Nobody Gets Off the Bus:
The Viet Nam Generation Big Book
Volume 5 Number 1-4
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The Truth of the Matter
According to the many voices crying out from Laos, in the Province of Xieng Khouang during April and May of this year, there were many Hmong-Lao peasants who were arrested and killed by government troops because of the presence of Resistance forces in the area. These guerrilla fighters said to the peasants that soon they will seize the country "from North to South and from East to West."
Everyone must arm to oppose the Lao communists. Otherwise, when they take over the country, those peasants who hear the message and refuse to arm will have no choice. For this frightening reason, some peasants disappeared into the jungle, while others have been caught by the government forces in their villages.
Who supports these Resistance forces? Publicly, no country backs them, and they are unrecognized by the United Nations (UN). Privately, under the table, they have been supported by other Resistance groups formed abroad, particularly in Thailand and in the United States. Members of these Resistance groups are mostly those hired by the United States CIA to fight the communists during the Viet Nam war. Since then they have held leadership positions among the Hmong and have spent virtually their entire life fighting. They have no or little formal education. Those warriors who arrived in the U.S. found it very difficult to earn a living. The only way to survive has been to corrupt the Hmong communities from state to state, from city to city, and from family to family. Their propaganda is simple: "We will enjoy our New Year in Laos if we financially help each other!"
Many Hmong families in the U.S. have contributed their welfare checks to the Resistance groups because they are unaware of national and international politics, they misread the minds of the refugee guerrilla leaders, and because many still hope someday to become leaders upon their return to Laos. The money collected from these individual families is divided into three parts. The biggest portion is given to the guerrilla leaders' individual families in the U.S. That is why some of them are very rich. The second portion is sent to those Resistance forces in Laos--that is the reason they have survived in the jungle and indirectly killed many Hmong-Lao since 1975. Another portion of the money is sent to refugee leaders, who actively participate in the Resistance groups in Thailand. That is the real reason why tens of thousands of the Hmong refugees in Thailand have refused to come to America and other Western countries, for they may fall into the trap of their refugee leaders.
In 1989, the UN conducted a survey about the future of the Hmong refugees in Thailand, especially those in Ban Vinai Camp. The outcomes of the study showed that majority of the Hmong refugees want to go back to Laos. Based on the results of this study, the UN has created a repatriation program to mobilize the Hmong refugees to go back to Laos according to their wishes. However, this study is misleading. The UN officials "just" interviewed the heads of the families, not those who are 18 years or older. Thus, the study does not accurately represent the majority of voices among Hmong refugees in Thailand. The UN must cautiously repatriate the Hmong refugees and should not lock the door on those who want to relocate to the U.S. or other Western countries.
The Resistance groups abroad have contributed not just money. Many of these Hmong men even go back to Thailand, especially to the refugee camps. There they declare themselves leaders of the Hmong community in the U.S. and pretend to speak on behalf of the Hmong at large. Sooner or later some of these leaders end up marrying girls in the camps. Many return to the U.S. for further Public Assistance. Others remain in Thailand.
Since January 1992, to earn the trust of Hmong-Lao peasants, the Resistance forces in Laos and Thailand have engaged in fighting with the government troops along the Lao-Thai borders in the Sayaburri and Leoi Provinces. According to a key leader who requested anonymity of the Resistance group in the U.S., "we must fight, for we hope the fighting will catch the attention of the UN, while its representatives and troops are currently deployed in Cambodia, so that the UN will do the same thing in Laos as they are doing in Cambodia." This suggests that the guerrilla fighters do not know politics and the existing situation in Cambodia. Thus, the truth of the matter needs to be elaborated to those puzzled fighters.
In 1975, the communists seized power in Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam). Pol Pot took over Cambodia; his forces are known as the Khmer Rouge. Under the Pol Pot regime (1975-1978), tens of thousands of civilian Cambodians died from overwork, disease, starvation, and malnutrition. In the meantime, the Khmer Rouge also had a conflict with the Vietnamese over the border separating the two countries. In late 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia and forced the Khmer Rouge into the sanctuaries of the forest along the Thai border. The Vietnamese then installed the People's Republic of Kampuchea, headed by Heng Samrin as President and Hun Sen as Prime Minister.
In 1982, the Khmer Rouge, the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, and Sihanouk's Loyalists formed a coalition government abroad. This exiled coalition force headed by Sihanouk gained recognition from the UN. Since 1979, the Civil War in Cambodia has escalated for more than a decade and tens of thousands of Cambodians have fled the country for Thailand. The Civil War did more harm than good to the country and its people. Last year the UN decided to intervene in the Cambodian issue by calling on the rival leaders to negotiate for peace, by convincing the U.S., China, and Viet Nam to stop supplying assistance to the rival Cambodian forces. The UN will effectively control the country until an election takes place in 1993. This is the current situation in Cambodia.
Unlike Cambodia, in 1975, the Lao communists seized power without "violence." The Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR) has retained diplomatic relations with both the communist countries and the noncommunist countries, including the U.S. In the meantime, the UN also has recognized the LPDR as the legitimate government. Although the LPDR has been heavily manipulated by the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and the Lao economy has not improved much, there has been no internal conflict which has caught the attention of the world. There is no Civil War in Laos. Certainly, there are many insurgent groups inside the country and abroad, but none of these groups are recognized by the UN. Therefore, the existing situation in Cambodia will never be duplicated in Laos.
Y. Chershouatseeb is a graduate student at Ohio University in a Southeast Asia Studies Program.