VANG POA’S ARREST


Vang Pao, a charismatic Laotian general who commanded a secret army of his mountain people in a long, losing campaign against Communist insurgents, then achieved almost kinglike status as their leader-in-exile in the United States, died Thursday in Clovis, Calif. He was 81.

His death was confirmed by Michael Bailey, a spokesman for the Clovis Community Medical Center.

Vang Pao was a general in the official Laotian Army, the chief of a secret army financed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the undisputed leader of the varied factions of his people, the Hmong. Tens of thousands of them followed him in his flight to Thailand after the Communist victory in 1975. Later, in the United States, he was so revered that some of his people believed he had supernatural powers.

“He is like the earth and the sky,” Houa Thao, a Hmong refugee, said in an interview with The Fresno Bee in 2007.

That year, Gen. Vang Pao was charged with plotting to provide $10 million in arms to antigovernment forces in Laos in a conspiracy of such dimensions that American prosecutors compared it to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The charges were dropped two years later.On 4 June 2007, following a lengthy federal investigation labeled "Operation Tarnished Eagle", warrants were issued by US federal courts ordering the arrest of Vang Pao and nine others for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Pathet Lao communist government of Laos, in violation of the federal Neutrality Acts. Following the issuance of the warrants, an estimated 250 federal agents representing numerous US federal law enforcement and other agencies conducted simultaneous raids on homes, offices and other locations throughout central and southern California, arresting Vang and nine other individuals.

The federal charges alleged that members of the group inspected weapons, including AK-47s, smoke grenades, and Stinger missiles, with the intent of purchasing them and smuggling them into Thailand, where they allegedly would be shipped to anti-Laotian governmental resistance movement forces inside Laos.  The one non-Hmong person among the nine arrested, Harrison Jack, a 1968 West Point graduate and retired Army infantry officer, allegedly attempted to recruit Special Operations veterans to act as mercenaries in an invasion of Laos.

The Pathet Lao Marxist government Laos was engaged in serious human rights violations, including military attacks on civilians by the Lao People's Army in Laos in 2007 and prior, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Centre for Public Policy Analysis, the Lao Veterans of America, the Lao Human Rights Council, headed by Dr. Vang Pobzeb, Members of the United States Congress and others. Vietnam People's Army forces were also involved with military attacks on the Hmong people in Laos and illegal logging activities driving many Hmong from their mountain homelands.

On 15 June 2007, defendants were indicted by a grand jury and an 11th man was arrested in connection with the alleged plot. The defendants face possible life prison terms for violation of the US Neutrality Act and various weapons charges. Vang and the other Hmong were initially denied bail by the California federal court, which cited each of them as a flight risk. Since the 4 June 2007 federal raid, the arrests became the subject of mounting criticism. His fellow friends, including Hmong, Mienh, Lao, Vietnamese, and Americans individuals who knew Vang protested the arrests, rallying in California, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Several of Vang's high-level US supporters criticized the California court that issued the arrest warrants. In 2009 all of the federal charges against Vang Pao were dropped.

On 12 July 2007, under significant pressure from Vang's Hmong and influential American supporters, the California federal court ordered the release of the Hmong leader on a US$1.5 million bond secured by property owned by members of his family. Many Hmong had participated in numerous protests over several weeks in California and elsewhere, calling for Pao's release from the date of his incarceration until his release under bail nearly a month later.

On 9 March 2009, Vang's lawyers filed a motion seeking to dismiss the charges against him. His lawyers claimed that the charges were fabricated and had no bearing in court. Following this appearance, on 6 April 2009, federal prosecutors denied all allegations of fabrications in the motion. That following month, on 11 May 2009, Vang Pao returned to federal court in Sacramento, California with his lawyers to argue the motion. Judge Frank Damrell stated, after hearing the arguments for the motion, that there was insufficient evidence from the defense to justify a dismissal.

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Dropping of charges
On 18 September 2009, the federal government dropped all charges against Vang Pao, announcing in a release that the federal government was permitted to consider "the probable sentence or other consequences if the person is convicted.”

Vang Pao's long-time adviser and friend Philip Smith hailed the federal government's decision to drop the charges against Vang and the other accused Hmong-American defendants. 

Following Vang's arrest, Smith advocated in Washington, DC for the case to be dropped against Vang and other Hmong leaders. Smith raised repeated public concerns that the US Justice Department, the US Department of States, would be putting themselves and the US government on trial, for its betrayal and abandonment of the Hmong people during the conclusion of the Vietnam War and its aftermath when many Hmong were killed or imprisoned by the Lao communist government that prevailed in the conflict.

At special sessions of the US Congressional Forum on Laos, Smith and the Centre for Public Policy Analysis joined by Members of Congress, including U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher, and others, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately drop the case, and the charges, against General Vang and the other Hmong defendants, especially in light of the Lao government's and Lao Peoples Army's (LPA) ongoing military attacks and egregious human rights violations directed against many of the Laotian and Hmong people, which included attacks on unarmed civilians and political and religious dissidents, atrocities, rape, torture and the use of mass starvation.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations and experts testified about their research efforts, along with Members of Congress, including US Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, US Senator Norm Coleman, at the special Congressional Forums on Laos held in the U.S. Congress and Library of Congress.


WAR AND THE REALIZATION IT SOLVES NOTHING, HELPS NO ONE,  AND THE PRICE IS HORRIFIC

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