Hmong immigrants among hardest hit by layoffs in down economy

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Keng Yang thought life in America would be easier than in Thailand, where he lived in a small hut and struggled to provide food for his family.

Now, sitting in a cramped, four-room apartment on Wausau's northeast side just a few years after leaving Thailand, he says times aren't much better.

"He doesn't know what to do in the future for (his) family," Yang's uncle David Yang said, translating for the 29-year-old father of two who in January was laid off from Wisconsin Box Co.

Yang is among about a dozen recent Hmong refugees from Wat Tham Krabok refugee camp who have lost their jobs in the economic recession. Though thousands of people in Marathon County have been laid off, the recent immigrants are barely established, sometimes don't speak English, lack education and often support extended family.

"I know it's going to be challenging," said Peter Yang, executive director of the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association.

Among the more than 420 Hmong who came to Marathon County from 2004 to 2006, about 90 are adults who can work, said Chaitua Nikolas Her, job developer with the Hmong Association. Of those, 74 were working, he said, until the economic downturn left an additional 12 or so without jobs. That's likely a hit to dozens, with many Hmong workers supporting and living with multiple family members.

Wausau's overall unemployment rate reached 12.1 percent in March, meanwhile, with Marathon County hitting 9.4 percent, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

The occupants of Keng Yang's apartment -- the upstairs portion of a small house -- include Yang, his wife, his two children, his younger brother and his brother's wife and two kids. They easily fill their small kitchen as Yang cradles his nephew. The dark stairway to their home is cluttered with dozens of pairs of shoes of all sizes.

Yang, who came to the United States in March 2005, said he made about $9 per hour and found it difficult to support the seven other people in his household. Now the household's income includes $250 in weekly unemployment and his brother's part-time job at JC Penney.

Times in Thailand were difficult, Yang said, but now he's again struggling to make ends meet, with the added stress of bills and other expenses.

Peter Yang said Hmong workers who lose their jobs apply for unemployment, dislocated worker programs and other social services. The Hmong Association helps them navigate the programs and aids companies that employ them, and the jobless also can tap into community aid organizations and churches.

Still, Keng Yang feels helpless. Finding a job is difficult with limited English, and he hopes some sort of work -- whether a product of the private sector or government -- will surface.

Tong Lee faces similar problems. Lee arrived in July of 2005 and was laid off in February from J&D Tube Benders of Schofield. He's taking the time, though, to improve his English through classes at Northcentral Technical College, and also hopes to get his high school diploma and study business.

"I need more English," Lee, 34, of Wausau said. "I want to study first."

That faith in education, for some, is the only bright spot. Yang, despite his fear of not finding a job, says his children's futures keep him determined. As the children chatter in the kitchen and peek into the living room, he remarks that he hopes other families don't lose that perspective.

"They might think life's very hard," his uncle David Yang said.




Wednesday, April 29, 2009

For the great victory over the Vietminh 1944, and for sacrificed so much to save many of the French officials from the brutal treatment for using as cattle by the Japanese troops, the Hmong warriors were granted our own autonomy called " Moung Meo or Hmong Autonomy " after the U.S. bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima 1945.

( - For the great victory over the Vietminh 1944, and for sacrificed so much to save many of the French officials from the brutal treatment for using as cattle by the Japanese troops, the Hmong warriors were granted our own autonomy called “ Moung Meo or Hmong Autonomy ” after the U.S. bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima 1945.

April 21st, 2009 the first ever Hmong nation will be held a Conference in St. Paul, MN. U.S.A. to remember the brutal human rights violation against the Hmong indigenous women, children and men, which caused over 100,000 Hmong lost their lives in Laos especially at the “ Moung Meo or Hmong Autonomy, Xaysomboun Special Zone” Xieng Khoung province, Laos for the time span of over thirty three years from the 1975- 2009. Many died from guns, chemical yellow rain, nails, air crafts, jet Mi-21, 16, torture or starvation, perpetrated by Lao dictator President Chommaly Sayasone and his regime, who sponsored Lao, Vietnamese and other foreigners such as Cubans or even Europeans mercenaries.

“ The Holocaust Remembrance month, is coinciding to the third year anniversary of the terrible massacre of 26 Hmong woman and children in April 6, 2006, which was heavy condemned by the U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Ms. Patricia Haslach” stated Chairman Yang. The Hmong community with the support by many victim families and NGOs including the Hmong Genocide Team, Hmong women Council of America and World Hmong Congress urgent adopted the following resolution:

Whereas, on May 8, 1975 the PathetLao or Lao People Democratic Republic, adopted a race genocidal policy called “Serd Leng Meo dap”, meaning war over and Hmong indigenous finish;

Whereas, to finish the Hmong Indigenous on July 18, 1977 Lao PDR Secretary General Kaysone Phouvihane, went to Hanoi, Vietnam and signed the twenty five years Lao- Vietnam Friendships Cooperation and requested 65,000 to suppress the Hmong ChaoFa indigenous Autonomy;

Whereas, in the summer of 1979, thirty seven people ( 37 ) Hmong women, children and men were beating to death in the city of Moung Cha, Saisomboun Special Zone;

Whereas, in the Summer of 1979, three villages over 100 Hmong women, men and a children were killed near Nan Chia village, by the order of Lao General Boun Chan troops under the commander of Kham Souk and and Kham Sor ( Khmu ethnic );

Whereas, about 1984 total 156 Hmong women, children and men were killed by chemical poison bombs in the cave of Moua Cher Pao, Boung Long, Houa Phan Province, ordered by Lt. General Chommaly Sayasone and Vietnamese Lt. Dao Troung Lich;

Whereas, eyes witness twenty five Hmong men right arms were cut off; left arms tied on the back and chained in front of Phomsavang store, forced walked in line to Ban Nouk and never to be seen again; many of these were arrested from Boung Long, former colonel Moua Cher Pao’s strong station, Houa Phane and others were false accused for provided food to the Hmong in the jungle;

Whereas, on 19 May 2004, five Hmong children, ( four girls and a boy, age 13 to 16 years old were brutally mutilated, raped before being killed by a group of Lao mercenaries about 30- 40 of them; while the Hmong children Hmong indigenous were seeking for roots and leaves, were Mao Lee 14; her sister Chao Lee 16; Chi Her 14; Pang Lor 14; and Pang Lor’s brother Tou Lor 15 years old;

Whereas, on 6 April, 2006, twenty –six ( 26 ) Hmong Chaofa indigenous were killed, mostly women and children, while searching for roots and edible leaf, outside their hidden places in the rain forest and another four were wounded; family reported that after the victims left to search for roots and leaf in the morning, and then heard Lao government troops launched their assault, happened about 20 kilometers northeast of the tourist town of Vang Viang, Vientiane Province:

Whereas, the terrible killing was alarmed to the world, to the point that the incident was condemned by U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Ms. Patricia Haslach, and angriedly denied without any proper investigation by Lao officials;

Whereas, this violence was revisited the graves of the Hmong victims by American Journalist Mr. Roger Anord and interviewed by Aljazeera News last year 2007 ( 4 May 2006, Amnesty International, Massacre of unarmed Hmong women and children and June 2, 2006 Kyodo News );

Disturbed by the continuing deny to the UN CERD May 2006, that civil war going on since 1975 to the present 2009, ever existed; even though third party such BBC news, Time Magazine, Aljazeera news February 2008 ( the lost tribe ) were in the jungle of Laos documents and eyes witness the utter neglect Hmong indigenous continuing to suffer in the appearance of not human being and hunted by the Lao and Vietnamese mercenaries daily;

Alarmed by the growing systematic of arbitrary arrests, religion persecution ( ShongLuism ), imprisonment of Hmong indigenous men, women and children: by the total of absence of freedom of association, opinion, state sponsored Lao and Vietnamese Mercenaries to massacre Hmong women and children and taking over Hmong Autonomy and stole Hmong indigenous natural resources to Pan-Australia Company and other Vietnamese Companies without the consent of the Hmong indigenous people and the Hmong Autonomy Congress;

Condemned, Lao dictator President Chommaly Sayasone, her predecessors and their regime for the gross human rights violation against the Hmong ChaoFa indigenous in Laos for the last thirty three years, including using mercenaries such as:

( 1 ) the biggest blow that killing 26 Lao and Vietnamese mercenaries on board, on May 25, 1998, 14 Vietnamese high ranking officials, chemical experts, including top Vietnamese Lt. General Dao Lich and 12 Lao top ranking personnel were in the Russian Made Yak- 40 Military jet on the way to locate Hmong villages for further more attack by chemical and mercenaries;

( 2 ) the killing of one Lao officer, in the training Course run by two Cuban and two Vietnamese experts;

( 3 ) the killing of a Hmong General Yang Pa Sirt ( Pani Yang Thortu’s cousin ) and about 150 Lao and Kong Pa Chay Hmong and Vietnamese mercenaries were killed while learning how to use bombs and chemicals in the former Mayor Yang Youa Tong’s home in the city of Phakhet, near Moung Cha Summer 1976;

Urgent, appealing to the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon, members of UN Security Council, European Parliament, ASEANS and African Union to hold an informal Conference on Hmong Human Rights violation in Laos, as the crimes of Hmong Genocide, similar to the Rwanda genocide.

Contact: Nao Yia Yang, Assistant Secretary
Email: World Hmong

Published by: World Hmong Congress



Tiger Tales: Hmong Folktales

Teachers, educators, parents please make time to go and see this show with your students and children.

This is a wonderful play that will bring joy, laughter and even maybe tears to your eyes. It did for me when I saw it about 8 years ago. The show will be running for the whole month of May so you have plenty of

time to choose a date and time to take your children. This play will open up an opportunity for you to discuss Hmong culture, history and a whole host of other topics.

A play about a Hmong family living in St. Paul is having trouble adapting to life in their new home until Grandmother shares some traditional Tiger stories with them.

Through these three stories, the children find a deeper connection with their own culture, and learn how they can use the stories’ messages to help them defeat the “tigers” of American life.

For more information:


Could Hmong old ways have headed off slaying?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Frangchi Fangchia Vue, who acts as a marriage mediator and facilitator to American Hmong couples, says many younger Hmong disdain traditional resolutions.

After correctional officer Steve Lo was shot to death in his garage last October, his affair with another man's wife became the business of the justice system investigating the killing.

But in the months since, elders in the Hmong community have asked this question: Could the death have been avoided with the intervention of traditional Hmong justice?

Lo's mistress had been married to sheriff's Deputy Chu Vue for 16 years. A month before the shooting, she filed for divorce.

Now Vue, who maintains his innocence, awaits trial on murder charges along with two of his brothers, with the affair cited by law enforcement as a potential motive.

For centuries Hmong clan leaders and village chiefs have brought troubled couples together in mediation, levying fines and extracting apologies along with promises to end affairs and return to spouses.

That tradition continues in California, where some Hmong couples in crisis still go to clan leaders to mediate disputes. Sometimes it works; sometimes the affair persists and the couples get divorces.

But traditional Hmong justice never was sought in the case of Deputy Chu Vue and Steve Lo, according to clan leaders, others familiar with the two Hmong families and Lo's widow, Sia Vang.

"All of this was never brought to the table," she said. "If it was, he wouldn't be dead today."

Hmong mediation on wane

There are 18 Hmong clans identified by their family names, including Vang, Vue, Lo and Ly. Not all Vues are related – in Sacramento, there are three distinct Vue sub-clans from different parts of Laos.

Any mediation would have had to start with Chu Vue and his clan leaders, said Hmong elders, who would have contacted clan leaders for Steve Lo and Chia Vue.

The clan leaders for the wronged spouse "go to his wife's clan and the boyfriend's clan for a three-way talk … and decide who started it," Pa Xiong Vue, a Hmong shaman and the leader of Chu Vue's clan, said through an interpreter.

"We would find exactly the starting point before a match turned into a grass fire."

Pa Xiong Vue has mediated at least 100 troubled marriages in Laos, Thailand and Sacramento. He noted that the more educated Hmong don't often rely on clan leaders anymore.

Chu Vue is the son of a shaman and speaks Hmong, said Pa Xiong Vue, 61. But his family came to the United States from the Laotian city of Luang Prabang much earlier than Pa Xiong Vue and are better educated than those who came later.

Professionals like Chu Vue and Steve Lo believe "I have a lawyer, I have money, I don't depend on elders any more," Pa Xiong Vue continued. "I was willing to help if they asked, but in this country there's nothing we can do if they don't."

Chu Vue, he said, never asked.

Dowry helped solidify vows

For thousands of years, the foundation of Hmong marriage has been the dowry, or bride price – a sort of insurance policy the groom pays his wife's family to guarantee the couple's success. It's also the foundation of marital mediation.

The dowry, negotiated by elders from each clan, is to ensure "you have to stay together and not cheat on each other," Pa Xiong Vue said.

"If the dowry is $6,000 and the wife cheats on the husband, she will have to pay $3,000 back and the other man will have to pay at least the other half to the wronged husband," Vue said.

Unlike Western marriage counseling, which is based on the philosophy that blaming goes nowhere, who starts the affair is key to Hmong justice.

If "the young lady starts the affair, she will be fined double," Vue said. If a married man initiates an affair with a married woman, "there would be a much heavier penalty – he would have to pay back the whole bride price because he violated it three ways: his wife, the other husband and the other wife."

Along with fines, the lovers also have to publicly apologize. "It makes them better people," Vue said.

If the other man doesn't agree to the clan leaders' ruling, the wronged husband has a right to seek justice himself, Vue said, including asking the lover to pay back the dowry.

The husband can tell the lover, he said, "take my wife, pay what I paid before, or I might have to take you down."

T.T. Vang, another Sacramento Hmong leader, said that violence rarely ensues: "Ninety-nine percent will agree to pay the penalty."

Western influence blamed

Among local Hmong leaders, the question of why affairs and divorce are more common here is a matter of much debate, with many pointing fingers at the influence of the West.

Marital problems increased in the 1960s, when the Hmong were recruited by the CIA to fight against communists in Laos during the Vietnam War, according to Pa Xiong Vue. Then, he said, "the husband was at the front and the wife is cheating at home."

Even then, the majority of those who violated marriage law by starting affairs were men, Vue said, But, he added, in this country the wife often starts it.

Frangchi Fangchia Vue, a shaman and math teacher from Luang Prabang, attributed the low divorce rate back in Laos to a more insular life.

In Laos, "a couple goes to work on a farm and they don't have the chance to meet different people the way they do here in America," he said.

Other clan leaders said American women entering the work force was a turning point.

"Here in America, women have to go to work and many spend more time at work than at home," said Koby Vang, director of Sacramento Lao Family. Vang noted that Sacramento clan leaders mediate more than 10 marital conflicts a year.

Chu Vue's wife, Chia Ly Vue, worked with Lo at the Correctional Medical Facility in Vacaville. She has told investigators she was having an affair with Lo, but she declined to talk to The Bee last week.

Lo's widow, Sia Vang, said she didn't know how the affair got started or who initiated it.

"I know my husband has a good head on his shoulders and if he knew she was already married and had kids, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn't make the first approach," she said.

She and her husband "didn't argue, we didn't fight, but we worked different shifts – he would work the morning shift and I would work the swing shift. Other than that we didn't have any problems."

Younger Hmong use courts

Whether the prescriptions of traditional mediation stick in America is a matter of some debate among local Hmong leaders.

Tong Pao Lo, a Sacramento expert on Hmong culture, said mediation generally works for Hmong over age 30.

However, Koby Vang, 56, said clan intervention doesn't always work. He himself is divorced after a traditional mediation failed, he said. Even after the clan leaders get involved, he estimated more than half of their cases end in divorce a year or two later.

He blamed Hmong men, who he said tell the women they are having affairs with: "Here in America there is freedom, you can do what you want to do."

As a shaman, Frangchi Fangchia Vue has helped negotiate dowries for dozens of weddings in this country and knows of many American Hmong couples with marital problems.

He's mediated some of those martial disputes, too.

"I act like a judge: Let's do it, solve it and make it end," he said. "But younger people usually go to court and don't care about traditional Hmong resolution."

Though he's not related to Chu Vue, Frangchi Fangchia Vue's daughter, Khou Vue, is one of eight Vues arrested in connection with the alleged plot to kill Lo. She is out on bail, accused of aiding and concealing Chu Vue's brothers, who hid out on a piece of property linked to her.

Even though he's seen success with mediation, Frangchi Fangchia Vue is skeptical that Hmong justice would have helped in Chu Vue's case.

"Things got out of hand here," he said. "I don't think the Hmong culture would have been able to resolve this."

Clan edicts not enforceable

One of the problems Hmong elders have encountered in this country is there is no way to enforce their remedies, either culturally or legally.

Clan leaders "can't make you do something you don't want to do," said attorney Jerry Chong, who represented a Mien man who found his wife cheating with a Hmong man "and asked for an intervention from the Hmong elders.

"He wanted the Hmong guy to apologize publicly. … He said, 'This is a small community, everybody knows and I have no respect and I've got to do something about it.' "

The clan leaders organized a meeting "and everybody was waiting but the Hmong guy didn't show up," Chong said. "He refused to apologize and continued to humiliate him so the Mien guy hired a hit man who turned out to be an undercover police officer," Chong said.

Koua Lor Franz, executive director of the Hmong Women's Heritage Association, says Western justice could help bolster Hmong justice.

She suggests that Hmong agencies and Sacramento courts certify the Hmong clan mediators so their rulings "have some teeth so we can work together to enforce them instead of waiting until someone commits a crime."

Case splits families

The stakes in the Chu Vue case extend beyond the two couples directly involved, and Steve Lo's widow fears it could turn future romances between their clans into Romeo-and-Juliet scenarios.

More than 100 Hmong came to court for Vue's arraignment March 30. Most were members of the Lo and Vue clans and each clan kept largely to itself.

"Right now, the Lo and Vue families are not happy with each other," said Sacramento Hmong leader Zong Chou Vang.

Clan mediation would have extended into the legal system in Laos, Vang said, giving a measure of justice to both sides.

There, Vang said, Chu Vue would have had to divorce his wife "if she didn't listen to the clan leaders." But, he said, they also would have "deducted five to 10 years from his prison sentence" if he were convicted in Lo's death, because Lo was guilty of adultery, too.

The hard feelings are "going to be an ongoing issue," according to Sia Vang, Lo's widow.

"If a Lo kid falls for a Vue kid, people will try to break them up and if the marriage is allowed to go forward, they will raise the dowry," she said.

"It's going to be a forever issue and it's really sad and pathetic."



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I bought this book from Amazon.

It has lots of visuals, which I love.

Mainly bought it for my kids, who are half Hmong and Cambodian. They are always curious about their culture history.


No news but stuff on my mind

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Often, I think about why Hmong couples say that they're "married" but they actually aren't. Sure, they are "married" to the Hmong eyes but to the American eyes, they are just living together. Just because you have a "celebration" for your unity, what is stopping you from legally getting married?

I just don't understand that sometimes.

Sure, a piece of paper doesn't have to prove that you're married, legally.

However, you're really not married, just "officially living together." That's it.

On top of that, another thing that gets me is how couples have been living with their mothers/mothers-in-laws for so many years.

If you are able to get a new car, go to clubs, go out of state for tourneys, or go play poker all the time, you need to save your money and get the heck out.

Gosh, then add the couple who starts to have kids, still living with their parents.

Actually I blame the parents for that because they allow their kids to stay "married" living under their roof.

This is just for those who are still "not able to get their own house."

For the couples who actually own their own home and have their parents live with them. Extra props to you!


Why on Holidays, Hmong people?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Instead of spending time with your families, tournaments are scheduled all the time during holidays!!

Memorial Day

Labor Day



I understand that more people can come to the events but still.

No wonder I choose to be with my family instead.