Given its Scandinavian heritage most non-residents of Minnesota would be surprised to hear that we have the largest Hmong (an ethnic minority in Laos) population outside of the Laos/Vietnam region. So when a pillar of the Hmong community like General Vang Pao (of the Royal Lao Army, retired now at age 77 in Los Angeles, California) was arrested by US authorities earlier this month our local newspapers carried the story.
According to the Pioneer Press (www.twincities.com) newspaper General Vang "led the resistance against the Laotian and Vietnamese communists in a war funded and supplied by the US through the CIA.......In 1975 the war ended..............the CIA ordered General Vang to leave Laos so he emigrated to a ranch in Montana........." General Vang was arrested for his apparent role in securing weapons to lead an overthrow of the communist government in Laos. As reported General Vang violated the USA's "Neutrality Act" --
"November 4, 193976th Congress, 2nd Session, Public Resolution No. 54
To preserve the neutrality and the peace of the United States and to secure the safety of its citizens and their interests."
I was reminded of General Vang's early June arrest today (June 20) due to the front page headline in today's newspaper -- "Hmong Unite Over Vang Pao" -- which noted that over 500 demonstrators, young and old, rallied on our state capitol steps yesterday to support General Vang and to protest his arrest. Since the Vietnam War (and General Vang's active role in it) ended 32 years ago this is a pretty impressive turnout of 500 people on a beautiful summer day in Minnesota for a 77 year old retiree in California!!
My quick scan of the Neutrality Act made it pretty clear that General Vang has violated federal law but as a Cold War Warrior myself I have to ask -- "since our tax dollars funded his war efforts conducted in opposition to the COMMUNIST government of Laos don't we owe him our thanks not a jail cell for his apparent violation of the Neutrality Act?" I do not know Vang personally but given his history as a solid ally of the USA's foreign policy objectives (defeating communism's expansion around the globe) shouldn't he qualify for a presidential pardon and/or our Medal of Freedom instead of a jail term?
Perhaps General Vang should have noted that the USA established "Normal Trade Relations" with Laos in 2004 (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/la.html) thus altering our Cold War relationship with this nation.
US taxpayers should watch General Vang's trial with interest since he is a "former employee" of our intelligence community.