the fight for vang pao

Last week, hundred of protestors demonstrated outside a federal courthouse in Sacramento in support of Vang Pao, the most recognized leader of Hmong people in the United States, who awaits trial on charges of trying to overthrow the communist government of Laos: Hmong Leader Held on Coup Charges. U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund Brennan refused to release him on bail, ruling that Vang Pao is "too dangerous and too great a flight risk to be freed under any circumstances," despite his age (77) and deteriorating health. He and eight other Hmong elders were arrested earlier this month on charges that they tried to buy nearly $10 million worth of military weapons and recruit mercenaries to unseat Laos' communist government.

Many older Hmong Americans were shocked by the arrest of Vang Pao, because they felt American prosecutors were turning their backs on a war hero. A military general in Laos, he was lauded for leading forces backed by the CIA in the "secret war" against communists there during the Vietnam War. However, his arrest has also revealed an interesting split in the Hmong American community, between old and young, between those who fled Laos and those who grew up here: Arrest Uncovers Divide in Hmong-Americans. Now, the community will have to wait and see...

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