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'Killing fields,' mines and martyrs

Posted By Anthony C. LoBaido On 11/18/1999 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Editor’s note: This is the second part of Anthony C. LoBaido’s
three-part
investigative series on the Hmong hill tribes of Laos and Vietnam. In
Part 1, “THE GREAT BETRAYAL,” IN WEDNESDAY
EDITION WorldNetDaily’s roving international reporter revealed how the
Hmong, since serving valiantly alongside American servicemen in the
Vietnam war, have been betrayed by the U.S. government, persecuted by
the Laotian government, and are now being forced at gunpoint by U.N.
soldiers to return from Thai refugee camps to their native Laos before
Dec. 31 — to almost certain death. In this report, LoBaido reveals the
many “dirty little secrets” he uncovered during his investigations while
traveling through Laos, the most heavily landmined country on earth.



VIENTIANE, Laos People’s Democratic Republic — The group of 50 men,
women and children huddled together in the basement of a spooky,
abandoned French colonial mansion smiled brightly at the arrival of the
Western missionary.

“Did you bring them?” one Laotian woman asked her. “I pray that you
did.”

“Yes, by the grace of God, yes,” replied the man, before he pulled
out two videotapes from his knapsack. One was the Christian classic,
“The Robe.” The other, its sequel, “Demetrius and the Gladiators.”

The idea of Christians hiding out from authorities in the basement of
a haunted house to watch old Hollywood films might seem preposterous to
Americans, but in Stalinist Laos it is a fact of life.


Several Loatian princesses gather at a ceremony in Luang Prabang.

“The lions are back,” said Karen LaSalle, a 26-year-old, striking
redheaded, French evangelical missionary who has been working in Laos
for three years.

“Persecution of Christians, especially the Hmong tribe, is very great
in Laos. While we feel no ill will personally towards our persecutors,
we must take precautions to protect ourselves,” she said.

The Hmong are especially hated by the Pathet Lao for their alliances
with the French and later the Americans during the Vietnam war. The
Pathet Lao word for Hmong is “Meo,” which means, literally, “less than
human.”

So why are the besieged Christians in LaSalle’s fold so powerfully
attracted to these two films in particular?

“I believe people want to be inspired,” answered LaSalle, “and as
Lenin said, film is the greatest tool ever invented to influence the
masses.”

“‘The Robe’ is the story of the Roman tribune who actually crucified
Christ on the Cross,” LaSalle explained. “This man finds redemption and
faith even while losing his wealth, family and position. He even risks
his life for Demetrius, his former slave. In the sequel, Demetrius
takes on the beasts of the Roman Empire. In the end, he returns with
the Prince of Nubia to Sudan with the robe — the cloth which Jesus wore
to his death.”

Then came the connection. “The Christians in Laos understand that
Christians in Sudan are being crucified and sold into slavery for their
Christian faith,” said LaSalle. “Somehow, they respond to the messages
in these two movies. It gives them hope. It is the exact opposite of
what Lenin would have wanted.”

“Illegal assembly, social division”

Earlier this year, the Stalinist government imprisoned 44 Christians
for holding a Bible study. Most of those imprisoned were members of
Partners in Progress, an Evangelical Aid Organization based in Little
Rock, Arkansas, home of U.S. President Bill Clinton.


A Hmong woman tends to her daily work and two children.

The prisoners were charged with “illegal assembly and creating social
division.” The Stalinist Pathet Lao government imposed such restrictions
after it took power in 1975.

Indeed, while Laos’ capital Vientiane boasts MTV, Internet cafes,
satellite dishes, Megadeth tee-shirts, Panasonic and even Ovaltine, it
is devoid of the basic freedoms Americans take for granted. Instead,
Laos maintains a Soviet-style internal passport system — called “bai
anuyaat doen thaang” in Lao, or the ironic “laissez passer” in French.

And for Christians in Laos, religious freedom is non-existent.

A predominately Buddhist country, Laos has been known throughout much
of history as “the land of a million elephants.” Today, Laos is home to
20,000 active Catholics — a remnant of its days as a French colony –
and over 200 Protestant congregations. However, as is the case in
Communist China, there are only two recognized Protestant sects.

“The real Christians who don’t believe in Marxism and Stalinism and
toe the government line have to worship in secret,” said LaSalle, who
told WorldNetDaily she believes persecution is a rite of passage for the
church. “The Christians in Laos and Western missionaries must be
prepared to pass through the fire” in order to spread the Gospel in that
nation, she said.

The virtual Indochina

Signs of renewed Western interest in Laos are everywhere. Sparkling
new European Union vans line the capital’s streets. Civil engineering
projects totaling $7 billion are in the works in this country the size
of England, but with only 4.5 million people — the least populated
nation in all of Asia.


WorldNetDaily reporter Anthony LoBaido at the grave of French
explorer and archaeologist Henri Mouhot, who brought knowledge of the
Plain of Jars and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, one of the “Wonders of the
Ancient World,” to the West.

A new air fleet called “Mekong Airlines” is in the works to bring the
troika of the French Empire’s Inchochina states — Laos, Cambodia and
Vietnam — back into the European fold. Only this time, the region will
be a de facto colony for gems, timber and tourism.

Laos is the plural for the three separate kingdoms of Lao –
Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Champasak — forcibly united by Siamese
invaders in the 1820s. By the 19th Century, the French had taken control
of the Vietnamese kingdoms of Annam and Tonkin. In 1893, the French and
Siamese (Thailand) signed a series of treaties giving the three kingdoms
over to France. Hence, the birth of the colony of “Laos.”

Half-ton ration for each person

The UK-led Mines Advisory Group (MAG) works to clean up the “UXO” or
“Unexploded Ordinance” problem across the nation’s heartland. It is no
easy task. Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the history of
human civilization. The Plain of Jars near Ponsavan was one of the most
devastated areas. It is estimated that an average of one planeload of
bombs was dropped every eight minutes, 24 hours per day for nine years.
At the end of the Vietnam War, that formula had offered a half-ton
ration for each man, woman and child in Laos.

Each year, 100 children in Laos are killed by inadvertently setting
off undetonated UXO. Most of these children are killed while hunting
for scrap metal, which earns them around
200 kip per kilogram — a handful of pennies. (One U.S. dollar equals
7800 kip.) “Most of the children hunt for the scrap metal in order to
sell it and rent a Hollywood video,” says Capt. James Hunt, a former
British Royal Marine who works for MAG.

“It’s a bad trade-off. Far worse than, let’s say, buying the initial
public offering of stock in Mekong Airlines. But we’re doing our best
to clear the land and save these innocent children,” he said.

For its part, the United States has donated $12 million to the UXO
project, which is run in large part by dedicated British ex-military
personnel like Hunt. It is the only visible sign of any meaningful U.S.
presence in the nation. In both Cambodia and Laos, the U.S. carries
very little weight; the European Union runs the show under the guise of
the United Nations.


The Plain of Jars near Ponsavan in Laos. Archaeologists are still
divided on the means of their use. Were they funeral urns, or storage
jars for wine? Regardless, they are considered the Stonehenge of Asia.

Ring around the rosie

High in the misty hills and rolling mountains of central Laos lies
the pristine colonial city of Luang Prabang. It is the scene of
glittering Buddhist temples and French cafes serving gourmet pate and
filet mignon. Just outside this little slice of heaven is a Hmong
village. In the surrounding area, lined with lush banana trees, papaya,
pineapples, green beans, coffee plantations and rice terraces, the
visitor will find dogs, cows, oxen, horses, wild boar and ducks almost
everywhere. Women walk along the dusty streets carrying baskets on their
backs filled with firewood.

Although the Hmong have neither running water nor electricity, they
seem perfectly happy in their super-oxygenated abode. They literally
walk in the clouds all day long, performing daily chores and enjoying
life’s simple pleasures, oblivious to the high-tech change, violence and
social decay that plagues most of the rest of the world.

“It’s absolutely the most perfect place I’ve ever been to on earth,”
says LaSalle, who accompanied this reporter, along with a Hmong guide,
on the journey.


The giant reclining Buddha statue south of Vientiene, Laos’ capital.

“Sadly, if you dig a little deeper, you see the scars of something
scarcely believable.”

While LaSalle speaks with the village’s women, the Hmong children
gather and form a circle. Soon they are moving about in clockwise
fashion and singing a familiar song in the French language.

“Ring around the rosie

Pocket full of posies

Ashes, ashes

We all fall down.”

While most Westerners might think of this ditty as a simple
children’s rhyme, it is anything but that to the Hmong.

“I learned earlier this year that another French missionary had
taught the Hmong children this song. It is a very old song which dates
back to the Black Plague in Europe. Nostrodamus helped to cure the
plague by giving the sick rose petals to eat,” said LaSalle.

“Everyone knows that the government of Laos used biochemical weapons
sent by the Russians for use against the Hmong. And the missionaries
have taught the Hmong children this rhyme as a part of an oral tradition
aimed at remembering the biochemical genocide enacted against them,” she
said.

The Hmong have had no written language until recent decades. Although
the Hmong women are keen at handicrafts, and stitched characters from
their ancient alphabet into their clothing, over the centuries the
meaning of these characters has been lost. Without a written language,
the Hmong depend heavily on oral traditions.


Laotian waterfall — Laos hopes to develop its vast hydroelectric resources.

Numerous biochemists, medical doctors and military experts have
confirmed the use of Yellow Rain and other toxins against the Hmong.
Yet, the U.S. State Department refuses to officially endorse these
findings, nor condemn either the Russians or Pathet Lao for using them.
In fact, dissenting opinions on the biological warfare claim that the
“Yellow Rain” was nothing more than bee pollen and/or bee feces.

This same Hmong village, as well as the neighboring Kamu tribal
village, was littered with empty birth control packages handed
out by UNICEF — the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“These people are agrarian-based and can have as many children as
they want,” says Jacques La Rue, another French missionary who works
closely with the Kamu.

“But UNICEF fancies itself as the guardian of global population. Now
the Laos government wants the Hmong and Kamu to have three children or
less. There is no population problem here. The Hmong have been a victim
of genocide and Laos is the least populated country in all of Asia!”


Hmong children waving goodbye.

Secrets and lies

Laos is a country filled with dirty little secrets. One of the most
important — and gruesome — is the re-education camps near the
northeast border town of Sam Neua in Hua Phan Province. The province,
which borders Vietnam, is home to 102 caves the Pathet Lao guard as
though they housed top military secrets.

In reality, the caves are off-limits because the Pathet Lao are
afraid foreign tourists will stumble across the brutal Stalinist
re-education camps. These camps, or “Asian gulags” as some call them,
have long been the scene of liquidation of anti-Communists, Hmong and
other ethnic tribal peoples and other dissidents. The camps are well
hidden. Over 70 percent of Laos consists of mountains and plateaus, and
Hua Phan Province is one of the most remote regions in an amazingly
remote country.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 dissidents have been brutally worked to
death and murdered in these re-education camps since 1975. Many of the
executions were performed in the Khmer Rouge “Killing Fields” style — a
blow to the head, so as not to waste bullets, according to numerous
Laotians interviewed by WorldNetDaily.

Another dirty secret is the recent murder of two Lao-American
citizens who the government claimed were on a mission to “spark a
counter-revolution” in the Communist country.

According to officials interviewed by WorldNetDaily in both Thailand
and Laos, Michael Vang and Ly Houa — both ethnic Hmong — disappeared
into the jungles of Laos after illegally crossing from the Thai border
town of Chiang Khong.

These two were no ordinary men, however. Michael Vang is the nephew
of exiled Gen. Vang Pao, who led the Hmong’s CIA Special Forces in their
war against the Pathet Lao and Viet Cong on behalf of the United States.
Gen. Pao now lives in the U.S.

“The two men were carrying a backpack full of cash and automatic
weapons,” said one U.S. Embassy official on condition of anonymity.


The Wat Xieng Thong Temple in Luang Prabang, built by King Setthathirat in 1560.

An American diplomat in Bangkok confirmed, however, that a joint
U.S.-Lao “fact-finding mission” had been dispatched to the Lao province
of Ban Houei Sai to “learn the whereabouts of these two U.S. citizens.”

A Laos Communist Party official told WorldNetDaily that the two men
had “committed an incursion ” — which he described as “the latest in a
series of ill-conceived attempts to arm the Hmong against the Laos
government.”

U.S. abandoning anti-Communists

Hmong leaders within Laos are convinced that the U.S. Embassy in
Thailand, along with the CIA, U.S. State Department and U.N. are working
with the Pathet Lao to undermine any anti-Communist resistance movement
by the Hmong people.

“America has abandoned the anti-Communist resistance movements of the
world, from Laos to Angola to Mozambique to Central America,” said Don
McAlvany, editor of the conservative geopolitical newsletter, the
McAlvany Intelligence Advisor. “It is a sad process which began under
President Bush and continued under Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright.”

“Everyone knows that the right wing in America and the rest of the
West is in a state of shambles,” said one prominent Laos-based Hmong
leader, in an interview with WorldNetDaily.

“The French and British deployed police to stop their own people from
peacefully protesting against the recent visit of the president of China
– despite China’s terrible record on human rights. I don’t think we’ll
be getting any help from our former allies in the West,” he said.

While the future seems dark for the Hmong, one very bright event has
lit up their idyllic mountain fortress in recent days. As WorldNetDaily
reported in Part 1
of this three-part investigative series, a large group of Hmong soldiers managed to escape
from a refugee camp in Thailand at the eleventh hour. These soldiers
had been targeted for extermination upon their forced return to Laos –
a return paid for by the U.S. taxpayer and carried out under the strong
arm of the United Nations.


Boats off an isolated island in the Gulf of Thailand wait to take
escaped Hmong CIA Special Forces soldiers to freedom in Malaysia. The
soldiers had been kept in refugee camps at the Thai-Laos border and were
slated for forced repatriation and death upon their return to Stalinist
Laos. All photos taken by Anthony LoBaido.

However, with the help of concerned and sympathetic anti-Communists
in Burma, Thailand and Malaysia, these men were given both money and the
means to flee Thailand and find freedom.

“Gai gan pan fa gup din,” said one of the Hmong soldiers as he
boarded a Sampan off the coast of southern Thailand en route to
Malaysia. He was saying that, for the Hmong, a life in exile from their
idyllic mountains is “as far away as the sky is from the earth.”



This is the second installment of
Anthony C. LoBaido’s three-part investigative report, “Apocalypse Now.” In Part 3, tomorrow, 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.


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