Hmong leader Vang Pao's son takes on role

Monday, April 11, 2011

The son of Gen. Vang Pao aims to fill his late father's role as a Hmong cultural leader, and is touring Wisconsin to meet that goal.

NengChu Vang is visiting with Hmong and other community leaders in Wausau on Thursday and today, and will speak at a meeting of the Hmong 18 Council of Wisconsin in Appleton on Saturday.

Vang Pao, who died Jan. 6 in Clovis, Calif., had developed a leadership network with roots in Hmong communities across the country. Through organizations such as the Lao Family Community Center Inc., the military leader who led a U.S.-supported Hmong army against communist forces in Laos in the 1960s and '70s, continued to lead in America.

NengChu Vang, 56, of Phoenix said he wants to continue his father's work on cultural issues, including fighting domestic violence and stressing the importance of education among young Hmong.

"I want to pay close attention to the area of domestic abuse," NengChu Vang said.

Too many Hmong cling to ancient viewpoints that allow men to rule over women, he said. "For me, it's time to change that."

Gen. Vang Pao spoke out publicly against domestic violence for the first time in Wausau in July 2009, in the wake of several cases of Hmong domestic violence that included murder-suicides.

Since then, Hmong leaders formed a committee devoted to stopping domestic abuse. Part of its efforts include educating Hmong clan leaders about the legal ramifications of domestic violence. The committee also has held educational forums about healthy relationships.

Vang Pao's influence had an impact on the community, said Dean Zuleger, village administrator in Weston, which sponsors an anti-domestic violence campaign called Everest Men Respect. The Hmong community has significantly bolstered that effort, Zuleger said.

NengChu Vang is traveling with his daughter, Lhee Vang, 32, of Phoenix, a medical school student. The idea of the trip, she said, is to listen to people.

"He's doing a bottom-up approach," Lhee Vang said. "He's meeting with local politicians, local leaders, activists. These people know what the real issues are."


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