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Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 1999 /11 Teves, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Who will help the Hmong? -- AGING ROCK STARS and Hollywood has-beens made Tibet's Dalai Lama a trendy cause celebre. Buddhism is so very "in." But in a Buddhist-dominated country on the other side of the world, there is an unsung minority of Christian freedom fighters suffering in silence: The Hmong.

If you've never heard of the Hmong people, and the heroic battles they waged to help America combat communism in Vietnam, there's a good reason. The U.S. State Department doesn't want you to know about the past history and present betrayal of our hidden allies in Southeast Asia.

At a recent press briefing, State Department spokesman James Rubin asserted unequivocally that the Hmong "do not suffer persecution at the hands of the government." Don't believe the spin. The Hmong, who are devoutly Christian and staunchly anti-Communist, are subjected to systemic religious persecution and political repression abroad. We Americans, ungrateful beneficiaries of their courage, have turned a deaf ear.

The Hmong are a farming tribe from the rugged hills of Laos, a former French colony which borders North Vietnam. Their name, according to Asian scholars, means "free people." From 1961-1973, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency recruited Hmong men and boys as part of a covert war on Lao and North Vietnamese communists.

The Hmong served as cooks, guards, translators, and nurses. They gathered intelligence. They rescued hundreds of downed American pilots. They sabotaged the Ho Chi Minh supply trail into South Vietnam. For more than a decade, the Hmong held the line against the Vietcong at the Laotian border. By some estimates, as many as 17,000 Hmong soldiers and 50,000 civilians were killed.

Generations of Hmong spilled their blood to spare ours.

And then America abandoned them.

After the U.S. permanently evacuated Vietnam in 1975, Hmong soldiers and their families were forced into exile. A lucky number are scattered on every continent, and in farming communities from Western Washington to California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Others escaped to Thailand. Those who didn't make it out of Laos were killed, imprisoned, or sent to "seminar" camps for "re-education."

Now Thailand is forcing all Hmong refugees within its borders to return to the Stalinist regime in Laos by the end of the year. The forced repatriation scheme was proposed by the United Nations and the U.S., and is partially funded with American tax dollars. U.S. officials insist the move has gone smoothly and peacefully.

True humanitarian or opportunist?
The Dalai Lama
But Anthony LoBaido, an international correspondent for, recently reported that the ongoing repatriation at gunpoint caused a full-scale riot at the Ban Napho camp in Thailand, where over 1,000 Hmong are being held. The refugees believe their unwilling return will mean imprisonment and certain death.

LoBaido, who spent the last year investigating the plight of the Hmong, witnessed rampant persecution of Hmong Christians in both Laos and Vietnam. "Earlier this year," he notes, "the Stalinist government imprisoned 44 Christians for holding a Bible study. Most of those imprisoned were members of Partners in Progress, an evangelical aid organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas, home of U.S. President Bill Clinton."

Amnesty International reports that several other prisoners of conscience continue to be held in remote Laotian camps because of their religious beliefs. Hmong soldiers have been detained by the Lao government for "re-education" without charge or trial. An untold number have died in custody. In April, two American tourists of Hmong descent, both with close ties to the Hmong freedom-fighters, disappeared at the Thai-Lao border. They were reportedly kidnapped - and perhaps killed - by Lao officials.

Despite pressure from Congress, the Lao government and Clinton State Department continue to stonewall on the whereabouts of Michael Vang of California and Ly Houa of Wisconsin. "I believe that our government knows what has happened to these two Hmong-American men," Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said recently.

Covering up information, however, won't cover the stench of betrayal. Our inaction is a national disgrace. The Hmong stood with us against the scourge of Communism. Standing up for them now, in a time of desperate need, is a simple matter of honor, justice, and moral obligation.

But what would the Clinton administration know about any of that?

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate