Lao anti-communist leader Vang Pao dies
January 6, 2011
• Was 81
• ‘An American patriot of the highest order’
Vang Pao, who had been a major general in the Royal Lao Army and an ally of the U.S. during the Vietnam War, died Thursday in Community Medical Center in Clovis.
Mr. Pao was 81. The cause of death was not immediately released, although he had been in the hospital for about ten days with a respiratory ailment.
When communists ousted the government of Laos in 1975, Mr. Pao moved to the United States, settling in the Central Valley. He was seen as a leader of Laotians in the United States.
But he had a taste of the U.S. judicial system when in June 2007 he and nine others were arrested, accused of violating the neutrality laws by plotting a coup against the communist government of Laos.
Two years later, saying it didn’t have a solid case against Mr. Pao, the government dropped all charges against him.
“Gen. Vang Pao was courageous in times of war and a giant in the advocacy of citizenship within the Hmong-American community in times of peace,” says Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. “He displayed the American flag proudly at every community event he held. He was an American patriot of the highest order.”
“The General was a leader in the truest sense of the word," says Assemblyman Henry Perea. "He was a constant champion of freedom, democracy and an example of leadership we can all learn from. He will be missed."