Apr 02, 2017

Timeline: Hmong



                                                         Photo courtesy of WSAU

During the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the Hmong people were recruited by US forces – and in particular the CIA – to counter the invasion of Northern Laos and attack North Vietnamese supply lines in an operation which is sometimes referred to as the US’s “Secret War”. When the US then realized that there was no hope of winning the war and withdrew all its troops, the Hmong were left to fend for themselves – with devastating consequences for their community. Soon, the new Lao government turned against the Hmong and announced publicly that it intended to wipe them out.

The Hmong are suffering persecution and military violence at the hands of the Lao authorities ever since. Thousands of Hmong have gone into hiding in the Laotian jungle, while others have attempted to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. To this day, the Hmong are subject to systematic discrimination and large-scale violations of even their most basic human rights, all directed by an oppressive and authoritarian Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP). These violations include uncompensated land confiscation, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, suppression of freedom of expression and severe restrictions on the Hmong’s economic, social and cultural rights.

Both Vietnam and Thailand have collaboration agreements with the Lao government which include provisions on the forced repatriation of Hmong refugees, as well as on joint military campaigns within Laos to target Hmong communities seeking refuge in jungle areas. For instance, there are reports that Vietnamese forces provide military assistance for operations in Laos’s dense forest area of Ha Qhoua, South of Phong Savan, which have as their sole goal to eliminate the Hmong living there.

 

2 April 2017: According to President Her, who lives in the Phou Bia region, "since 4 February 2017, the Lao military continue launching heavy weapons (...) into [the] region". The Laotian army reportedly uses 120MM and 82DK weapons and have helicopters flying back and forth between military bases in the region.

18 December 2016: Two new bases get heavily militarized. Two helicopters are flying between these bases every day.

10 December 2016: The regiment 3 arrived at the Saysombun Phou Bia region, coming from Udomsay and Houa Phan. It is made up of military personnel with a manpower to approximately 4.000 people and 20 military tanks (12 cargos, 4 tanks equipped with a 105mm long-range weapon, hauling 4 additional long-range weapons, plus 4 I AM tanks)

5 December 2016: Two Lao battalions are moving toward the Saysombun Special Zone, Phou Bia; Battalion number 101 from Vientiane and number 509 from Xieng Khouang. 

1 December 2016: Plight of Hmong people was covered by Vietnam Veteran News.

30 October 2016: The Lao military continues the systematic militarization of Hmong territory by building more bases in the area. Two military regiments are now occupying the territory as part of a plan to completely eliminate the Hmong by the end of December 2016. Regiment 101 from Vientiane consists of 500 troops, is led by a colonel and advances the region from the South of Phoubia. Regiment 596 from Xiengkhouang consists of 500 troops, also led by a colonel, advances from the North of Phoubia. Reportedly, the Vietnamese Colonel Thong Lai is the strategic head of the operation and is leading a group of soldiers who are stationed at the newly-established Base 1.

25 October 2016: In what seems like a planned operation to systematically exterminate the Hmong community by the end of December 2016, the Laotian government has deployed heavy military in order to occupy all of the Hmong territory. In addition to that, the Laotian military systematically blocks ways for the Hmong to find food. As the latter are unable to grow crops on their territories because constant military attacks force them to change places continuously, the Hmong depend on wild roots and leaves for their survival.

18 October 2016: Groups of starved Hmong get lured into a killing site after food and supplies were offered to them.

17 October 2016: The Lao Military attacks a group of Hmong near Muoang Cha. Two Hmong men get killed, 18-year-old Kim Vang and 25-year-old Vangxeng Vang.

11 October 2016: The Lao Military attacks one of the Hmong communities. 47-year-old Chongva Vang is wounded at his chest.

6 October 2016: A 5-months-old baby dies from chemical poisoning.

21 September 2016: A 1½-month-old baby dies from chemical poisoning caused by a Lao attack with rockets loaded with toxic gas. Reportedly, the infant’s death was caused by violent coughing following the chemical attack. Many people are affected by the same chemical poisoning, with symptoms such as coughing, dizziness, vomiting and weakness of legs and arms. After nightfall, the Lao military resumes its attack on Hmong communities and continues to fire toxic rockets on Hmong refuges.

14-23 September 2016: Two Hmong men, Vajntxiag Vaj and Vue Thao, are summoned to meet with a Lao police officer in the village of Lat Houang. They disappear without a trace after following the subpoena on 14 September. On 20 September, a Laotian fisherman discovers Vajntxiag Vaj’s dead body hanging from the branch of a tree in the water. His injuries, including broken arms and legs, suggest that he was beaten to death and then tossed into the river. On 23 September, Vue Thao’s dead body is found with the same kind of injuries.

May 2016: Lao soldiers continue hunting down Hmong in the dense forest areas in which they have sought refuge. On 17 May, Loa military forces are spotted in the area of Na Mou and Mount Pha Leng Zoua, and, on 20 May, in areas close to a Hmong refuge in Phou Bia.

4 May 2016: Government military forces launch an attack on a Hmong village in the Xaysomboun Province of Laos. This 200-people strong community is part of a population of approximately 1,000 ethnic Hmong scattered throughout the area. At least two civilians are killed, Ms Pa Moua and Mr True Xiong. The latter’s body cannot be recovered. The Congress of World Hmong People (CWHP) accuses the Vietnamese government of secretly supplying the Lao military with the artillery ammunition needed to carry out such attacks. Laos and Vietnam are known to work hand in hand in their targeted persecution of the Hmong people.

23 April 2016: A white helicopter is repeatedly seen circling over Hmong territory at a very low altitude of about 100 meters. It might not have the appearance of an army helicopter, but locals report that the Lao government uses civilian helicopters to hide its military activities in the area. Locals suspect that the helicopter sprayed poison over the area as, after its appearance, the community suffers from poisoning symptoms, such as dizziness, diarrhoea, shortness of breath and vomiting. Internal intelligence sources say that the Lao military uses these tactics to debilitate Hmong communities already weakened by food insecurity before invading the area with ground forces.

8 April 2016: The Lao military, reportedly with the assistance of Vietnamese forces, launches a massive military incursion into the territory of Hmong communities in the Phou Bia region. According to various estimates, between 2,000 and 12,000 Hmong had fled to this isolated, mountainous jungle regions of Laos in an attempt to seek refuge from continuing persecution and violence at the hands of the Lao authorities. The regime has been accused of expropriating the Hmong and of selling of their lands for short-term economic benefit, while using “rural development” and “poverty alleviation” as a pretext to justify environmentally unsustainable activities in the Hmong territory, including dam building projects and illegal logging.

2013-2015: The Lao military closes in on the Hmong and continues surrounding communities in the Phou Bia region by increasing the density of military installations and bases. This makes it increasingly difficult for Hmong indigenous communities to go out searching for food. The military occupation continues to be of great concern for the Hmong and substantially threatens their survival, which leads to clashes between them and the Lao military, leaving hundreds of Hmong dead or injured. ChaoFa President Her urges the international community to send immediate humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of his people.

2 October 2013: The Lao government uses dogs to hunt down Hmong people. Lao military forces invade the area in the east of Moungxaysombun, Moung Cha.

2009: Mr. Chong Lor Her becomes the new president of the ChaoFa party and continues to be so to this today

June 2007:  The government of Thailand forcibly repatriates 163 Hmong asylum seekers to  Laos, where they will face political persecution and human rights abuses

1999-2002: ChaoFa faces rapid changes in leadership. After President Zong Zoua Hers' death, Pa Kao Her becomes the new president of the ChaoFa Party in 1999. He moves the ChaoFa headquarters to Phong Saly in Laos’ Northernmost province, close to the border between Thailand and Laos. When President Pa Kao Her is assassinated in 2002 by an unidentified gunman, Yang Lue is elected as the new president. He moves the party’s headquarters back to the Phou Bia region. After just a short time, he disappears under mysterious circumstances. Many ChaoFa Hmong surrendered to the LPRP.

1973-1975: After all warring factions had signed a peace treaty (Paris Peace Accords) in January 1973, the Vietnam War officially ends with the withdrawal of US troops and the capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975.

Immediately, the new Lao authorities turns against the Hmong people who had supported the US during the war. One by one, Hmong villages are invaded and their inhabitants killed, illegally arrested and detained. Hmong leaders such as Tou Bee LyFong are arrested and sent to “re-education camps”, leaving the Hmong community at large concerned for their security.

Eventually, the Hmong decide to defend their freedom and rights. To that end, they form the ChaoFa political party under the leadership of President Zong Zoua Her. Phoua Bia is chosen as the party’s headquarter.