Editor’s note: This is the first of an exclusive three-part
investigative series by WorldNetDaily’s roving international
correspondent Anthony C. LoBaido. During the past year, LoBaido has
traveled throughout Thailand and Laos, at considerable personal risk,
documenting the plight of Laos’ Hmong tribesmen — including former CIA
Special Forces soldiers who fought side-by-side with American soldiers
during the Vietnam war. Among the most Christianized of the hill tribes
in Southeast Asia, the Hmong have been the object of great persecution
by both the Stalinist government of Laos and the Communist government of
Vietnam. But their biggest betrayal of all is still coming — from the
United States government and the United Nations. Until now, no reporter
from any other news organization worldwide has been willing or able to
document this important story.
NAKHON PHANOM, Thailand — An old Hmong woman sobbed hysterically,
burying her face in the hands of her young granddaughter. The United
Nations High Commission on Refugees had made its final decision: The
woman and her entire extended family would be forcibly repatriated to
Communist-ruled Laos — at gunpoint if necessary — by the men in the
Three monks gather
in the formerly peaceful
“No, oh my God, no!” the woman sobbed over and over again. “They’re
going to kill us all!”
That was the scene at the Ban Napho camp Sept. 29, where U.N. staff
had just finished conducting the last of its “interviews” to determine
which Hmong (pronounced “mung”) families would be forced to return to
Although 1999 has been designated officially as “Visit Laos Year,”
few knowledgeable observers are shocked at the Hmong’s reluctance to
return to their native land.
The Hmong are hated by the power brokers in the Stalinist government
that rules Laos today. This hatred is rooted in the Hmong’s legendary
role in aiding the French colonialists during the Indochina War of the
1950s, and, a decade later, in their having fought alongside the
American forces during the Vietnam war. The Hmong were portrayed,
although somewhat crudely, in the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola film,
Today, the Hmong are a besieged people on many fronts. Both medical
and military experts claim that the ruling government of Laos has used
Russian-made biochemical weapons against the Hmong. UNICEF, the United
Nations Children’s Fund, currently is engaging in population control
efforts against the tribe, trying to limit members to three children per
family. And worst of all, the Hmong have found themselves abandoned by
the U.S. State Department, CIA and Pentagon — their former patrons. Far
from being given a homeland and preferential treatment, as promised, for
their past allegiance and military service to America, they are being
forced to return to a nation that considers them less than human — to a
fate of almost certain extermination.
Anthony LoBaido at the legendary —
Plain of Jars near Ponsavan, in Laos.
How did this happen?
An amazing and tortured story, it all began when U.S. Army Special
Forces soldier Carl Bernard, an experienced infantry captain, was posted
to Laos in 1961 with the “White Star Mobile Training Team” from the
Army’s Special Forces at Fort Bragg.
“The Hmong are rugged mountain people who were trained by the CIA in
Special Forces units during the 1960s and 1970s,” recalled Bernard. He
was the point man on the CIA-U.S. Army’s official mission to recruit and
train the Hmong to fight against the Communist Viet Cong. Just why was
the Army recruiting native hill tribesmen to fight?
Having served in China with the Marines in 1945-46, Bernard was
extremely knowledgeable on the long-running regional conflict due to his
extensive contacts with French officers involved in the French-Indochina
In particular, Bernard was impressed with the explanation of the way
Communist China’s forces were able to contain, conquer and then convert
those of anti-Maoist Chiang Kai-shek into the formidable units that
caused the U.S. such staggering losses in the Korean War.
Bernard understood that the United States would need the support of
the ethnic hill tribes of Indochina to win the Vietnam war. While the
conflict was conventional in nature, there were also unconventional
aspects to the war that would definitely swing the balance of the final
in the Mekong Delta.
“Army officials had expressed concern to then-President John F.
Kennedy about Laos, an unknown country, becoming the first domino in the
line,” said Bernard in an interview with WorldNetDaily. Therefore,
Bernard’s own 12-man team was assigned in the northern section of the
country with half of them posted to the Hmong, overlooking the Plain of
Jars, and the other half assisting in the training of the Lao Royal Army
in Luang Prabang.
The French advisers still present were focused only on providing
operational advice and assistance. By this time, the French Foreign
Legion had been defeated in Indochina by the forerunners of the Viet
Cong, and had retreated to fight other battles in North Africa on behalf
of the evaporating French empire. If the former French colonies of
Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia were to remain aligned with the West, it was
up to Bernard, his fledgling mountain fighters and the American war
“I had the chance to travel extensively with Vang Pao, who had always
served as the chief of the Hmong forces. Also traveling with us were
senior members of the Royal Army,” Bernard recalled.
Detailed reports from his visits — on many of which he was the sole
“round eye” present — provided a perspective often criticized as making
America’s policies look doomed to failure.
The U.S. Embassy transformed numerous unfavorable reports about the
war into something that evolved into Saigon’s “Five O’clock Follies” –
fractured and flawed news reports on the war situation. Yet, the
content of these reports — with no sources contradicting their message
– was adequate to mislead Washington’s decision makers into believing
that a successful and very inexpensive war effort was being waged, using
ignorant and innocent mountain people.
The death of each Hmong Special Forces soldier in the “secret war” in
Laos meant one less body bag coming back to the U.S. This was important
to Washington, since each American body bag carried with it a political
price tag, as the American public grew weary of the war effort.
But the war was to drag on for years. “The military industrial
complex didn’t want to bring the Vietnam war to a swift end,” said one
Western military attache based in Laos’ capitol of Vientiane.
A young Hmong girl
and her baby sister
at a Hmong refugee camp
“Bell Helicopter and Dow Chemical were making millions in aircraft
and Agent Orange. The elites running the war didn’t want to accept that
a bunch of half-assed mountain boys like the Hmong could actually turn
the tide of the war,” he said. “But they took out at least half of all
Soviet and Red Chinese supplies headed for the Viet Cong along the Ho
Chi Min trail.”
So, while the policy makers in the White House and Pentagon debated
the merits and viability of the Hmong Special Forces operation, the
Hmong fought on with a scarcely believable tenacity.
Yet, they paid a huge price for their allegience to the American
forces. The Hmong were destined to lose one quarter of their entire
population, and knew no more of evolving U.S. policies (their eventual
betrayal) and practices (fighting to “lose the war” and negotiate a
“peace” and eventual withdrawal) than did their mentors from the U.S.
Meanwhile, Bernard was promoted to major and returned to Fort Bragg
with his team after just six months in Laos. Gen. William P.
Yarborough, commander of the Special Forces Warfare Center, agreed that
more than perfunctory language and area training were required to help
the Hmong hill tribes. Yarborough authorized Bernard to visit
anthropology and sociology departments at Duke and the University of
North Carolina to determine what could be done to teach soldiers to
“Sadly, the interest of the ‘real Army’ in such exotic ways to become
more effective in the field remained very low. Its real focus was on
stopping the Warsaw Pact from invading Western Europe, not fighting land
wars in Asia,” lamented Bernard.
As Bernard’s time in Vietnam neared its end, he penned a final report
on the bipolar strategies of the Pentagon and Viet Cong. In it, he
wrote, “The U.S. continues to concentrate the bulk of resources and
military might on controlling the terrain and looking for massed enemy
formations. The Viet Cong continues to concentrate its talents on
controlling the people. Each succeeds.”
Despite the success of the Hmong in attacking the Viet Cong’s supply
lines in southern Laos, or the horrendous losses they had suffered in
the process, Bernard did not realize how deep their betrayal by the U.S.
State Department would go.
“The Hmong were expecting that their combat support of the Laos
government’s American allies would earn them treatment as full citizens.
They did not fail as Special Forces soldiers in the field. Their only
‘failure’ was believing in the Americans’ ability to win the war and
keep their word,” says Bernard.
“The CIA agents who had given them guarantees of their place in the
long-term plans of the United States did not have the authority to do
this, nor the means to carry out what they promised. These men knew so
little of the conflicting Laos and Hmong cultures that their promises
were both confused and impossible to fulfill. Yet the Hmong thought of
themselves as an American army and believed they would be taken care
“Their betrayal is a horrible shame to the United States. It sets a
bad example for any potential allies America might well need to fight on
our side in a future war. The Kurds come to mind,” said Bernard.
Today, the plight of the Hmong is rapidly intensifying.
Since the mid-’70s, the Hmong have lived in refugee camps on the
Thai-Laos border. But since 1980, over 24,000 Laotians have been sent
back to Laos from Thai refugee camps. Some 324,172 have been
repatriated to Western nations like Australia, New Zealand, France and
the United States — nations that have sent forces to fight in Indochina
since World War II.
Fading sign of the Laos Democratic Republic, featuring the Soviet hammer
and sickle, industrial worker, peasant woman and headless business man.
But the most current issue pressing the Hmong people involves those
still languishing at the Ban Napho camp. The U.N. High Commission on
Refugees has stated it will cut off all funding for the Hmong by Dec.
31, 1999. Two more “final redeployments” are expected by that time –
that is, the U.N. will send the rest of the camp’s Hmong back to Laos in
two final groups before year end.
For its part, the Loatian Communist government says it will accept
only voluntary returnees, but the refugees say their lives are in danger
if they return.
“The Pathet Lao fear a right-wing, Christian, anti-Communist movement
by the Hmong,” explained Baylor University’s award-winning filmmaker,
Dr. Michael Korpi. “The Pathet Lao word for the Hmong, ‘Meo,’ means
‘less than human’ — and the government will kill them with impunity as
it has in the past.” Korpi’s documentary film, “City of Refuge,” about
the repatriated Hmong now living in Iowa, has received international
Thus, it was no surprise that Thailand’s government deployed over
1,000 anti-riot police to help quell the hour-long riot that broke out
within the Ban Napho camp on the morning of Sept. 29.
Western journalists were not permitted to enter the camp and speak
with the Hmong, but WorldNetDaily did manage to enter undercover and
interview a number of the Hmong people there.
“More than 20 of our soldiers have escaped this camp,” one Hmong man
told WorldNetDaily. “They have been identified as anti-Communists and
face certain death upon their return to our homeland.”
Those who returned to Laos were given “care packages” of personal
health care items and a relocation allowance of one hundred U.S.
dollars. According to Lao Communist government officials, the returnees
were scheduled to live for the time being at a temporary facility near
the village of Ban Na Saat in Khmmouane province.
But few Hmong are willing to take the Communist Pathet Lao regime at
For example, the Oct. 8 edition of the Communist Party-controlled
Vientiane Times said, “The (Sept. 29) repatriation movement took place
peacefully and smoothly.”
Hmong refugees, forced back to Laos
at gunpoint by the United Nations
and Thai anti-riot police,
begin their sad journey “home.”
In reality, the exact opposite was the case. The repatriation,
carried out by the U.N., Thai government and Pathet Lao Communists,
caused a full-scale riot. It was, in fact, only the first in a series of
deceptions that likely will lead to the death of many of the other 1,064
Hmong being held in the Ban Napho camp.
“In this age of global media, who wonders at how this final
liquidation can be taking place? It is a symbol of the agenda of the
United Nations, Clinton administration and U.S. State Department –
hatred of Christians and anti-Communists,” charged Korpi.
In the end, many Americans might be left wondering how a pantheon of
U.S. administrations all could have failed so completely one of
America’s most courageous and loyal allies.
Bernard cites the “shameful avoidance of any responsibility for the
betrayal of the Hmong by the Nixon administration, itself focused on
getting on with the Chinese. Hence they were unwilling to be diverted
for the obligations of this powerless element. Soon after, Jimmy
Carter’s ability to understand our use of the Hmong was thwarted by the
elements of the CIA avoiding responsibility for their situation and
keeping the situation covered up as well as they could.”
Bernard adds, “The disgraceful repatriation of the Hmong to Laos has
shamed our nation since its beginning. It is not a secret, only proof
of the power of inertia.”
Although the U.S. did repatriate thousands of Hmong back to
mid-western U.S. states when the war turned bad, there simply wasn’t
enough room in the lifeboat. Of those who were brought to the U.S.,
Bernard said, “the older Hmong in the U.S.A. still hope to return to
their beloved hills in the north. Their younger elements are making
Americans of themselves.”
Today, scores of eligible Hmong living in the U.S. are not receiving
the same military benefits as our own combat veterans, even though many
of them fought as U.S. combat infantrymen for 10-plus years. Many
Americans who fought in the Vietnam war as combat infantrymen were there
for only six months.
Pathet Lao victory monument
“I believe that the Hmong will never quit fighting the Pathet Lao –
not now, not ever,” said Korpi.
Nina Morrision, a former CIA pilot for Air America in Laos during the
Vietnam war adds, “I love the Hmong people. And in the hills of Laos,
among the clouds, there are many great stories of bravery and betrayal.”
For the Hmong people, it would appear that their half-century-old
nightmare of warfare and betrayal is only beginning.
This is the first installment of Anthony C. LoBaido’s three-part investigative report, “Apocalypse
Now.” In Part 2, follow LoBaido on a dangerous mission through Laos to
document the status of the forcibly repatriated Hmong. Traveling through
the ancient Plain of Jars and past the glittering Buddhist temples of
this former French colony, LoBaido uncovers widespread persecution of
both Hmong and Western Christian believers in Laos, and also highlights
the American-based Hmong resistance movement and its recent gains and
losses in its Stalinist motherland.
In Part 3, travel with LoBaido through a dangerous and flood-ridden
North Vietnam, where he exposes the Communist government’s fear of the
Hmong, and the Hmong’s massive turn towards Christianity. All three
parts are accompanied by exclusive photos taken by Anthony LoBaido.