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.
3 October 2018: Representatives of UNPO's member Congress of World Hmong People (CWHP) have shared concerning photos and videos indicating the continuing use of chemical weapons against Hmong groups living in the Laotian jungle. On one video, a couple cries while holding their baby, who died on 23 of September from poisoning artery weapons shoot into their area on 13 September.
7 September 2018: President Her reported that on 3 September 2018 Lao military built a new base about 1,5km away from his current community, adding on to the other military bases that are shown on Google Maps. The new base reflects the continuation of Lao military’s campaign of militarization of the area, encroaching even further on Hmong hideouts and imposing more blockages to Hmong Chaofa people’s paths to finding food in nature. While Lao military regularly go out of the bases to patrol and hunt them while they search for food, helicopters continue on flying every day in and out of these bases, which makes even more difficult for Hmong people to safely search for food and water.
1 September 2018: 82mm mortars were launched about 8 times on President Her’s community during the late night and early morning. Afterwards, people were affected with poisoning, experiencing symptoms as nausea, dizziness and diarrhea.
23 July 2018: A helicopter is seen flying over a Hmong community on the morning of the 23 July 2018 in Northern Laos. Three days later, people fall sick, with symptoms including headaches, dizziness, vomiting and fever and a two month-old baby dies. Local communities suspect that the helicopter flight was a planned chemical attack on the Hmong community and that the symptomps they show are the effects of a poisonous attack.
8 April 2018: While the launching of heavy artillery by the military into the Hmong Chaofa area has ceased, 60 mm and 80 mm artillery is still being deployed 4-5 times whenever a helicopter lands in the military bases surrounding the Hmong camps. The bases continue to grow, and President Her implores the international community to send humanitarian aid and international observers to the region, adding that the starvation is becoming more severe by the day.
11 February 2018: A report by President Her says that on 6 February 2018 at approximately 5:40 pm six Hmong Chaofa people left the jungle for a village in search of food and were circled and attacked by the Lao military. There was heavy fighting at the scene and although most of the Chaofa got away there were many Lao soldiers killed. President Her claims that the Lao military still launches heavy artillery such as 80 mm, 120 mm and 130 mm rounds across the Hmong Chaofa territory every morning, noon and evening, and continues to urge the EU, UN, and US to sent an international observer to witness the situation.
24 January 2018: The Laotian army continues to launch heavy long-range artillery (80 mm and 130 mm) into the Hmong ChaoFa territory. According to President Her, the attacks happen throughout the day, from 5 am in the early morning to 8 pm in the evening. Helicopters from the Pha Hay area, east of Long Tieng, continue to circle over the Hmong's refuge area. President Her urges the international community to send observers and send humanitarian aid.
5 January 2018: The Laotian military launches heavy artillery strikes into the territory of the Hmong ChaoFa. According to reports available to President Her, on 8 January 2018, the Laotian troops plan to launch another concerted attack with heavy artillery to complete wipe out the Hmong population in their refuge area. Reportedly, a battalion of Vietnamese troops normally stationed in Long Tieng is to join the Laotian military in this mission.
12 December 2017: As part of the overall increase in heavy artillery shelling by the Laotian military, government troops now seem to speciifically target the Hmong CHaoFa's access routes to wild food sources. Heavy artillery fire on their region continues (see picture below).
6 December 2017: In the evening, at 6:53 pm local time, a helicopter circles the Hmong's hideout area. A few days after the incident, members of President Her's group suffer from symptoms which usually occur after expore to mustard gas, including nausea, dizziness, headaches, a congestion of the chest and weakened legs.
2 December 2017: At 10:30 am, Lao time, the military shoots heavy artillery into Hmong territory. The shelling lasts for more than three day in a row. President Her urges the European Union and the United States Department of State to take immediate action.
5-7 November 2017: According to President Her the Laotian military launches heavy artillery into the Hmong ChaoFa's territory. His group of Hmong, including women and children, find it difficult to find food sources as the military appears to systematically encroach on their territory.
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.