St. Paul Hmong rally in support of Vang Pao

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2007 - 10:00 PM

They called for his release in California, where he was jailed in an alleged plot to overthrow Laos.

More than 500 Hmong-Americans rallied Tuesday in St. Paul in support of Gen. Vang Pao, the legendary guerrilla commander who was jailed this month for an alleged modern-day plot to overthrow Laos.

"General Vang Pao is not a criminal," the crowd chanted outside the State Capitol. "General Vang Pao is not a terrorist."

Wearing white shirts as a symbol of peace, the protesters gathered at noon on the sunny south lawn of the Capitol to call for Vang's release from custody in California. He has been in jail since June 3.

The 90-minute demonstration included several speeches about Vang's standing as a cultural patriarch. He made the Hmong a fearless ally of the United States during the Vietnam War and led a large group of immigrants to America after the fall of Laos in 1975.

"Why have you captured our father?" the protesters chanted. "Why have you captured the general?"

One of the speakers said Vang should be honored -- not arrested -- by the United States.

At 77 and in questionable health, Vang was indicted late last week in Sacramento, Calif., along with 10 other men for allegedly planning to buy about $10 million in illegal weapons to stage a violent, anti-Communist coup in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

Investigators obtained strategies allegedly written by the group, including an outline for a 90-day, $28 million budget for the coup.

The arrests have sparked even larger protests among Hmong groups in California, where Vang and most of the other suspects live.

Mark Reichel, an attorney representing Lo Cha Thao, one of the 11 suspects, said his client and the other defendants were entrapped by a federal undercover agent who claimed to have CIA connections. The group was led to believe that the United States was prepared to help with the overthrow, Reichel said.

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