos

ICC Note:

An article in FrontPage Magazine shines light on the darker side of Laos and addresses the plight of the persecuted Hmong (largely Christian) minority.

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2/28/08 Laos (FrontPage Magazine)

There are two faces of Laos . One is the eco-tourism guided tour for backpackers with cheap hostels and an abundance of ganja (marijuana), coupled with the more expensive, more modernized Vientiane intent on luring western investors. The second is the insular Laos , behind a bamboo curtain, where the xenophobic, Pathet Lao communists (Lao People’s Revolutionary Party), with apparent aid from the Vietnamese communists, are intent on annihilating an ethnic group of people — the Hmong.

During the Vietnam War, the US conducted a “Secret War” in Laos arming the Hmong tribesmen and using them to interdict North Vietnamese soldiers and supplies being infiltrated into South Vietnam . Although it’s been more than 30 years since the end of that war, the Laotian communists, with help from the Vietnamese communists, are waging a “Second Secret War” in Laos in an attempt to annihilate the remnant US allies — Hmong veterans and their families — who are hiding in the jungle.

On May 9, 1975, in the Pathet Lao newspaper, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party announced its policy toward the Hmong and proclaimed it would hunt down the “American collaborators” and their families, “to the last root.” They will be “butchered like wild animals.” Even though the Vietnam War ended over 30 years ago, in the “Second Secret War,” Hmong infants and young men and women are being killed in Laos for the purported “sins of their fathers and grandfathers;” a handful of aged fighters who sided with the U.S. in the 1960s.”

The jungle in which the Hmong are suspected of hiding is being sprayed with a defoliant similar to Agent Orange in order to deprive them of the wild yams and jungle vegetables. The spray also kills or drives off the birds and other wildlife the Hmong rely upon to survive. It is suspected that the chemicals and planes and helicopters used for spraying are being provided by Vietnam . If so, this is the epitome of hypocrisy since the U.S. is paying the Vietnam to clean up Agent Orange sites, and the Vietnamese communists are seeking retribution for its citizens suspected of suffering from the effects of this chemical. Pathways leading farms and villages suspected of being sympathetic to the Hmong’s plight and providing food are mined resulting in a countless number of mainly innocent women and children being blown up, maimed and killed.

On January 31, the Center for Public Policy Analysis organized a Congressional Forum and Policy Briefing that was attended by a large number of Congressional legislative staff, American and Laotian Human Rights groups, and experts on the Hmong, such as Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Lao/Hmong scholar and author of the award winning book Tragic Mountains: the Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992.

Reports of horrific crimes against humanity were presented at the briefing including gang rapes of Hmong women, young and old, by Pathet Lao soldiers to terrorize and humiliate their families. Some were so brutally raped that they could no longer walk upright. Those that are not later killed, and become pregnant, their babies are taken from them after birth to be raised Nazi-like as “children of the state.” Other reports presented were of Hmong women being impaled on sharpened bamboo stakes through their vagina to their sternum. Copies of photographs were passed around of young children who had been eviscerated in front of their terrorized families that were forced to watch the children die slowly in excruciating pain. These reports, as well as that of massacres and killing of women and children, have been verified by credible journalists and International Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International and renowned photojournalist Roger Arnold.

While the vast majority of the country’s lowlanders are Buddhist, Christianity has made inroads among the highland people. The problem complicated by the fact that Hmong Christians fleeing persecution in Vietnam are flocking to Laos – from the frying pan into the fire. At least thirteen Christian Hmong were falsely accused of stirring rebel dissent and murdered by authorities in Laos over the past month according to an August 7 report from Compass Direct. The report also stated that 200 other Hmong Christians in the village of Sai Jerern have been arrested and imprisoned. They strongly denied any association with anti-government forces.

Only a very small number of NGOs (non-government agencies) are allowed operate in Laos , and these are under very tight restriction in where they can operate and what activities they can conduct. NGOs suspected of promoting Christianity, human rights, democracy, and community organization are expelled. International Human Rights groups, such as Amnesty International, and benign refugee assistance groups such as the United Nations UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are not allowed to operate in Laos or in Vietnam .

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