Vang Pao has plenty of support in Hmong community

Rally for Vang
Several hundred people turned out at the state Capitol to rally in support of General Vang Pao, one of 10 people charged in a conspiracy to overthrow the government of Laos.
MPR Photo/Toni Randolph

More than 300 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol, chanting support in both English and Hmong.

The rally came one day after Gen. Vang Pao and nine others pleaded not guilty in a federal court in California to charges that they violated the U.S. Neutrality Act. They're accused of plotting on U.S. soil to overthrow the Communist government of Laos.

"We are so heartbroken," said Nia Zong Thao, who spoke at the rally through a translator. "We want to be here today to remind the U.S. government of who we are and that we respect them, but that we respect and love our leaders as well. And that we want to come together to find a good resolution for us all. And we want to be acknowledged and respected for the things we've done to serve America."

The Hmong were living in the mountains of Laos when the CIA recruited them to help the U.S. during the Vietnam War. They say the Laotian government has persecuted them because of that support.

Sisouk Vang
Gen. Vang Pao's son, Sisouk Vang, greets well-wishers at a rally at the Minnesota Capitol in support of 10 people charged with conspiring to overthrow the government of Laos.
MPR Photo/Toni Randolph

After the war, thousands of Hmong followed Gen. Vang Pao to the U.S. Thousands settled in Minnesota, including Vang, who has a part-time home here. Thao says many of the Hmong still hold the general in high regard.

"Our father, the general, is to us very much like the biblical Moses who led his people from the Red Sea and saved their lives from persecution," Thao said.

Many of those at the rally wore white as a symbol of peace. And speaker after speaker described the Hmong people as peaceful -- not terrorists.

"We believe the general will be cleared of doing anything wrong when this situation is resolved," said Cheupheng Lee, who helped organize the rally. "We trust in the system and believe when all information is out, justice will prevail.'

"We are not terrorists"
Hundreds of people at a Capitol rally in support of 10 people charged with conspiring to overthrow the government of Laos, held signs saying the Hmong people are "not terrorists."
MPR Photo/Toni Randolph

Meanwhile, Gen. Vang Pao is being held without bail in a California jail. He's due back in court later this month.

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