Wednesday, December 24, 2008

©SommerFilms, July 1, 2008
HUNTED LIKE ANIMALS filmmaker Rebecca Sommer released July 1, 2008 an eye-opening 8 minute long video titled:"THE SHAMEFUL TRUTH HOW LAOS TREATS REPATRIATED HMONG LAO REFUGEES"
To watch click here:

The video's purpose is to raise awareness on how communist Laos (LPDR) may treat those Hmong refugees forced back to Laos.

Thailand deported hundreds and hundreds of desperate Hmong Lao refugees back to Laos - many against their consent.
The international community has no access to those forcefully returned. In the past, if a journalist or diplomat was allowed to visit some of the returnees, they were surveilled by Lao officials, and the frightened Hmong Lao could not speak freely to them.
There is no data on how many are gone missing, and there is no record on their whereabouts.

June 2008, Thailand deported over 1600 refugees back to Laos. The operation came after a mass protest by thousands of Lao Hmong who broke out of the refugee camp in Phetchabun Province run by the Thai Army in a desperate attempt to walk towards Bangkok, to reach the UNHCR, who has been denied access to the refugees - by Thailand.

Hear what these Hmong Lao children endured, after they were forced back to Laos in 2005. The "Missing 26 children" made international headlines. Thailand forcefully deported 21 girls, 5 boys and one woman back to Laos December 2005. The children's parents remained in the refugee camp in Thailand - helpless and desperately waiting for their stolen children . The children's parents were Christians, and fled Laos to escape religious persecution. After persistent international pressure, Laos- all by a sudden- "found" 16 months later, in March 2007, 21 of the children, all of them girls, while the woman and 5 boys are still"missing".

And after you watched this video, take the time and WATCH the video which was released by LAOS to promote to the international media that the girls have been found, and were happy and well-treated, titled :"Handover 21 girls."

( In case the LPDR decides to remove their video after the release of "THE SHAMEFUL TRUTH...", you can contact for another link to the LPDR video.)


The Hmong hill tribe in Laos was recruited in 1961 by the CIA, to fight a "Secret War" against the Communists of North Vietnam. Their job was to try to block the Vietcong's supply route.

Known as the "Ho Chi Minh trail", it ran through Laos, along the border with Vietnam. More than 40,000 Hmong were killed in the fighting that followed.

When the US fled Saigon in 1975, Communists also seized control of Laos.

The Hmong, abandoned by the US, allegedly became the target of retaliation and persecution.

This marked the beginning of the mass exodus of Hmong refugees into Thailand, which eventually swelled to more than 300,000.

Known as the "Ho Chi Minh trail", it ran through Laos, along the border with Vietnam. More than 40,000 Hmong were killed in the fighting that followed.

When the US fled Saigon in 1975, Communists also seized control of Laos.

The Hmong, abandoned by the US, allegedly became the target of retaliation and persecution.

This marked the beginning of the mass exodus of Hmong refugees into Thailand, which eventually swelled to more than 300,000.

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley trekked through the jungles of northern Laos to find this dwindling tribe, the first television journalist to do so.

YouTube Source


About 2,000 ethnic Hmong from Laos have agreed to return to return home after a mass breakout from a Thai detention centre. They marched out of the camp trying to bring attention to their claims for asylum. Some say they were offered $500 per family from the Los government to return home. That's the equivalent of half a year's wage in the impoverished nation. But 3,000 Hmong refuse to go back and they are demanding urgent help from the United Nations' refugees agency, Al Jazeera's Hannah Belcher reports.

centre. They marched out of the camp trying to bring attention to their claims for asylum.
Some say they were offered $500 per family from the Los government to trutn home. Thats the quivalent of half a year's wage in the impoevrished nation,.
But 3,000 Hmong refuse to go back and they are demanding urgent help from the United Nations' refugees agency, Al Jazeera's Hannah Belcher reports.


Textbook Update Could Give Hmong Youth Cultural Pride

Monday, December 15, 2008

Editor’s Note: A new California bill that would require that the refugee history of Southeast Asians be included in the next textbook curriculum update may have the side-effect of instilling cultural pride in young Hmong Americans. A vote for California Assembly Bill 2064 is a vote to help all children take pride in their cultural identity, writes NAM contributor Connie Vang. She is a freshman at California State University in Fresno, Calif.

FRESNO, Calif.—One day, while slipping through a crowd of students at a bus stop, I overheard someone say: “I don’t think Hmong people have a country. They decided to come to America to use up its resources; they aren’t even contributing to society. It’s so embarrassing.”

To hear this from a Hmong student around my age shocked me. It made me realize that the majority of people in this country, both Hmong and non-Hmong, especially youth, have no clue as to why Hmong people are here.

But, if Governor Schwarzenegger signs Assembly Bill 2064 into law this month, it could change that and increase the cultural knowledge of many high school students in California. A.B. 2064 would require that the war and refugee history of Southeast Asians be included in the next textbook curriculum update.

I was once in that situation, feeling like I didn’t care about my Hmong culture. As students, many of us believe that if we don’t learn something in school, it's not important enough to know or care about in the first place. We are taught that education is the key to success, so why would we question the school system? And if we do question what we’re learning, we’re given the quick answer: “It’s California standards.”

In school, I did not learn anything about my Hmong culture, so it made me think that being Hmong was not important. I tried my best to separate myself from Hmong people.

I didn't go to cultural events. I refused to speak Hmong. I even said I would never date or marry a Hmong person. I succeeded in separating myself from Hmong culture, but from sixth through ninth grade, my self-esteem lowered drastically.

It grew worse each year, along with my grades. I started fighting with my parents, about my grades and social life.

Then, before my sophomore year, my mother dragged me to volunteer for Hmong Voices, a youth video program with a goal to document stories of Hmong leaders and veterans. At first I didn't want to be there, but a friend encouraged me to stay and give my culture a chance.

After working with others and learning why Hmong people came here, I was changed forever. Hanging out at the movies, gossiping, and buying clothes was no longer important.

I wanted a fresh start. I started to try harder in school. One night, my parents caught me doing homework and stared at me in confusion. When, for the first time, I hung out with another Hmong girl, my mom took pictures. People laugh about it, but it was a huge step.

Now, it pains me to know I hurt my parents in the past. After hearing the tragic stories of how the Hmong arrived to America, I developed more respect for my parents.

Many young Hmong do not know about the Secret War. They do not know how their parents and elders ran through treacherous jungles and escaped Laos by crossing the Mekong River. They do not know that in Laos today, some Hmong are still hunted and tortured by the government.

A.B. 2064 could change that. It would require that all high school history textbooks in California include teaching what Southeast Asians provided to the Americans during the Vietnam War. In 2003, A.B. 78 was signed into law. It was similar to A.B. 2064, but it only encouraged history teachers to teach it, rather than requiring it.

When people don’t know their cultural history, they don't know a part of themselves. As a result, they may react negatively, even resenting their culture. After discovering my cultural history, I started educating others. Often, in my classes I ended up educating my teachers and classmates about the Hmong and how they helped in the Vietnam War. Afterwards, some non-Hmong students even came up to me and asked more questions.

No one seemed to know how the Hmong helped during the Vietnam War. It wasn't just in my American and world history classes, but also in my American government and Spanish classes. It came up during discussions on the Vietnam War, the economy, terrorism, and genocide.

Some students saw me as a terrorist after General Vang Pao was arrested in June 2007 on charges that he was trying to overthrow the Lao government. Other students assumed that Hmong people had no hardships and came to America from China or Mongolia, strictly for economic reasons. Most teachers didn't have a clue either as to why Hmong people were in America. But they were open to learning from me and having the class learn along.

Some Hmong students tell me A.B. 2064 won’t pass because Hmong people are a small percentage of the population and America does not care enough. I think they react this way because the Hmong have received little recognition.

There is more to the bill beyond Hmong people. A.B. 2064 will also include other Southeast Asians that allied with the Americans, such as the Lao, Mien, Cambodian and Vietnamese. I didn't even know that other ethnicities were recruited for the “Secret Army,” but I learned that through A.B. 2064. These other groups are just as important, and should also be recognized for their contribution and sacrifice during the Vietnam War.

I hope people will contact Governor Schwarzenegger's office and urge him to support A.B. 2064. I know it will help many students who are struggling to understand who they are. Not just Southeast Asian students, but anyone with that same resentment of their cultural history.

When we know our cultural history, we can feel proud about who we are. When we know the war and atrocities that happened to our cultures in the past, we can prevent it from happening in the future.



Eastwood recognizes Hmong immigrants with new film

Sunday, December 14, 2008

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Back in the early 1990s, Nick Schenk was working the night shift at a factory in Bloomington, Minn., packaging VHS tapes. It seemed like a lousy job at the time, but it would lead him to the biggest break of his career.

Many of his co-workers were Hmong , an Asian people from the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia and China who fled to the U.S. in the wake of the communist takeover of Laos in 1975. "We had a lot of time to talk," Schenk recalls. "They'd ask us stuff like, 'Why do you guys eat so much?' And we'd ask them things like, 'Why do you have the same first name as last name?'"

Schenk also learned deeper things about the Hmong, such as how they had sided with the U.S. in the Vietnam War , only to wind up in refugee camps, at the mercy of communist forces, when American troops pulled out. And he learned about how they came to the U.S. thinking they'd be seen as heroes, only to find nobody knew they existed. But that was as far as it went. When the job ended, the plight of the Hmong slipped to the back of his mind.

Years later, however, after Schenk found himself stuck trying to develop a story about a recently widowed Korean War vet who is embittered by the changes he sees in his neighborhood, he stumbled upon the idea of putting a Hmong family next door to his main character, setting up a clash of cultures. Schenk bounced the idea around with his brother's roommate, Dave Johannson, and by the mid-2000s, they had pounded out an outline for the story.

Insiders told him, "You can't write a movie with old people in it. It's not sellable." But through a friend, he was able to get the screenplay to Bill Gerber, a producer and former studio executive based at Warner Bros . Then, in late 2007, Gerber set up a meeting with Clint Eastwood and producer Rob Lorenz.

Eastwood was in the final weeks of shooting Universal's " Changeling ." Work on "Changeling" was on track to wrap in May, but then the actor-director planned to segue to " The Human Factor ," with Morgan Freeman starring as Nelson Mandela. Even if he liked Gerber's pitch, he was thoroughly committed for the next year or more.

Luckily for Schenk and Johannson, production on "Human Factor" was pushed back to early 2009, leaving Eastwood just enough time to squeeze in a summer shoot for " Gran Torino ," which opens in theaters on December 12.

Quite quickly, he announced that it would be his next project. Better still, despite having claimed he would no longer act, Eastwood now said he would play the lead role of Walt Kowalski, as well as direct.

"I've kinda been slowly withdrawing (from acting)," Eastwood acknowledges. "But every time I say I am not going to, somebody gives me a role. That's what happened with (2004's) "Million Dollar Baby,' and that was four years ago now. When 'Gran Torino' came along, it was a fun and challenging role, and it's an oddball story."

With Eastwood attached, the film rapidly got a greenlight from Warners . The studio suggested he consider shooting in Michigan, which had just enacted a generous tax rebate in an effort to lure film and TV productions to the state.

"The script was written for Minnesota , but it was well-suited to Michigan because Clint's character is a retired auto worker from a Ford plant," notes Lorenz. "So we went to the Midwest and looked around at a number of different locations in Minnesota, Chicago and Michigan. We brought back the pictures, and Clint chose Michigan," specifically the Detroit suburb Highland Park .

If finding the right location was easy, casting was a whole other matter, a task made more daunting by Eastwood's determination to cast actual Hmong . Casting director Ellen Chenoweth set up open casting calls in Detroit -- and in Fresno, Calif., and St. Paul, Minn., the cities with the nation's two largest Hmong communities. She also enlisted the help of various Hmong organizations.

In St. Paul, she found Bee Vang to fill the key role of Tao, a teenage boy who tries to steal Walt's prized 1972 Gran Torino, initiating an unlikely friendship; and in Detroit, she found Ahney Her to play Tao's older sister, Sue.

"When Rob and I sat down with them, it didn't seem like they totally grasped the enormity of what had happened," Gerber says. "They hadn't really seen that many of Clint's movies, so they weren't intimidated by his oeuvre."

Her, who had studied acting for a short time, had never been in a movie before, so she was understandably nervous when she showed up on the set in July. But Eastwood immediately put her at ease. Indeed, one of the surprising things about the star is how quickly he elicits a feeling of comfort in those who work with him.

"The first time I was going to shoot, he said, 'Be yourself and do what you have to do,'" Her recalls. "And it applied to all the scenes that I did."

Filming commenced in Highland Park in July. Even though most of the Hmong cast members had little or no acting experience, Eastwood stuck to his policy of no rehearsals. "Clint likes things to be fresh and spontaneous and not overly rehearsed, because then they become stale, particularly with someone who's new at it," Lorenz observes. "He doesn't want them to formulate specific performances that they will be unwilling to change, so he'd rather do it on the day."

Eastwood has a reputation for working swiftly, but on "Gran Torino," he outdid himself. With the action restricted largely to two neighboring houses, he was able to shoot most of the film in sequence and wrap principal photography two days shy of the scheduled 35 days.

The older Hmong on the set were deeply appreciative of his efforts. "I was sitting at lunch with Clint one day and I remember the Hmong extras coming up and saying to him how much they appreciated him making a movie that included their culture," Gerber recalls.

Whether that culture will draw a wide audience remains to be seen. But Warners ' decision to release "Torino" in awards season, just when Eastwood is also out with " Changeling ," bears similarities to two years ago, when " Letters From Iwo Jima " bowed just after " Flags of Our Fathers ." In the end, it was the smaller picture that had legs.

Much attention will be paid to Eastwood, who may finally stand a real chance of being recognized for his work as an actor, as well as director. But just as important, the movie will also draw attention to the plight of the Hmong.

"To (Eastwood's character) Walt, all Asians are the same," Schenk says. The Hmong just happened to be the prevalent Asian ethnic group living in the sort of community he envisioned Walt living in. "But I did my best to make sure everything was true to them, because I respect those people. And the Hmong people I talked to on the set say I nailed it pretty well."



Logo, Duce, & Pagnia Xiong

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Hmong Movement lyrics here!!!
I listen to Korean hip hop all the time. I don't even know the language. Never been a fan of Hmong music. When I was told to listen to Logo and Duce Khan. I fell in love with the lyrics! So meaningful!!! Maybe I'll do a translation next time. Funny thing is I should know Logo but it never clicked to me who he really was. My parents hang out with his parents! I know and talk to his sister and cousins, hahaha.

Logo and Duce performing "Mloog Zoo Zoo" in NC on 04/20/2008
For those who don't know NC has the most Hmong population in the Southeast.

The Hmong Movement Concert
Duce & Pagnia Xiong performing
"The Hmong Movement"
November 27, 2008 in NCV


Hmongs choose Burger King

Thursday, December 4, 2008

HOW do you market burgers after you've tried everything else?

Taste tests in Transylvania.Next week, Burger King kicks off a major ad campaign that involves a unique twist on the tried-and-true marketing technique of taste testing. The campaign is already generating controversy.

The No 2 burger-maker in the US asked farmers in the Transylvania region of Romania, the Hmong tribe of Thailand, and other folks in far-flung places to sample its Whopper alongside McDonald's Big Mac and declare the winner.

One ad, set to begin airing on Monday, features images of villagers in traditional garb choosing the Whopper over the Big Mac. A Transylvanian woman, an Inuit tribesman from the Icelandic tundra and others point and, in their native tongues, declare their preference for Burger King's flagship product.

"We travelled to find the most isolated people in the world ... the world's purest taste test," a voiceover says.

Burger King says it was trying to find "Whopper virgins", which is also the name of its campaign. "We wanted to see how the Whopper would perform in a world that didn't have ad or marketing awareness or any sentimental attachments" to either brand, said Russ Klein, president of global marketing, strategy and innovation at Burger King Holdings.

It didn't take long for the campaign to get flame-broiled by controversy, The Australian reports.

Teaser ads, which started running this week, showing snippets from the experiment, were criticised as tasteless and potentially exploitative.

A blogger on Walletpop wrote: "What might irk people is the concept that Burger King is taking its fat-laden fast food to people who aren't used to this stuff in their diets, who aren't usually subject to our crass commercials, and who probably don't really care too much."

Alan Siegel, chairman of Siegel & Gale, a branding firm, warned that the ads "could be interpreted as the crass part of America talking to the Third World".

Burger King said it approached the project with "extreme care". Mr Klein said: "The first order of business was to be certain that we conducted the filming with respect for the cultures and people involved in the test." Lo Neng Kiatoukaysy of the non-profit Hmong American Friendship Association in Milwaukee said she and a small group of Hmong she works with viewed and liked the teaser ads. Burger King said it hired a research firm to conduct the tests, and that the Whopper "was chosen by the participants more times than not". It declined to elaborate.,21985,24753546-663,00.html

Watch video below


Hmong history

Friday, November 28, 2008

Who Are The Hmong?

The Hmong, tribal people from highland Laos, are recent immigrants to the United States. The Hmong were largely insulated from the outside world, but during the Vietnam War, between 1954 and 1975, the Hmong were recruited by the United States to fight against the communist forces in Laos.

When the United States forces withdrew from Vietnam and Laos in 1975, the Hmong became the target of violent reprisals from the new government. Hundreds of thousands of Hmong were forced to flee across the Mekong River to seek refugee in Thailand. During the marching to Thailand, tens of thousands were being killed by the Communist Pathet Lao, victims of chemical bio-logical toxins, and died of hunger.

Currently, there are over a hundred thousand Hmong on the hillside inside Laos who are still fighting for freedom and democracy. Approximately 300,000 Hmong are living in the United States and other western countries, 40,000 still remain in the refugee camps and an unstated number are living illegally with relatives in the local Hmong villages in Thailand.

Most of the Hmong who are in Thailand hesitate to seek resettlement in the U.S. and are not yet ready to return to Laos. As Thailand seeks to end its refugee population, we, the United Hmong Foundation, must ensure that no Hmong are returned involuntarily. Despite the continuous flow of the Hmong refugees into the United States, many Americans are still unaware of the sacrifices the Hmong made for supporting American military during the Vietnam War. The Hmong also have good determination to unite by the common experience of rebuilding individual lives and families that were permanently altered by war and resettlement.

By correlation archeological and anthropological evidence, oral tradition, and Chinese imperial records, scholars have traced the Hmong to central Asia, possibly as early as 5000 B.C. Hmong folktales describe a place having six months of light and six of dark, where snow lay on mountains and ice covered lakes. Over many centuries, they migrated eastward descending through northeast Tibet into southern China. There, the Chinese referred to them as Miao(Meo in Southeast Asia), sometimes translated as "barbarians", but actually a variation on the word "man". Their name for themselves Hmong, means "free people"(Credit: Chippewa Valley Museum. Hmong In America/Journey From A Secret War. Copyright: Chippewas Valley Museum Press 1995)

These following are just claims of what might have happened.
(keyword: "might have happened")

Who was first in China, Hmong or Chinese?

The Hmongs are still unclear of their past and lack informational links to find them. History was passed orally from Grandfather to son, father to son, etc. There have been many claims, and stories trying to resolve this matter. In the Hmong folktales which were orally passed down from generation to generation, there were talks of Hmong having their own emperor of China. It was believed that the Hmongs first lived in China before the Chinese. At the time, it was not called China, but was called after the Hmong emperor's name. Then one day, the Chinese started to appear. They traveled to the Hmong kingdom from the direction of the Pacific Ocean. The Chinese migrated in, and started to work in the fields, and intermarried with he Hmongs. When the population of the Chinese surpassed the Hmong, the Chinese began to take over. Centuries of wars between the Hmong and Chinese to take over the kingdom. With no fortune, a Hmong man was bribed to killed the Hmong Emperor, and he was successful at doing so too. Since then, the Hmongs were persecuted, and forced out by the new emperor, a Chinese emperor.

Go to picture of emperor

During this persecution, the Hmongs lost all their written records, and written languages. If was said that the Chinese burned all the records and books. Anyone who had knowledge of writing or reading, was killed. It was believed that the last person to have a record book, swallowed his copy, right before the Imperial Chinese soldier killed him. Hmongs have learned to preserve their writings in the "paj ntaub" or the "Pha Dau". The Pha Dau were symbols and writings which was stitched into embroideries. Today, the Pha Dau's are just a mere design for costumes, and decoration of for the New Year celebrations. The Hmong elders who could actually read the embroideries have all passed away.

Are the Hmongs one of the Lost Tribes of Hebrew?

Many also believe that the Hmong are one of the Lost Hebrew Tribes. To back this up, a folktale talked about a great flood that happened to the Hmong. Also, Linguistics have compared the Hmong written language to those of ancient Hebrew, and found them to be similar. Hebrew and Hmong also share similar animal sacrifices in religious beliefs. Even with the head dress, the Hmong and the Hebrew head dress are similar in a way. Last but no least, there are Hmongs with blond hair, and blue eyes. This comes to the conclusion that somewhere along the way, may the Hmongs intermarried with blond haired blue eyes people, or maybe the Hmong may have migrated to Europe for a while before heading towards China.

Is Mongolia where the Hmongs came from?

It was believed that the Hmongs did settled in Mongolia. Also, the name Mongolia, was named in honor of a Hmong girl named, Mongolia. This idea came from folk tales passed down from grandparents too.

The tale talks about the emperor of Mongolia just recent passing away. One of the rule was that when a parent dies, the son's or the eldest son has to guard and watch over his body. This is to keep him safe for the time being. Every night the eldest son has to watch over his father's body. But, every night a ghostly knight that comes around on a horse kept scaring the son away. The next night, the younger son was told to guard the body. Again that night, he was scared away by the ghostly knight. Talks of this ghostly knight made other members of the family scared, excepted for a young girl. That night, she stayed up and guarded her father. When the ghostly knight came, she didn't run away. The ghostly knight came up to her, and congratulated her on her heroism. He told her that she is the only one that was not afraid of him, therefore, he made her Empress of Mongolia. The name Mongolia, was that young girl's name. Other than that, little backs that idea.

To learn more about the Hmong and their part in the Vietnam War, please visit Lao Veterans of America's web site. You will find many interesting pictures and articles there to inform you more about the Hmong.


Hmong's new lives in Caribbean

Thursday, November 6, 2008

By Bethan Jinkinson

BBC's East Asia Today, in French Guiana
Txong Fong Moua was one of Cacao’s original settlers and a veteran who fought with both the French and the Americans against the Vietnamese.

"This is a picture of me with my gun. That is me, and that is my younger brother… We were very good fighters, and we killed a lot of Vietnamese."

Go to page to see more pictures

Asia's Hmong ethnic minority has been scattered by hardship and warfare for centuries, but one of its most unusual destinations was French Guiana in the Caribbean.

"The Hmong people have never had a country before," says Txong Fong Moua, one of the founding members of the Hmong village of Cacao, inland from the capital Cayenne.

"All we ever needed was a forest, somewhere to produce vegetables. We built everything from scratch, all our houses, our farms, everything, until it became our new home."

The French Guiana link goes back to the 1970s, after Hmong refugees were left behind when their US allies pulled out of South East Asia. Many fled to Thailand, and some were later resettled overseas by France and the US.

The first group of 45 Hmong arrived in Cayenne in 1977. They were transferred to a new plot of land in the Amazonian jungle, which they called Cacao. Since then, nearly 2,000 Hmong have settled in French Guiana.

Txong Fong Moua arrived with 13 members of his family.

Thanks to Hmong traditions of marrying young and having large families, he now has 84 living descendants.

He lives with his wife, his daughter and son-in-law, and their two children, in a traditional Laos-style wooden house.

Like most of Cacao's houses, it is sparsely furnished but also contains many hi-tech gadgets, like satellite dishes and a widescreen television - evidence that the Hmong in French Guiana have done extremely well for themselves.

Although they make up only 1% of the population of, they now control 70% of the country's agriculture.

"Before, in Laos, we grew food only for our own families to eat," said Joseph Toh, one of Txong Fong Moua's son-in-laws.

"But when we came here, we needed money to live, and to make enough to sell. So we moved from simple farming to more advanced farming technology," he said, demonstrating an irrigation system he had set up on his land.

Using these techniques, as well as pesticides and herbicides, the Hmong have managed to carve out pristine farms from the rainforest.


The Hmong sell a wide variety of fruit and vegetables at the weekly produce market in the capital, Cayenne, earning around $500-600 dollars per trip.

Although the fruits of their labour are well received by the local population - their tasty rambutans sell out quickly - people were initially wary of the Hmong.

Demonstrations were organised in the capital Cayenne prior to their arrival, as the locals were worried that the Hmong would steal their jobs.

But perhaps because the Hmong have largely kept themselves to themselves, the locals seem to have accepted their presence in the country.

This self-sufficiency and self-reliance has left them somewhat isolated from the wider community, and this can cause problems.

"Hmong men are very shy," says Vietnamese born Ly Ngoc Lan, who teaches creative arts at Cacao elementary school.

"They rarely marry outside the small community, and as a result many people are marrying people who are basically relatives, cousins or even aunts and uncles," she said.

Another problem that the community has is that the work ethic is so strong, education often takes second place.

"Because the parents work so hard on their farms, they are more focussed on that than their children's education. As a result, not many of them go on to higher education."


Perhaps because many of them had to leave everything behind when they fled Laos after the Americans pulled out of the war, the Hmong are very focussed on earning money.

The Hmong have been running all their lives", says Ly Dao Ly, Cacao's village baker. "Maybe they feel that even though they are citizens here, they might have to run again, and so money is their security."

Madame Ly is a strong believer in keeping Hmong traditions alive in Cacao. In between baking croissants and baguettes for the village, a trade she learnt in France, she teaches traditional Hmong dancing to the children.

"I am worried that if people work too hard, they won't have enough time to teach their children our ancient traditions," she said.

However, some Hmong traditions appear to be alive and well in Cacao.

Animals such as buffaloes are still regularly sacrificed for big celebrations like weddings, where traditional dress is worn by many guests.

Hmong handicrafts and embroidery sell well at the weekly Sunday market which attracts people from around the country.

Embroidered cushion covers depicting the Hmong exodus from Laos across the Mekong river into Thailand provide an example of how the Hmong's recent history is being preserved by the women of Cacao.

Religious beliefs, though, have shifted. Although traditionally animist, Christian missionaries have been active within the Hmong communities in French Guiana for years, and as a result, church attendance is extremely high.

Even the young people of the village attend two or even three times a week.

Although some of the elder people in the village said they would like to go back to Laos to visit, most of the younger generation seem to have less desire to find out where they have come from. They are more interested in travelling to America and France, both of which have sizeable Hmong communities.

"Laos is not stable," said one Hmong farmer in his twenties.

"If you are Hmong there, they can cut your head off. Here we have laws, we have liberty, democracy, we are free."


Finally - Gran Torino's trailer

Friday, October 24, 2008


First Look: Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino Poster and More

First Look: Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino Poster and More
October 23, 2008

Source: USA Todayby Alex Billington

After finally figuring out what Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino was about last week, we've got our first look at Eastwood as well as the official poster. This update comes from USA Today, where a full feature article can also be found. Gran Torino follows Walt Kowalski (played by Eastwood), a racist Korean War veteran whose prized possession is a classic car that catches the eye of local gangs in his Detroit neighborhood. The story is really about two important "objects", both of which can be seen on the poster: Kowalski's 1972 Ford muscle car and his M-1 rifle - "the weapon he has had left over since being in the service."

Eastwood elaborates on the plot and the inciting incident. "The young kid, as part of a gang initiation, tries to steal it, and the old guy gets him at the end of the M-1, which becomes kind of a big deal," he explains. "The kid has to do penance because of the pride of the Asian group. They make him do penance. He has to come over, and the old guy doesn't want anything to do with him, doesn't want him anywhere around." So what does Kowalski make him do if he doesn't want him around? "Walt helps him get a job and helps him toughen up a bit… They take him in and try to show him how to handle himself in life."

Eastwood adds that "it's got a lot of twists and turns in the story" but "also has some good laughs." I'm very interested based on that brief description alone. The trailer debuts this weekend in front of Changeling and will be online soon. Speaking of which, has any other director had a trailer for their next movie in front of the theatrical opening of another one of their movies? This may be a first!

Gran Torino is directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood, of Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Changeling. The screenplay was written by newcomer Nick Schenk (I Shot Myself) with story assistance from first-timer Dave Johannson. Warner Brothers has scheduled a limited December 17th release for Gran Torino, which puts Eastwood and company into Oscar consideration again. Will audiences be able to appreciate two Eastwood films in one year?


Hmong Heroes May Have Seen CIA Nod for Coup

Sunday, September 28, 2008

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Evidence is mounting that at least some of the 11 men indicted in California last year for allegedly planning the overthrow of the government of Laos may have believed their plan had the tacit approval or even the outright support of the CIA.

Documents filed in federal court in Sacramento last week show that in 2004 a retired CIA employee held detailed discussions about a military intervention in Laos with one of the key defendants in the case, General Vang Pao, an aging Hmong leader who fought an American-backed secret war against the Laotian government in the 1960s and 1970s.

According to an FBI report, the former CIA operative, Michael Spak, told prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case last summer that he talked with the general for three to four hours about military tactics and provided him with written cost estimates and "talking points" for a military campaign.

Mr. Spak, who faces no charges, said the general wanted to work with the Lao government to ease the suffering of the Hmong people. The ex-CIA man said he told the general that some military pressure on Vientiane was essential.

"In response to Vang Pao's ideas, Spak told him that political pressure alone had no chance of working," the FBI report said. "Spak recommended a two-pronged approach to pressure the Lao government including both a political and military track. He described the military track as consisting of direct and indirect sabotage and small-scale military engagements."

The former CIA officer also "recommended" buying explosives in Thailand or through his own security firm, Virtual Defense and Development International Inc., the FBI memo said.

Mr. Spak told the lawyers that he advised the general that the firm would get involved only if the American government approved. "Spak offered to discuss the military approach with his contacts in the CIA, and Vang Pao agreed," according to the FBI report on Mr. Spak's interview.

Mr. Spak said that soon after the February 2004 meeting he reached out to a CIA contact who routed the inquiry to an officer on the agency's Southeast Asia desk. "Good luck" was the message Mr. Spak said he got back from the contact. In a point that could be important to the general's defense, the former CIA operative said he never advised the general about the dismissive reply from Langley.

Mr. Spak told The New York Sun that some aspects of the FBI report were not accurate, but he declined to elaborate and said he did not have time to discuss the matter further last night.

Defense lawyers allege that the undercover Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent who conducted the sting operation stoked the defendants' perceptions that the CIA and other government agencies would take part in the coup attempt. "I'm willing to bet ... that the CIA is aware of what's going on there," the agent told an Army veteran who allegedly played a key role in the plot, Harrison Jack, according to a transcript of a secretly taped March 2007 conversation. "They're going to know when to come in." The agent also talked about flying prisoners of war back to America on a C-5 military transport and speculated about which air force base would be best suited to receive it.

"Travis or Beale. Beale would probably be better," the ATF agent told Mr. Jack, according to the transcripts.

Another Hmong defendant, Lo Cha Thao, boasted of meeting with high-level CIA officials and told Mr. Jack in phone calls that the agency was ready to jump in. "The CIA gave us a mission to go and find the exact heartbeat of the country. ... We got the top guy, like the CIA guy, giving under the table strategies," Lo Cha Thao said, according to surveillance transcripts. "They are waiting on us and they mobilized everything over there already. They're just waiting for our call."

Prosecutors did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, but one told a judge at a hearing last year that the talk about the CIA's participation was fantasy.

"There was no CIA involvement or any other federal government involvement in this case other than the investigation by ATF and the FBI," a prosecutor, Robert Twiss, said. "This is a complete fabrication by the defendants carried forward from Lo Cha Thao to Harrison Jack."

Mr. Twiss also told the court that the agent's talk about the CIA was idle speculation. "The snippets you saw don't suggest any CIA activity. What it suggests is two guys who are Defense Department veterans talking about things Defense Department veterans talk about. ... Virtually everyone in this room has speculated as to national defense policy, what the CIA will do here or there, what the Army will do. This is a completely usual, not unusual, discussion," he said.

Defense lawyers did not return calls seeking comment for this article, but a lawyer for Lo Cha Thao has said publicly that the meeting with the top CIA officials never occurred. In a joint court filing last week seeking more information on any CIA contacts and on American policy toward Laos, defense attorneys said their clients might not be guilty if they thought their plan had official approval. "To the degree a defendant believed that such consent existed, he had no intent to engage in a criminal conspiracy," the lawyers wrote. Arguments of entrapment and "defense of others" are also possible, the filing said.

However, prosecutors said some defendants were warned that it was illegal to plot such a coup from America.

A former federal prosecutor, Laurie Levenson, said the 78-year-old former general might prevail at the trial, which is not expected until next year. "Even if you thought the government was in the right, there's a sympathy factor from the jury," she said, adding that jurors were sure to ask, "At one point he was a friend. Why are you going after him now?"

Mr. Spak's dealings with the general have not been previously reported. However, portions of the ATF surveillance transcripts appeared in the New York Times in May.



Laos, Thailand Crisis: 31 Hmong Arrested Following Renewed LPDR Military Attacks

Monday, September 22, 2008

Following recent attacks last week in the Phou Bia Mountain area of Laos, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) has arrested a group of 31 Hmong civilians and religious and political dissidents, including women and children.

( - Washington, D.C., September 17, 2008 - The Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. the Center for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ), non- governmental organizations and policymakers in Washington, D.C. are receiving increased reports of fresh new military and security force attacks against Laotian and Hmong civilians and political and religious dissident groups in Laos. Following recent attacks last week, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) has arrested a group of 31 Hmong civilians and religious and political dissidents, including women and children. The arrests following a renewed effort by the LPDR regime to starve, attack and kill Hmong living independently from the one-party authoritarian regime in the Phou Bia mountain area and elsewhere in Laos.

“The Lao military continues to launch heavy military and security force attacks at Hmong in the Phou Bia mountain area of Laos; and their military and security forces have recently arrested seven ( 7 ) Hmong families totaling 31 innocent Hmong people,” stated Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Hmong Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. ( HLHRC ).

Author and Southeast Asian scholar Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, who testified in the U.S. Congress earlier this year about the current Laotian and Hmong refugee crisis, documents the plight of the Hmong people in her award winning book Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos. ( Indiana University Press ). The 15th anniversary of the publication of Tragic Mountains is being marked this year.

“On September 9, 2008, Mr. Thong Xue’s group of Hmong civilians and dissident religious and political members were brutally arrested,“ stated Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. “Most of the group of the 31 Lao-Hmong arrested by the Lao military and security forces last week at Phou Bia mountain area were women, children and the elderly.”

“Seven Lao-Hmong civilian families totaling 31 Hmong in hiding in the area of Haav Qhuav ( Dry River ) Phou Bia, Laos had managed to somehow survive for many years and courageously defended their families, holding out until just this month from continued and repeated heavy LPDR military and security force attacks and a campaign of calculated, mass starvation, but the poor Hmong families finally surrendered at gunpoint to the government soldiers,” continued Smith.

Smith stated further: “We believe that these Lao Hmong families, which includes 31 individuals, will likely face rape, torture, execution or death at the hands of the LPDR military and security forces that have done the very same thing in recent weeks and months to so many Laotian and Hmong people, including the massacre and mutilation of women and children; This group of 31 Hmong people represents the tragic tip of the iceberg in terms of the shear numbers, scale and scope of this Darfur and Bosnia-like crisis where so many innocent Laotian and Hmong people are being arrested, abducted and killed by the LPDR regime.”

“The Lao military and security forces have arrested Mr. Thong Xiong’s group which includes seven ( 7 ) families totaling 31 Hmong in hiding in the area of Haav Qhuav ( Dry River ) Phou Bia, Laos, continued Vaughn Vang of the HLHRC. “The head of these families are: Mrs. Vang Kou; Mrs. Lor Yeng; Mrs. Tong Khue; Mrs. Chong Ser; Mrs. Yang Lue; Mrs. Tong Xeng and Mrs. Nhia Xyum Moua.”

Vaughn Vang stated further: “Currently the LPDR soldiers are holding these innocent Hmong men, women and children in Haav Qhuav ( Dry River ) until the soldiers have arrested the rest of the innocent Hmong in hiding which at that time the soldier will likely kill these innocent women and children quickly in Haav Qhuav ( Dry River ) in the mountains of Phou Bia, Laos in the next few days or weeks.”

Vaughn Vang concluded: “These innocent Hmong men, women and children appeal to the United Nations, the United States and the world community to urge the LPDR government to spare the lives of these 31 Hmong people. The LPDR should immediately and unconditionally release these 31 Hmong people that it has unfairly arrested and prove to the international community that the Lao government will abide by international law and the spirit and letter of H.Res. 1273 and H.Res. 402, as introduced in the U.S. Congress, and cease its human rights violations and attacks against the freedom-loving Laotian and Hmong people.”

Anna Jones
Center for Public Policy Analysis
2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Suite #212
Washington, D.C. 20006 USA

Tele. ( 202 ) 543-1444



Update on Vang Pao and Company's charge of overthrowing Laos

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Laos coup cases sputters to life

From Denny Walsh:

The long-dormant docket in the prosecution of 11 men accused of plotting the violent overthrow of the communist regime in Laos sputtered to life Monday with the filing of defense motions seeking disclosure of government records.

Two motions ask U. S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd to order prosecutors to turn over grand jury records and any citizen complaints and findings of misconduct against the case's investigators.

The grand jury records sought generally relate to the procedural aspects of the impaneling and operation of the jury that indicted the defendants, as opposed to records relating to the substance of the jury's investigation.

A third motion asks Drozd to order all investigators' notes preserved.The 10 Hmong and a retired Army lieutenant colonel were first charged June 4, 2007, in a criminal complaint, and later indicted by a federal grand jury in Sacramento.

Prosecutors have until Oct. 27 to respond to the motions, and defense lawyers will have until Nov. 19 to reply. A hearing before Drozd is set for Dec. 8.



Murders of 6 kids are all but forgotten

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

By Rubén Rosario Article

Last Updated: 09/06/2008 09:57:15 PM CDT

Pat Hogan will never forget the day he dug a mass grave wide enough to fit the bodies of six children side by side.

It was Sunday afternoon, Sept. 13, 1998. Hogan, then a grounds worker and now the superintendent of Forest Lawn Cemetery in Maplewood, remembers being called in as he was getting ready to watch the Vikings-Rams game.

Instead, he listened to the game on the radio as he dug the final resting place for the victims — all siblings — of one of the worst mass murders in Minnesota, certainly in St. Paul, in recent memory.

"It is a sight I hope to never see again,'' Hogan recalled last week after he took me to the grassy burial site.

The kids — three boys and three girls, ages 5 to 11 — are on Lot 134, Block 33 on the cemetery's northwest corner, between the "Anderson" and "Hang'' graves.

I could not get there without Hogan's help. Ten years later, there are no markers, no headstones, nothing to identify who these children were and where they lie. I believe many people have walked over them without knowing it.

They deserve better, even now. They deserved far better than the fate that awaited them Sept. 3, 1998, as they played outside their apartment at 1541 Timberlake Road in St. Paul.

One by one, each was called to come inside by their then24-year-old mother, Khoua Her.

A child bride of Hmong descent by 12 and a former Thailand refugee camp resident, Khoua Her was reeling from personal, financial and emotional setbacks that included undiagnosed depression.

She was separated from her husband, the children's primary caretaker, whom she had accused of assaulting her on numerous occasions. She had lost her job as an assistant at a suburban marketing firm and was dependent on public assistance. Other than in-laws, she had no family here.

She was also dating a 17-year-old reputed gangster, a teenager who later told police about a bizarre suicide pact the two had agreed to carry out once he got out of jail.


There is no greater or stronger love, bond or blind trust than that of a child toward a parent.

Khoua Her, regardless of her very real demons, betrayed that trust in a stunningly violent and tragic way.

Using the ruse that she wanted to play hide-and-seek inside the home with them, Khoua Her called in her oldest first.

Eleven-year-old Koua Eai Hang was first to die, according to court documents. He was found at the top of the landing of Apartment G's second floor, a black cloth wrapped tightly around his neck.

The others, called into the home in descending order by age, were found similarly strangled around the split-level apartment in the Mc-Donough public housing complex. They were Samson Hang, 9; Nali Hang, 8; Tang Lung, 7; A-ee, 6; and Tang Kee Hang, 5.

That's how they were laid to rest, inside child-size Monticello vaults, west to east, oldest to youngest.

Officials discovered the bodies after Khoua Her, who had put on a red ceremonial dress and wrapped an extension cord around her neck in a feeble suicide attempt before she called police to alert them to the parental slaughter.

Hundreds of mourners attended the burial the day after Hogan dug his hole. They prayed for the dead kids. They brought flowers and other mementos. Then they left

Khoua Her's attorney planned an insanity defense before the woman pleaded guilty to murder. She owned up to the crime. She was sentenced Jan. 8, 1999, to 50 years in state prison. The earliest she can walk out of the Shakopee Prison for Women is Jan. 5, 2032 — 24 years from now. If that happens, she still would have to satisfy terms of her probation until 2048.

On the day of her sentencing, before she was sent to prison, she talked nonstop for nearly two hours about the struggles in her life. But she never expressed in those two hours any real remorse for killing her children. I know. I was there.

"There will be no mention that Koua Eai kicked around a soccer ball and played marbles with neighborhood kids. No one will record for history that Nali loved to read or write, or that the kids kept a turtle and pigeons as pets, or what kind of aspirations they had,'' I wrote in a column published the next day.

"That's the true tragedy here.''

Still is, a decade later.


But there is always some positive to such a negative. We can spin it divine or natural or how we like.

The case brought to light, both locally and nationally, the culturally muffled taboo subjects of mental and domestic violence facing St. Paul and especially the nation's Hmong community entering a second generation of existence in 21st-century America.

By no means was this tragedy culturally exclusive. This is a universal problem.

"I truly believe that (the killings) ultimately ended up saving a lot of children as well as women, because it did bring to light, like never before, issues that were also affecting the American community at large," said Ilean Her (no direct relation to Khoua Her), executive director of the St. Paul-based Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans.

Hogan recalls that Khoua Her called the cemetery a few years ago from prison.

"She was simply inquiring about the procedure and cost of marking the graves," Hogan said. Nothing came of the phone call.

"The Hmong community places the memorializatio n of their loved ones in very high regard and spares little expense in marking the grave,'' Hogan confided. "Some of the most beautiful and expensive markers and monuments here at Forest Lawn are on the graves of Hmong people."

Hogan has seen few visitors at the unmarked gravesite in recent years. Those he has seen, when he has looked up from his office, have been uniformed St. Paul cops.

"We've picked up flowers over the years that the cops have put down,'' Hogan said.

John Vomastek, a St. Paul police commander and head of the homicide squad at the time of the 1998 killings, has no idea which cops showed up at the burial site.

"I don't know who those officers are. But I did not even know we were doing that,'' Vomastek told me last week. "Maybe it's just these guys are still struggling with that, because it was a really sad day."


But someone — relative, cop or other — remembered these kids last week.

Hogan and I discovered candy placed atop the unmarked graves Wednesday, the 10th anniversary of the mass killings.

There were three cellophane packages, each containing two white-frosted devil's-food cakes with dark chocolate stripes. Multicolored candy balls, also wrapped in cellophane, had been placed nearby.

Hogan and Ilean Her both explained that the items signaled an offering to help feed and nourish the departed in the afterlife.

"The vaults were smaller than others because some of these kids were really young,'' Hogan said. "It's just a heart-breaking thing to see."

Elsewhere, a ceremony took place. The apartment where the murders occurred was "cleansed'' of the dead kids' spirits by Hmong spiritual elders and converted into a St. Paul public housing police substation in 2000.

At the gravesite Wednesday, I said a prayer for the kids as well as for their mom and then headed downtown, where the political circus, and the police presence making sure it would not be disrupted, was in full swing.

Rubén Rosario can be reached at or 651-228-5454.



Hmong traditioinal funerals (shaman)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hmong people have a culture built on animistic beliefs and a strong faith that after death the soul reincarnates in a possibility of many forms such as humans, plants, rocks and ghosts (Goetz par. 1, 12). Death is often considered the most important time for practicing rituals in the Hmong community because without practicing the necessary rituals the soul will roam for eternity. Hmong culture has been around for thousands of years and some of the rituals have slightly changed due to immigration and urbanization. Throughout time rituals have always varied from tribe to tribe therefore there is no one-way of performing the pre-funeral rituals, the burial rituals and the post burial rituals. However, the differences are minor and are aimed at achieving the same goal of reincarnation.

The Pre Funeral

The funeral is the most elaborate of all Hmong rituals. The overall goal of the performed rituals is to guide the soul back to the placental jacket that it will wear on the journey to the after life (Conquergood, par. 6). After death the body is bathed by the sons of the deceased while extended family members are notified and begin to travel to the home of the dead relative (Tapp 81). After the body is washed it dressed in only new ceremonial burial clothes. If the deceased is male he will be dressed in women’s clothes and if the deceased is female she will be dressed in men’s clothing ( Another important aspect of burial clothing is the hand-made hemp shoes that help the soul across the caterpillar river and over the green worm mountain on the quest for their ancestors (“Death”).

Music is also used as a tool for helping the soul on the journey to the afterlife. The first song played is called, “Showing The Way” and illustrates the origins of man and the world, which must be revisited for the soul to pass to its next life. Once the body is prepared for its journey it is positioned on a table with items that will be necessary for the voyage into the afterlife. “A bottle of alcohol and a cooked chicken in the two halves of a gourd, together with a boiled egg, a crossbow, a knife and a paper umbrella, will be placed by the head of the corpse” (Tapp 83). Incense serves a dual purpose in the presentation of the body. It is not only an offering but also masks the smell of the decaying body and is set at the feet of the deceased (Tapp 83).

Funerals in the Hmong culture can last anywhere from three to twelve days depending on a number of variables. The main factor in determining the length of the funeral is the person’s status within the community. For instance, the head of the village would have a twelve-day funeral (Tapp 83). Another variable that alters the length of the funerals is present day laws. Western laws regarding treatment of cadavers and animal sacrificing have resulted in a change from the traditional ceremony (Falk, par. 12). The final variable concerning funeral duration is the way in which the deceased has passed. For infants and victims of violent deaths the body is disposed of with haste and little fuss because there are strong beliefs among the Hmong people that these deaths create negative spirits (Tapp 81). An essential part of the mourning process is the three daily meals prepared by the men in the family. At each meal the ceremonial dish, laig dab that is composed of pork and rice, is offered to the deceased body by the eldest son, while the reed pipe instrument, called the qeej, plays a ceremonial song (Tapp 84). Another offering made to the spirit of the deceased is a daily animal sacrifice. Traditionally, the sacrifice has been a pig, however due to local laws it is often replaced with a chicken (Falk, par. 12). Once the offerings have been finished a lamp is lit on the dead body and male relatives retreat outside to fire three shots into the air to scare any evil spirits that may attack the house during this time of turmoil (“Death”).

Reincarnation is a pillar of the Hmong faith. During the ceremonies it is culturally taboo to show distress, as the ceremony is not about the death of the person but the rebirth of the soul and a new life (Goetz, par. 12). The main reason the funeral rituals are performed is so that the dead will be reborn into the same family. If the rituals are not performed properly the Hmong fear that the soul will be punished by returning as a lesser form or in a different family (Tapp 84). One ritual that must be completed is the payment of the deceased debts. Any debts unpaid are thought to negatively impact the living family along with the deceased party (“Death”). The final ritual before the burial is the second sacred song. This song is called, “The Song of Expiring Life” and informs the deceased they have passed on and need to begin the journey to the placental jacket and into the spirit world (Cha 73).

The Burial

In the Hmong culture a death is an extremely important event. The burial process must be performed correctly in order to protect those living and the deceased from evil spirits that are present when there is a death. The first step in burial is sacrificing a number of oxen that are prepared by the descendents of the deceased for a feast that the entire village partakes in to pay homage to the dead (“Death”). The second step is removing the body from the house on a stretcher while “Song of Mounting The Way” is being played on the qeej (Tapp 84, 86, 87). A female from the village will then guide the funeral procession with a torch to “light the way” for the corpse (Tapp 85). Along the way the procession takes steps to confuse the evil spirits. This includes stopping, changing course frequently and disposing of the torch before the burial site is reached (“Death”). The traditional burial site is on the side of a mountain where the body is placed facing west. This is because Hmong people believe that west is the direction of death and if the head is facing the east it will be blinded by the sun (Tapp 86). The placement of the grave is determine by older members of the community and depends on age, sex and status (Tapp 85 & “Death”). Once the body has been laid in the ground and covered the stretcher used to transport the deceased to the burial site is destroyed while on lookers burn incense, symbolic paper and place stones on the grave (Tapp 85 & Falk 11). The final step of the burial is to construct a fence around the grave that protects the site from any harm (“Death”). The celebration will continue on the way back to the village and throughout the next three days through performing a variety of rituals that vary from tribe to tribe all with intent to honor the deceased (Tapp 85).

Post Burial

There is a thirteen-day mourning period in which the family of the deceased observes certain sacrifices in respect of the passed loved one. On this day a ritual is performed with intent to welcome the soul into it’s former home one last time before it begins the journey into the after life (Tapp 87).



Legislature OKs resolution urging protection of Hmong

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 5, 2008
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A4

The Hmong Human Rights Resolution – asking the U.S. government to protect Hmong in Thailand and Laos from communist persecution – has unanimously passed the Legislature.

The non-binding measure, Assembly Joint Resolution 36, was written by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, and 23 other legislators. It has been forwarded to Congress and President Bush. It asks the U.S. government to "take appropriate measures to ensure that the Hmong living

Hmong living in Laos were subjected to human rights violations "simply because they were allies to the U.S. during the Vietnam War," Jones said. Fearing retribution, thousands fled to the jungles and live in hiding.

Hmong living in Laos were subjected to human rights violations "simply because they were allies to the U.S. during the Vietnam War," Jones said. Fearing retribution, thousands fled to the jungles and live in hiding.

Jones' constituents include some 20,000 Hmong.

– Stephen Magagnini



Drowning victim identified - Hmong girl

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Authorities have confirmed that the body found late Tuesday in the Wisconsin River in Wausau is that of a missing 17-year-old.
Marathon County Medical Examiner John Larson said this morning that Hang Her of Wausau died from freshwater drowning. His body was found near an area between Isle of Ferns and Oak Island Park where Her was last seen.

Her was a senior at Wausau East High School.

Larson said a toxicology exam would be conducted, but alcohol or drugs were not thought to be a factor in the drowning. There are no plans for an autopsy.

Earlier in the afternoon, authorities on the scene would not confirm the identity of the missing teen, but Vue Her said that they were looking for his brother.

“Nothing like this has ever happened,” said a visibly distraught Vue Her, 18, referring to his seven siblings.

Lt. Steve Bahr of the Wausau Fire Department confirmed earlier in the day that a male was swimming in the area Tuesday and tried to cross from Isle of Ferns to Oak Island.

“He hit a point where he started bobbing, and his head started going down,” Kho Lor said, who was standing on the sandbar when she saw her friend go under.

Hang Her, Lor and four girls arrived at the park at 11 a.m. and went to the sandbar in the river. At some point, Lor said, Her left them and walked over to the Isle of Ferns. After walking along the shore, Her sat on a large log jutting out from the island, Lor, 16, said. He then got off the log and started swimming toward Oak Island.

Friends said they lost sight of Her at about 1:50 p.m. Tuesday.

The depth of the river in that area varies greatly toward the center, Bahr said. There are areas 2 feet deep and pockets up to 8 feet deep, he said.

Search crews fought a strong, southbound current in an area where the river bottom is uneven and rocky with many submerged logs, Bahr said.

Bahr, who has been with the Fire Department 13 years, could not recall a drowning in that area.

-- Reporters Brian Reisinger and Jeff Starck contributed to this report




Friday, August 29, 2008

Legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood is making history in the Hmong community with his upcoming film Gran Torino. But this is not only Hmong news. By creating a mainstream Hollywood film that features mostly Hmong leads and supporting actors (other than Eastwood’s character), he’s giving unprecedented visibility to Hmong Americans. Says veteran Hollywood actor Wa Yang, who worked with Eastwood through a small role in Letters from Iwo Jima, “It’s creating exposure in Hollywood, where no one knows who the Hmong are. Hopefully it will pique interest and one day the story of how we came to the US can be told.”

The film is being shot in and around Detroit this month. From the publicity so far, it centers on a grumpy Korean war veteran (Eastwood), who is estranged from his family after his wife dies. He meets his new Hmong neighbors, especially teens Tao and Sue, and eventually gets involved in trying to shield them from the Hmong gang that wants to recruit Tao. Whether he succeeds is the best kept secret, but in the process his friendships with Hmong transform and soften him.

How did this production get off the ground? After open casting calls were held in Fresno, Detroit and Minnesota, interested Hmong Americans waited with baited breath to see who would be cast. As days turned into weeks, fear spread that Hmong would be passed over for more experienced Asian actors. But then, in early July, people who least expected it started getting the calls. Elation spread with the news that ten key roles had gone to mostly first-time Hmong actors, and that Hmong extras, production assistants and others were also going to be on set. Eastwood seems to be putting a mountain of faith in Hmong talent, and it looks like he will be well rewarded for it. Working on Gran Torino is stretching the actors - many of whom have backgrounds in other art forms like music - to reach potentials they didn’t know they had.

This article is the first of two to introduce the people behind the characters in the production that everyone is following. In this issue, get to know the five guys in the Hmong gang. In the September 1 issue, watch for leads Bee Vang (Tao) and Ahney (Formerly known as Whitney) Her (Sue) plus other cast members.

The Boys of Gran Torino

Who are the bad guys of Gran Torino? Five Hmong actors, chosen from several states and from five different clans, make up the gang that is menacing Tao. Most of them have little experience acting. Sonny Vue, born in Fresno and now from St. Paul, plays the ringleader, “Smokie.” At 19 years old and only 5’5” tall, he was a surprise pick for the gang’s toughest guy. Even he was surprised. He’d taken an acting class at Vessey Leadership Academy but never been in front of the camera before. He even confesses he has stage fright.

Sonny was playing around with his cousin when they found the casting call on the internet. He boasted that he thought he could get Smokie. He describes driving by the HAP open auditions that weekend in May. It was Friday night and the guy was there. “I got a private audition.” They were looking for a Hmong American look. He was wearing a brown t-shirt that said ‘I’m hiding from the cops.’ Everyone was trying out for Tao, the good guy. Instead, he showcased his bad boy persona. “I think it’s the way I talk,” he explains in a familiar Hmong street voice. He sounds like he still can’t believe it.

“Exhilarating” is how Lee Mong Vang, Gangster No. 3, describes the experience of Gran Torino. The 26-year-old was born in Dallas, moved to Toledo, then spent most of his childhood in rough neighborhoods on the east side of Detroit. “You grow up all your life thinking you’d never be able to do anything like this. Going on set, seeing Clint Eastwood…it’s really awesome.” Lee Mong ended up in the show because a friend who studied acting told him he was “personable and talented and should give it a try.” An outdoorsman, he remembers with amusement that he skipped the first open call. “I went fishing,” he chuckles. But the second audition reeled him in. He was cast without even a callback. He knows this had to be a blessing from his deceased grandma who had just passed away before the audition. “I’m her oldest grandchild,” he muses, “She loves me.”

Lee Mong had no acting experience but he had done some singing so he had no stage fright. As a self-described jokester, he hopes to introduce some humor onto the set. He says he’s the muscle of the gang since he’s 5’7” and a brawny, heavier guy. Before this experience, he’d been working in manufacturing and studying to do auto cab design. Now he wants to go back to his music and maybe even pursue acting. “Live your life like it’s your last,” he wants to tell the young people out there, “You can’t predict the future, so go for it.”

Doua Moua, 21, hails from New York City, where he moved when he was 18 to pursue his acting career. A towering 5’11”, Doua plays Fong, aka Spider, Tao and Sue’s older cousin and an ambivalent member of Smokie’s gang. Born in Thailand, he grew up in Minnesota where he got into acting in middle school. He started college, but dropped out in order to refocus his heart and energy. He got a manager, and started auditioning around New York for both theater and film. His success rate speaks for itself: He’s been in numerous films and theater shows holding large and small parts.

“My dream is happening,” says a thrilled Doua, “I have to appreciate every moment that I’m riding this ride.” He wants to be part of a new generation that will make strides in getting Hmong people and Hmong art known. But even as he wants to impact the mainstream, he remembers the sacrifices and hard work of his parents. He wants to give back to his community. No matter where else his career takes him in the future, he affirms, he’d love to have a chance to work with Hmong filmmakers making movies for Hmong audiences.

Jerry Lee, 22, 5’9 ½” is a native of Chico, California who moved to St. Paul only in 2002. He’d done choir and acted in a play and a musical in high school and later in a 48-hour film festival short. When his girlfriend told him about the casting call, he’d already moved on. He had studied Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement and was going on to do Business Administration. But he decided to try out. He thought about Smokie, his off-the-chart pride. “I can portray myself as someone else,” he recalls. It happened: He got the part of Gangster No. 2. Jerry treasures all his time on set, “Eastwood’s a real humble guy, not what I expected,” he says with reverence. “I’m picking up things from other cast members. And what’s most important is building networks and friends….Kids, never stop chasing your dreams. And hold on to your contacts.

Jerry’s personal passion is writing stories and screenplays. He’s written a comedy short to be posted on Youtube. Now he’s working on a feature-length screenplay about sexuality. It focuses on how Hmong culture adapts to the modern world by looking at lesbian and gay Hmong and how hard it is for them to come out.

Elvis Thao, 26, plays Gangster No. 1. Born in Kansas, he moved to Modesto and then Milwaukee. “I’m very passionate about my city,” he says, “My heart is set on community issues.” The bald-headed, 5’6” powerhouse burns the candle at both ends. A member of the hip hop group RARE, he is co-owner of Shaolin Entertainment and a veteran of the Hmong music industry. Meanwhile, he takes philanthropy courses, lectures to youth at universities, and runs summer programs for kids.

“I’m based on revolution,” says Elvis. He is critical of corporate control in the music industry and “not too fond of Hollywood.” “What I hate is stardom.” If you call his cell phone the voicemail recording taunts: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. So what? So I’m shootin a movie with Clint Eastwood. Woo woo. What’s all the fussin for?” Instead he is inspired by Michael Moore and Don Cheadle, and sees the potential for real life documentary to create change. He almost didn’t audition for Gran Torino, but people in his network kept calling him. At 8PM on the Friday night before the Minnesota auditions his head was pounding. He got in the car and said “Let’s go or I’ll regret it forever.” And he has no regrets despite the gangster image he’s been hired to recreate. His vision is that audiences will see that they are actors playing characters, that they are examples of professional excellence, at being who they are while they create someone else. The income he makes will be used to promote awareness of the issues he cares most about – from police brutality in Milwaukee to human rights in Laos… “I’m going to be speaking out against gang violence after this,” he adds with determination.

Remaking the Image?

One of the things that makes this production so historic is that Hmong have been targets of others’ negative images for as long as they’ve been in the United States (or even much longer). Hmong gangbangers…Chai Soua Vang’s killings…Guerilla warriors in Asia…Uncooperative new immigrants in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. These are the kind of images that Hmong have had to deal with as newcomers to the American scene. The presence of these actors will make audiences see that there is somebody behind the role…and that somebody is a person of substance.

In Gran Torino, much of the dialogue is being created through improvising even though the original lines were written by white Minnesotan Nick Schenk (with Hmong input). Hmong actors describe ad-libbing their own lines on camera. They talk about drawing on their own grassroots experiences to make their characters authentic. They’re advocating for cultural accuracy, even when the Hollywood spectacle might be producing distortions. With so many talented Hmong working together, the ground is laid for the creation of three-dimensional people, a much more realistic portrayal of Hmong by Hmong for American audiences. Will it work? We’ll have to wait for the movie release…

Louisa Schein teaches Anthropology and Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is writing a book about Hmong media. She can be reached at

Stay tuned for Part II where we meet the star teens, Bee Vang and Ahney Her, along with others.



Vandals deface Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial

Sheboygan police are investigating but have so far made no arrests after vandals spray-painted graffiti across the Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial in Deland Park, according to the Sheboygan Police Department.

The damage — estimated at $1,000 — was discovered and reported to police on Tuesday, said Capt. David Derus.

ChaSong Yang, executive director of the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association of Sheboygan, called the vandalism “unthinkable.” He discovered the damage during a morning walk through the memorial.

“I’m just shocked that this thing would happen. Whoever is doing it had no respect for anybody at all,” Yang said. “I just hope that whoever has done this will stop. That doesn’t do any good for anybody.”

The circular monument is dedicated to the thousands of Hmong and Lao soldiers who died fighting the communist North Vietnamese army in the Vietnam War’s Laotian front, known as the Secret War. It was dedicated in July 2006 and cost $140,000 to build.

Steve Schofield, a Secret War veteran who was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the memorial, said the vandalism is disheartening.

“Somehow we need to get the word out to the community that this is an important monument to Sheboygan, and certainly important to the Hmong,” said Schofield, 63, of Newton. “I’m just disgusted at this. Eight years to get that thing built and all the trials and tribulations we went through, and then to have some punk kids do this just makes me sick.”

Schofield said youths have also been skateboarding on the memorial, as evidenced by scuffmarks left behind. He said supporters may raise funds for a video camera to monitor the area.

Yang said the graffiti was cleaned up Wednesday, but some of the damage remains.

“It’s pretty much off, expect you still see some lines,” he said. “There’s some permanent marks.”

The black, spray-painted graffiti had covered panels that tell the story of the war. Other parts of the monument include the names of those who died and mosaic tiles created by local art students and assembled by hundreds of volunteers.

Anyone with information on the vandalism can contact Sheboygan police at (920) 459-3333.



Hmong in Politics - John Nichols: Opposites attract for Peng Her in District 81

Thursday, August 28, 2008

John Nichols: Opposites attract for Peng Her in District 81

John Nichols — 8/14/2008 9:43 am

It is a weird science indeed that successfully mixes former Madison Ald. Andy Heidt, the veteran Labor Farm Party activist who remains a stalwart of pure progressive political activism, and Dane County Supervisor Dave "Wiggie" Wiganowsky, who proudly holds himself up as the fire wall against advancing liberalism. But Peng Her has done it.

In the 81st Assembly District contest, where six Democratic candidates are battling for an upper hand in the Sept. 9 primary to succeed veteran legislator Dave Travis, most of the candidates are trumpeting endorsements. (The exception is Eric Englund, who has tended to eschew the practice.)

Kelda Helen Roys has Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk's muscular and meaningful support, as well as endorsements from Women's Choice and Wisconsin NOW Equality PAC. Tim Kiefer has Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard and Madison City Council President Mike Verveer, both colleagues of the assistant DA. Waunakee Village Board President John Laubmeier has won important backing from many local elected officials in the villages and townships that are part of the urban/rural district. Justin Sargent has former Mayor Paul Soglin, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney and, perhaps most importantly, a pair of north side elected officials: Dane County Supervisor Dorothy Wheeler and Ald. Michael Schumacher.

But it is Peng Her who earns honors for bringing together unlikely allies.

The restaurant owner and activist, who would be the first Hmong member of the Wisconsin Legislature (and only the fourth Hmong legislator nationally), got Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira. He also has former board President Bill Keys, a liberal icon (see letter on page 40), and former member Ray Allen, a Republican who has run for mayor twice as a centrist with conservative backing. He's got Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran, the energetic former president of Latinos United for Change and Advancement, as well as Peter Munoz, the former executive director of Centro Hispano; Steve Morrison, the executive director of the Madison Jewish Community Council; and John Quinlan, the former executive director of OutReach who hosts WTDY's "Forward Forum" program.

Perhaps most importantly, Peng Her has the backing of veteran north side activists such as Jim Powell and Friends of Troy Gardens current and former board members including Marge Pitts, Martha Worcester and Anne Pryor.

Endorsements don't usually decide political contests. They are, at best, mile markers on the campaign trail that suggest a candidate may be headed in the right direction. But when a candidate attracts an unlikely yet broad list of divergent backers, it offers at least some indication of an ability to cross lines of ethnicity, ideology and even partisanship that is all too rare in our politics.



Hmong National Development Issues Appeal for Laos and St. Paul Hmong Americans

Hmong National Development, Inc. (HND) issued another urgent action appeal today in Washington, D.C. to the Laos Embassy and Lao government calling upon the LPDR military regime in Laos to immediately release the three Hmong-American men, including Mr. Hakit Yang, so that they can be reunited with their families in St. Paul, Minnesota prior to the first anniversary of their arrest and imprisonment in Laos.

(PressZoom) - Washington, D.C. - Today, Hmong National Development, Inc. ( HND ), a national non-profit corporation in Washington, D.C., issued an additional urgent action appeal and raised serious regarding the plight of three ( 3 ) Hmong-Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota who continue to be imprisoned in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) by military and security forces of the authoritarian one-party communist regime. It called upon the LPDR regime in Laos to immediately and unconditionally release the three Hmong-American men, including Mr. Hakit Yang, so that they can be reunited with their families in St. Paul, Minnesota. The men have families, including wives and children awaiting them in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"These three Hmong-American men from St. Paul, who were U.S. citizens, were traveling to Laos in 2007 as tourists and looking for business opportunities when they were arrested by Lao military and security forces," stated Christy Lee, Executive Director of Hmong National Development, Inc. "We are calling on the Lao government to immediately release these American citizens who were non-political and merely seeking to travel as tourists."

"Sadly, after almost one terribly difficult and long year, the Lao LPDR government, and its military and security services, still continue to offer absolutely no help or factual information regarding the three Hmong-Americans from St. Paul that it arrested and jailed in Laos in 2007," said Jade Her, with the Washington, D.C. office of Hmong National Development, Inc. "The Lao government is covering up the truth about this matter and continues to imprison these Hmong men despite their families efforts to have them released and returned home to Minnesota."

Jade her stated "The Hmong-American community in St. Paul, Minnesota and the United States is calling upon the Lao LPDR government to set these three Hmong American men free so that they can be reunited with their loved ones and families; The LPDR government must respect international law and cease its human rights violations and detention of these three Hmong Americans who are entitled to visits by their families and U.S. Ambassador Huso as well as due process and a fair trial for whatever charges the Lao government may be accusing these imprisoned Americans.

Mrs. Sheng Xiong, the wife of Hakit Yang, and spokesperson for the families of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota currently being jailed in Laos, made the following statement and appeal to Congress and international policymakers. Mrs. Sheng Xiong's statement was originally presented and read before the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos on Jan. 31, 2008, in the Cannon House Office Building in the U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

The following is the statement before the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos of Mrs. Sheng Xiong, the wife of Hakit Yang, and spokesperson for the families of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota currently being jailed in Laos:

"I want to thank Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Frank Wolf, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives for co-hosting today's U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos in cooperation with Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Lao Hmong scholar; Vaughn Vang of the Lao Human Rights Council of Wisconsin and Minnesota; Khamphet Moukdarath of the United League for Democracy in Laos and T. Kumar, Advocacy Director of Amnesty International. I appreciate their leadership on the current human rights crisis in Laos, especially facing the Hmong people, and the serious situation regarding the arrest and imprisonment in Laos of my husband, Hakit Yang, and his two Hmong-American colleagues from St. Paul, Minnesota last year.

The U.S.Government granted Normalized Trade Relations ( NTR ) to Laos in 2005. Today, it encourages citizens to consider foreign investments in the communist state despite the country's atrocious human rights records and the unjustified arrest, jailing and continued detention of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota including my husband Mr. Hakit Yang.

On July 10, 2007, Hakit Yang, Congshineng Yang and Trillion Yuhaison departed the United States for Laos to pursue business investment opportunities. The men were staying at the #5 Guest House in Phousavan, Laos when they were arrested by secret police forces. They were detained in Phonthong Prison and later transferred to an unknown destination. Several unofficial reports suggest they are being detained in the North of Laos near the Vietnam border.

The last phone call and communication was received from Yuhaison on August 26, 2007 at approximately 9:00 am ( CST ). Yuhaison called Hakit's older brother Xai Yang, and stated that he was calling from a security guard's cell phone and confirmed that all three men had been arrested without warrant. Yuhaison sounded very worried and wanted Xai to contact the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane right away.

A US Embassy staff confirmed with local Lao authorities that three US Citizens were arrested, however, the authorities refused to release any names. According to the U.S. Embassy, the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs could not confirm the situation over the phone, but it appeared they knew about the cases.

The U.S. Embassy contacted the Lao government who denied having any record of the men entering their country and any U.S. Citizens being detained or arrested. Later, the Lao government changed their previous denials and admitted that the men did indeed entered Laos, but allegedly claimed that they had allegedly departed Laos via the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge on August 29, 2007. Despite repeated requests from the US Embassy no departure cards have ever been produced as evidence for their departure. Other documents produced are clearly bogus and fabricated allegedly claiming to support the Lao government's false claims that my husband and the other two departed from Laos to Thailand, which is not factual.

It has been many months since the arrest and disappearance of Hakit Yang, Congshineng Yang and Trillion Yuhaison. To this day, our family has not received any concrete answers from the US Embassy in Laos nor the State Department. I have been in contact with the other men's families and they also have not received any answers.

The US Government and US Embassy have a responsibility to inform US Citizens that there are no real protections in place to safeguard their civil and legal rights. The US Government has failed to properly hold the Laos Government accountable for the disappearance of these US investors.

Hakit, Congshineng, and Trillion represent the first of many US investors and tourists to travel to Laos under the new Normalised Trade Relations agreement but their disappearance clearly proves that no US Citizen is safe in Laos and no US citizen should invest in the current Lao regime until proper protections can be put in place, to safeguard the civil, legal and human rights of all US Citizens traveling to Laos.

I respectfully ask that the US Government and US Embassy in Laos continue to investigate the arrest and disappearance of Hakit, Congshineng, and Trillion and to press the Lao government for humanitarian access to the three U.S. citizens and their unconditional and immediate release.

The Lao government continues to jail my husband and the two other Americans from St. Paul that he was traveling with in clear violation and contempt of international law. Lao and Hmong Americans should not invest in the current regime in Laos, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. NTR Trade Status to Laos should be revoked by the U.S. Congress; and, U.S. foreign aid and assistance to the Lao regime should also be cut by the U.S. Congress and U.S. Government completely, including all de-mining funding, until at least such time as my husband Hakit Yang, Congshineng and Trillion, as Hmong-American citizens, are released from prison in Laos and brought home safely to America and their homes and families in St. Paul, Minnesota.

We will not forget and not give up fighting until we have truthful answers and the Lao regime releases Hakit Yang, Congshineng and Trillion. We appeal to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Government and international community for assistance in pressing the Lao regime to release our family members and restore human rights and freedom to them so that we can be reunited and these American citizens can return home once again from this terrible darkness."


Ms. Laurie Vue
Tele. ( 202 ) 629-0377

Hmong National Development, Inc. ( HND )


Hmong National Development, Inc. ( HND ) is a national, non-profit organization incorporated in the Washington, D.C.

It was established in the Washington, D.C. metro area in 1991 and incorporated in the District of Columbia. For more information call ( 202 ) 629-0377 or visit us on the web at: