Posts tagged ‘Hmong’

March 30, 2014

Minnesota: State Capitol monument to Hmong-Lao veterans is moving forward

 

State Capitol monument to Hmong-Lao veterans is moving forward

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/253056851.html

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2014 – 5:26 PM

We support the Hmong and Lao memorial for our children, so they know our history,” Vu said.

“We’re here in America, the land of freedom, because of the sacrifices made by our elders,” Yia Michael Thao, the son of a soldier who fought on the U.S. side, told the committee.

Jim Ragsdale 

The old Hmong soldier’s voice broke as he told of coming upon American pilots in the smoking wreckage of their plane or helping evacuate a chaotic CIA base as the dominoes were falling in Southeast Asia.

Xai Paul Vang, 65, of Cottage Grove, spoke in the hallway of the Minnesota State Office Building last week, evoking memories of the “Secret War” in his native country of Laos in the ’60s and ’70s.

And explaining why a patch of ground in the Minnesota State Capitol Mall means so much to him.

“Every year in the last seven years, he has come to the location where it is designated for the monument, to honor it,” said an interpreter as Vang spoke. Even if he dies before it is finished, Vang feels “his spirit will be there. That is designated for him and all the Hmong-Lao veterans.”

The past was very much in the present in the crush of legislative business a few feet away. The House Committee on Capital Investment heard a pitch for a long-planned memorial on the Mall to the Hmong and Lao veterans and their families, who have been part of the fabric of St. Paul and the Twin Cities since the wars ended in 1975.

“We’re here in America, the land of freedom, because of the sacrifices made by our elders,” Yia Michael Thao, the son of a soldier who fought on the U.S. side, told the committee.

The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton are considering a proposal to spend $450,000, combined with another $150,000 to be raised privately, to build the memorial. This is the second go-round for the project, which once fell short of private fundraising goals.

This time Thao, who serves as finance chair for the project, said $130,000 has already been raised. It has been greenlighted by Gov. Mark Dayton and in an initial capital bill proposed by the House committee chair, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul. It has moved through a committee in the Senate, where its champion is Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, also a Laotian-born son of a Hmong soldier.

The soldiers’ story links steamy Laotian jungles with icebound Twin Cities neighborhoods. The CIA secretly recruited hill-dwelling Hmong and lowland Lao to find fallen pilots and hold back North Vietnamese troops operating in Laos. When the communists took over and U.S. allies fled, St. Paul became a beacon for resettlement.

The Capitol Mall is already a sea of stone and bronze ghosts, including Christopher Columbus and Leif Erikson (each honored as “Discoverer of America”) and memorials to veterans of 20th century wars, women suffragists, fallen police officers and firefighters and Minnesota workers. A state tally lists 20 existing memorials and statues.

2015: 40th anniversary

The new project, to be located near an existing Vietnam War memorial, would be dominated by an 8- to 9-foot bronze plant known as the “vigorous sprout,” with petals bearing images of the war, the escape from Laos and resettlement. It also will include stone walks with traditional needlework designs, plantings of Minnesota grasses and the words “Sacrifices for Freedom” engraved in stone.

If approved this year, the monument could be built in 2015, the 40th anniversary of the end of the war.

Two other centers of Hmong and Lao immigration, Sheboygan, Wis., and Fresno, Calif., have erected memorials in public places, and the U.S. government placed a small plaque at Arlington National Cemetery. It appears this would be the first such memorial on the grounds of a state capitol.

As the new generations of Hmong-Americans get further away from the wartime trauma, ex-soldiers like Charles Vu, 67, of St. Paul, want to make sure they remember how they got here. Vu said he was based at the secret air base at Long Cheng — the same one Xia Paul Vang helped evacuate — and served from 1968-75. Like his brothers-in-arms, he has many stories to tell.

“We support the Hmong and Lao memorial for our children, so they know our history,” Vu said.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

February 26, 2014

Press Release: U.S. Senate Slated To Vote On Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill

U.S. Senate Slated To Vote On Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill, Reports CPPA

Center for Public Policy Analysis

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, D.C./EWORLDWIRE/Feb. 25, 2014 — The U.S. Senate is pressing a major omnibus veterans bill forward today for potential consideration that contains legislation to assist Lao- and Hmong-American veterans of the Vietnam War in Laos who are seeking burial rights and honors at U.S. national veterans cemeteries.

“S. 1982, ‘The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act,’ introduced by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is scheduled for a cloture vote today by the Senate and potential debate on the bill. This comprehensive veterans’ bill contains historic and important language adopted and rolled-in from earlier legislation regarding Lao- and Hmong-American veterans’ burial and honors benefits, including S. 944 and S. 200,” said Philip Smith, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C.

“Unfortunately, many Lao- and Hmong-American veterans who served in America’s covert theater of operations during the Vietnam War are dying across the United States without the benefit of being recognized or honored for their extraordinary military and clandestine service.

“Having saved the lives of many U.S. soldiers and aircrews, these forgotten veterans deserve to be buried with dignity at U.S. national veterans’ cemeteries, with military honors, for their unique service as part of the ‘U.S. Secret Army’ defending U.S. national security interests and the “Royal Kingdom of Laos”, pivotal in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict.

“The effort to further honor, and review, the Lao- and Hmong-American veterans’ service, is being spearheaded by Chairman Bernie Sanders, Vice Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and others.

“Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA) and Paul Cook (R-CA), along with over 30 Members of Congress, have also introduced bipartisan legislation in the House regarding granting Lao- and Hmong-American veterans’ burial honors at national cemeteries administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Smith concluded.

“We are strongly urging the U.S. Congress, as soon as possible, to pass and help implement crucial legislation to help those Lao- and Hmong veterans still surviving from the Vietnam War, along with their families in the United States,” said Colonel Wangyee Vang, president of the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI), headquartered in Fresno, Calif.

“‘The Lao- and Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill’ was introduced in 2012, and again in early 2013, as S. 200, by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“We are very thankful that legislation is advancing in the U.S. Senate and Congress to seek to grant burial honors and benefits to our veterans at national veterans cemeteries administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Vang stated.

The CPPA, LVAI and Lao Veterans of America, Inc., provided testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee in May and June of 2013, during Committee hearings and markup sessions on the plight of Lao and Hmong veterans and pending veterans’ benefits legislation.

###

CONTACT:
Jade Her, Maria Gomez or Philip Smith
Center for Public Policy Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006
PHONE. 202-543-1444

February 21, 2014

Laos Steps Up Security in Hmong Villages Amid Prisoner Concerns

Laos Steps Up Security in Hmong Villages Amid Prisoner Concerns

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/hmong-security-02202014181101.html

Authorities in Laos have stepped up security in a northeastern province where ethnic minority Hmongs are concerned over the health and treatment of three members of their community imprisoned for illegal possession of firearms, sources said.

The three elderly men among a group of 14 convicted a year ago for having firearms in Xiengkhuang province are believed to be in poor health, a source in the province said.

Hmongs believe that Pa Cheng Cha, in his early eighties, and Pa Yelor and Cher Wa Lor, both in their early sixties, have not been treated well in prison and never received a fair trial after their arrest following a police raid in 2012, according to the source.

In response to the concern about their cases, authorities in Xiengkhuang, the birthplace of Hmong war hero General Vang Pao, have ordered villages to bolster their security forces to monitor Hmong people’s activities, he said.

“Each village has been ordered to step up its own security,” he told RFA’s Lao Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“In general, it is part of a campaign to alert people in the villages to be observant in helping the security forces,” he said.

Firearms

The three men are serving terms of between 15 and 18 years in prison, according to the local Vientiane Times newspaper.

They were arrested along with 11 others in July 2012 after police patrolling Phonsavanxay village in Xiengkhuang’s Paek district found an AK-47 rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition.

Villagers were taken in for questioning, leading to the discovery of others with rifles and handguns only police or soldiers are allowed to possess, according to the newspaper.

Of the 11 other men, five were sentenced to 15 years in prison and six given one-year terms.

According to the paper, Pa Cheng Cha, Pa Yelor,  and Chea Wa Lor are serving imprisonment of 18, 17, and 15 years respectively.

Opposition

Lao authorities have long been wary of opposition among the Hmong, many of whom say they face persecution from the government because of their Vietnam War-era ties with the United States.

Thousands of Hmong fought under CIA advisers during a so-called “secret war” against communists in Laos.

General Vang Pao, who spearheaded the 15-year CIA-sponsored war, died in the United States in 2011 at the age of 81.

The outspoken opponent of the Lao government emigrated to the United States after the communists seized power in his country in 1975.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

July 20, 2013

Long journey from Laos into Fresno Hmong pulpit

Long journey from Laos into Fresno Hmong pulpit

Published: July 19, 2013 Updated 11 hours ago

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/07/19/3396337/long-journey-to-pulpit.html

Published: July 19, 2013

By Ron Orozco — The Fresno Bee

Once a boy soldier in the “secret war” in Laos, today Xing Yang of Clovis is ready to become a pastor — at age 59.

In 1979, he fled communist-controlled Laos with his wife and two children. They ran through the jungle, swam across the Mekong River, dodged bullets and found safety at Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. A year later, they settled in Joliet, Ill., seeking a better life.

Now, Yang has earned a bachelor of theology and is ready to become pastor of a new congregation, Hmong Evangelical Lutheran Church, in central Fresno.

“He has come from so many years after the war to achieve so much,” says son Pou Kong Yang, who keeps in his wallet a tattered photo of his father when he was living in the refugee camp.

Pastoral Studies Institute at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., designs programs for refugees and immigrants to study special curriculum that relates to them and to navigate a timetable that fits their lives. Yang set out on an eight-year plan, which required him to travel to towns up and down California where the institute provides classroom teaching.

Institute director E. Allen Sorum says Yang faced an uphill battle.

Hmong traditionally aren’t Christians. They traditionally follow animism, a belief in the existence of spirits and demons. Shamans and witch doctors are called upon to thwart them. According to data used by the Pastoral Studies Institute, 350,000 Hmong refugees live in North America — and 250,000 practice their traditional beliefs.

Sorum says he sees growth, however, in Hmong people converting to Christianity. Many are introduced to the faith by Christian “witnesses” at refugee camps. After they settle in the United States, Hmong visit American churches to learn more. Yang heard the Gospel message in a refugee camp. In the United States, he attended a Methodist church in St. Paul, Minn.

Refugees also try to assimilate as they hold on to important parts of their culture, Sorum says. That can lead to conflict between first-, second- and third-generation family members, who vary in how much they want to assimilate or hold on to traditional ways.

However, Sorum says refugees can follow a natural progression to want to share their conversions with others as they spend more time in the United States.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which oversees the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, has reached out to Hmong for about 30 years, and it now has 10 Hmong pastors within the synod. Thirty-two seminarians have graduated from the Pastoral Studies Institute. Of them, Yang became the 19th Hmong or Laotian.

“This brother worked very, very hard to achieve his bachelor of theology, and I am very, very proud of him,” Sorum says. “He is so gracious and humble. I just have huge respect for him.

“This is how our seminary is trying to approach this next millennia — to train those who come from overseas.”

A guerrilla fighter

The son of a farmer who tended to cattle, horses, goats and water buffalo, Yang was born in a small village of about 200 in the providence of Xieng Khouang.

At 12, he became a soldier in the “secret war” in Laos, when the CIA in the 1960s and ’70s worked with the government to fight communism.

“They came into schools and forced any student who could carry an (M1) Carbine rifle to fight,” he remembers. “They needed help.”

In 1965, he lugged that rifle, draped a bullet belt across his chest, hid in trenches that he dug and waged guerrilla warfare.

“We would shoot to the place where we heard shooting,” he says.

After 1 1/2 years, his mother, Xee, won an appeal that Yang shouldn’t have to fight since her husband and three older brothers also were in the war.

Yang continued his education and became a teacher. But, in 1970, he returned to the jungle to help fight at Boum Long, a village that was fired on the heaviest.

In 1975, when the war ended, the communist government in Laos found out Yang had fought and sent him — and others — to jail. He was released after less than a year when someone “vouched” for him.

With many people running across Laos to Thailand, the government appointed Yang as a security leader. His job was to arrest those who tried to flee. Many escaped under Yang’s watch, so he was sent to jail again. A year later, he was released.

Orphaned by the war, Yang realized he had no choice but to flee with his family. In 1979, they ran for their lives, reaching the Thai refugee camp. Their youngest child died there.

In 1980, after an interview, Yang, his wife and a son were allowed to board a flight to the U.S. with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

On their third day in Joliet, Yang got a job as a custodian at First Baptist Church. He knew no English, but he got some help. “I was taught English by another custodian — Jack Hutchinson,” Yang says. “But there were many times when I cried. He spoke to me, and I didn’t understand.”

Less than a year later, a nephew visited the Yangs and persuaded them to move to St. Paul, which had a high concentration of Hmong refugees and special programs for them.

There, Yang enrolled in English as second language courses and worked toward his GED. At night, he worked at a Honeywell factory, cutting metal as a machinist.

Remembering the Christians who shared their faith in the refugee camps, Yang started to attend a Methodist church. He became a Christian and started reading his Bible to learn more about his faith.

“But it was frustrating to me: what the love of God is and how God helps you,” he remembers.

Three years later, the factory shut down. A cousin/pastor, Nhia Sou Yang, was interested in evangelizing in Orange County. He persuaded Yang to move to Fresno.He also wanted to tap into Yang’s English skills for his evangelization.

In 1984, Yang moved to Fresno, where he began to see how God had a hand on his life.

Shaped by God

While in Fresno, Yang struggled with issues about faith and culture.

“I am strong in the Hmong culture,” he says. “After becoming a Christian, I wondered what is the difference between culture and the love of God. I read my Bible every day.”

In 1990, he became president of Lao Evangelical Church. In 2004, when Yang completed his presidency, his life took an usual turn when he met a clergy member with St. Peter Lutheran Church in Clovis. Yang learned about the Pastoral Studies Institute program for refugees just like him. He went to St. Peter Lutheran and said yes to the seminary.

“I was getting old, about 50, and I said, ‘I will die some day,’ ” he says. “I said, ‘Why don’t I become one of God’s slaves?’ It was something I could tell God: ‘Here I am, use me.’ “

In 2005, he enrolled in the institute, but there were many challenges, especially studying and learning Greek and Hebrew.

The Rev. Michael Carr, who became pastor of St. Peter Lutheran in November 2009, became one of Yang’s primary institute teachers. Carr taught courses Thursdays at St. Peter.

Yang always carried an electronic dictionary with him.

“Studying any language that is not your first language is very difficult,” Carr says. “This is what he’s been doing, plugging away all these years.

“There were times, I would talk over his head. He would ask a question. I would try to figure out a way to explain. He would always use a highlight pen to mark things he didn’t understand. Later, he would look it up and figure it out. As far as learning, it was exhausting for him.

“From a human standpoint, the journey he has taken is mind-boggling.”

A humble man

Nearly everyone who meets Yang comes to a similar realization: He is special, a humble man who wants to help others.

Daniel Thao, 28, of Fresno completed the institute program with Yang. Many times, they traveled in the same car for hours to the classrooms.

“He is a hard worker,” Thao says. “He puts his heart and soul into everything he does in order to achieve what he wants.”

Ue Yang says her father has always encouraged his children to pursue higher education and to see the opportunities in America. She says her father always put his own plans for higher education on hold — until God called him to seminary.

“It was so encouraging for us kids to come home and see Dad studying,” she says. “I came home, and sometimes I didn’t feel like studying, and I would see Dad.

“He would turn on a lamp in a corner of the house — not all the lights because he didn’t want to disturb anyone. It encouraged us to work hard.”

Xing Yang and his wife set goals for all their children to graduate from high school. When that happened, they upped it to “going to college and having a decent job,” his daughter says.

Two other Yang daughters graduated with master’s degrees from UCLA this year. Ue Yang says the children also have been inspired by their mother, who works two jobs as a housekeeper.

Ue Yang says she didn’t hear her father tell his story until just several years ago: “It took Dad years to open up,” she says. “He is so humble.”

The reporter can be reached at rorozco@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6304.

March 19, 2013

Laos stonewalls on disappearances

 

Laos stonewalls on disappearances

 Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/341286/laos-stonewalls-on-disappearances

A US-based human rights coalition has strongly condemned Laos for obstructing attempts to find three Hmong-Americans missing since early January.

The case of the three Hmong-Americans missing in southern Laos has been linked to the equally mysterious disappearance of civic activist Sombath Somphone, whose case also has been stonewalled by the entire Lao government and security apparatus.

“Brutal and corrupt elements of the Lao security services, including the secret police, military and communist party apparatus, appear to be seeking to cover-up what has happened to these three Americans,” said the statement, issued on Tuesday and posted on the CCPA website.

The US State Department said it had sent three embassy officials to Savannakhet to investigate the disappearances, but they were assaulted by Lao security forces.

“Local Lao officials refused to provide any information or assistance in determining the welfare and whereabouts of the missing men, and physically prevented the Embassy officials from entering an incident site which may be related to the case,” a US Embassy spokesman in Vientiane said.

The human rights group Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) on Tuesday charged that Laos was obstructing attempts to learn the fates of the three missing men.

The ethnic men were last seen in Savannakhet province in southern Laos.

Souli Kongmalavong, Bounma Phannhotha and Bounthie Insixiengmai, all from Minnesota state, “appear to have gone missing under mysterious circumstance involving the Lao secret police and military,” Tuesday’s statement said.

The activists linked the disappearance of the three US citizens to the case of civic activist Sombath Somphone.

Mr Sombath, a Lao citizen, disappeared in Vientiane on Dec 15. The government has stonewalled all information about his disappearance.

The CPPA’s statement came with support from United Lao for Democracy and Human Rights (ULDHR), the Lao Human Rights Council (LHRC), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), the Laos Institute for Democracy (LIFD), and a coalition of non-governmental organisations.

The Vientiane embassy’s statement on Sunday said the US government had received information the three Americans died in a traffic accident.

But when consular officials tried to get information on the scene, Lao security stopped them.

“We will continue to vigorously press the Lao government for information and assistance with this case,” it said.

jacksprat

ThailandPost : 2,254

Discussion 1 : 19 Mar 2013 at 11.081

A Lao refugee colleague told me that bad things can happen to those who go back. She did pay a visit, until her uncle advised her to leave for her safety. Those who fled are still referred to as “traitors” by the government, even though she was only a child at the time.

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