Central Valley men accused of trying to overthrow Laos
June 4, 2007
• Charged with violating neutrality act
• Laos has communist government
• Updated at 7:50 p.m. with additional details
The federal government says it has broken up a purported plot by ten Central Valley residents to overthrow the communist government that rules Laos in Southeast Asia.
The men are charged with violating the neutrality act.
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott says the band of would-be revolutionaries was trying to get its hands on automatic weapons, shoulder-fired missiles and other weaponry.
"The United States cannot provide a safe harbor to those plotting to overthrow a government with whom we are at peace. These defendants flagrantly violated numerous federal laws, including the Neutrality Act, in planning to topple the government of Laos,” says Mr. Scott.
Among those accused are Harrison Jack of Woodland, a former officer in the California National Guard, and prominent Hmong leader Vang Pao of Fresno. Mr. Pao was a general in the Royal Lao Army in the 1960s and 1970s who emigrated to the United States in 1975.
The criminal complaint outlines a series of meetings with an undercover federal agent and conversations among the alleged co-conspirators during which, the government claims, they outlined plans to ship arms to Laos via safe houses and drop zones in Thailand and Laos, and to use those arms to engage in a military operation in Laos.
While the idea of hatching a plot in the Central Valley to overthrow a country thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean may seem outrageous, a Central Intelligence Agency profile of the impoverished country sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand suggests there might not be a lot of organized opposition.
“The Lao People's Armed Forces are small, poorly funded, and ineffectively resourced; there is little political will to allocate sparse funding to the military, and the armed forces' gradual degradation is likely to continue,” it says in its World Factbook.