But first he said, "Learn the rules." If you are at that stage of the game (we are all, at all times, students), here are some old and new rules. You can't physically follow all of these, because they conflict, but among them I would hope you'd pick a set just for you. Then write down your thoughts, impressions, and feelings whilefollowing your own rules.
he Hmong (also known as the Meo, or Miao), formerly came from the highlands of southern China, where they had lived for almost two thousand years, tending to their rice paddies in upland valleys, independent of Chinese politics and society. This independence was threatened, however, when the Emperor's court resolved to seize their fertile lands, and to subdue the tribespeople to Peking's authority. Military efforts against the Hmong were nevertheless unsuccessful, so in 1775, the Chinese court invited the Hmong king and his advisors to come to Peking and make peace. Upon their arrival, the members of the Hmong delegation were publicly tortured and executed. There followed a campaign of subjugation against all of the Hmong peoples, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century many had fled into the mountains of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.
Ever since then, the Hmong who had left their homeland have dreamed of having their own kingdom, where they would no longer be oppressed. This dream was kept alive by the difficult conditions they encountered in the new countries they settled in. The lands they arrived in were already occupied, and thus there was nowhere to go except to the tops of the hills and mountains. Paddy farming was not possible in such places, so they adapted themselves to a life of hunting and forest gathering, and clearing and burning the jungle to grow upland crops.
Over the years, there came into being a popular folktale that was soon passed down from one generation to the next. It told of an ancient warrior named Sin Sai, who had defended the first peoples of the earth against evil giants. Once this great undertaking had been accomplished, the legendary hero told the people to stay on top of the mountains to avoid any other evil giants that may come to harm them in the future. He promised that if that should happen, he would come down from the sky with an army of invincible soldiers to help them, and lead them to form a kingdom of their own, where they would be safe and live in peace forever. Then he disappeared in a flash of fire.
This vision of a Hmong Zion had first become an armed movement during the time of the French. The French, finding nothing in Laos that would help pay the costs of administrating her, copied what the British were doing in India, namely, producing opium for export to China to finance their colonial activities. Since the Hmong already grew a little opium for their own medicinal uses, it was inevitable that the French would get the idea of exacting a tax from them - two kilograms of opium per head, for each man, woman and child - to be collected by the authorities, usually lowland Lao officials working in the colonial government. This was a tall order, since you need at least an acre of poppies to produce one kilo of opium. For a family with five kids that meant cultivating fourteen acres of poppies in addition to your food crops! It required an extensive effort that amounted to slave labor. Eventually, however, it became a lucrative endeavor, and contributed greatly to the hill people's subsistence. Nonetheless, the two-kilo tax was quite exorbitant.
There was also the forced conscription of corvee labor to build such things as roads, a mandatory service that was demanded of all the Lao peoples and another issue that incensed the Hmong. The resentment of many of them grew, and in 1917, someone called Baa Chai announced that he was in contact with former Hmong kings, including Sin Sai, and proclaimed himself the first Chao Fa, a Prince of the Sky. For four years, he led a revolt against the French until the rebellion was eventually crushed in 1920.
In 1961, the CIA approached Vang Pao, a Hmong, who at that time was a Major in the regular Royal Lao Army. They had a proposition for him - to lead his own army of Hmong tribesmen in Xieng Khouang, Military Region II. He would work directly with the CIA, and not via the Royal Lao Army commanders. Vang Pao set about recruiting those Hmong who had not yet joined the Pathet Lao. They were easily swayed, flabbergasted, yet elated, that the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America, had come to them, the Hmong, a little known hill-tribe, and had asked them to fight alongside them. The invincible army had at last materialized, and the Chao Fa legend was being transformed into living reality. Xieng Khouang was to be a Hmong nation.
And so it was no surprise that the Hmong called their CIA paramilitary advisors 'Sky Men'. The psy-ops people at CIA Udon appreciated the value of this mythical aura around their operatives, and actively encouraged it. The fact that Air America planes dropped supplies from the sky only reinforced this conviction.
Just like the French, the CIA used opium to finance their 'secret army'. By that time, the fragile economy of the Hmong had become dependent on opium as a cash crop. So helping them sell it was a way of paying them as well. Air America, the CIA airline, would fly it out. Some of the opium was sent to Saigon where it was processed into No 4 grade heroin - 99% pure. Unscrupulous South Vietnamese, including government officials and military officers, sold this heroin to American GI's - the very same soldiers who were sent to the other side of the world to protect them, and many of these boys came home with a monkey on their back.
Helping the Hmong market their opium was not the only aid the US offered. Through the work of USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, food relief was airlifted to the families who had to be relocated to US controlled areas, since the men were busy fighting and could not farm.
The Hmong army formed by the CIA took the brunt of it. In the beginning, the secret army was used for guerilla activities such as intelligence, sabotage, and ambushing supply lines. As the war intensified, they were used more and more as a conventional infantry, fighting set piece battles. This was because the Royal Lao Army of the right-wing politicians, under such people as Poumi Nosavan, gave an abysmal performance on the battlefield. The Royalist soldiers, mostly village youths forcibly conscripted, did not want to fight. Many of the high-ranking officers were nothing more than corrupt warlords, and even withheld the salaries of the troops in their command. The Pathet Lao knew this, and often sent messages to the Royal Lao soldiers, warning them that they were approaching, and advised them to flee the area, which they graciously did. In turn, the Royal Lao guards at the US controlled refugee camps would allow the Pathet Lao to come in and visit their relatives, turning a blind eye to their presence. It was as if no one really wanted to fight and kill each other, only that they were forced to by the powers that be.
On the other hand, the Hmong under Vang Pao had something to fight for, namely, their millennial goal of having their own kingdom in Xieng Khouang. They fought bravely, but with their World War Two M1-carbines given to them by the CIA, they were no match for the Pathet Lao and thousands of battle-hardened North Vietnamese troops carrying AK-47's, and supported by Soviet-made tanks. Towards the end, children under the age of fifteen constituted the bulk of the Hmong fighting force. It was as if the American strategists had used them as cannon fodder, while counting on the air war to achieve victory.
The Secret Army of Vang Pao fought for twelve years, and during that time their dream slowly deteriorated into a nightmare. So many youths were lost that families could only send their little boys to go out and fight, and those that refused were denied food drops. Towards the end of the war, when Sam Thong fell and Long Chieng came under siege, exodus after exodus of human misery poured out of the war zone, knowing the end was at hand. Thirty percent of the fleeing died as they made their way south. This was a suffering beyond all the tribulations they had ever known, greater than the hardships their ancestors had experienced leaving China.
When the US pulled out in 1973 in accordance with the peace agreement, there followed an ominous lull in the fighting. Vang Pao also agreed to disband his army. Go home, he told his soldiers, and they did so, stockpiling their weapons for the inevitable encounter. A few unauthorized skirmishes only increased the tension. So when the Pathet Lao sent troops to secure Sala Pu Koun, the Hmong took up arms to help the Royalists to defend it, it being the access route to the Plain of Jars.
They had no choice, suicidal as it was, but to keep fighting. They would not lay down their weapons, dreading the retribution they would face if they surrendered. Vang Pao's forces were predictably routed, and not long after, Long Chieng was about to be overrun. The US offered to airlift Vang Pao to Thailand, and he in turn requested help in airlifting five thousand of his people to safety. The CIA at Udon, who considered such a demand to be irrational, met this appeal with astonishment and scorn. Only four or so planes were sent. Thousands of Hmong, carrying baskets full of their belongings, battered suitcases, cardboard boxes tied up in strings, babies in their arms, mobbed the planes. It was like a scene out of Titanic, fighting for the lifeboats, with soldiers shooting into the air, people being thrown out of overloaded planes, the last of which slammed its doors and escaped into the air. Vang Pao had already been whisked away and choppered out.
The thousands who were abandoned began their long march to try and get to the Mekong and cross into Thailand, but were met by communist troops at the Hin Heup Bridge and were forcefully dispersed. Many hid in the jungles with arms and formed resistance forces. Thousands of others who made it out of the country ended up in refugee camps in Thailand, where additional resistance operations could be clandestinely sent across the river under the blind eye of the Thai military responsible for the camps.
Without Vang Pao and his top advisors, the resistance fighters required new leaders, and so they turned to the Chao Fa. The Chao Fa resistance established Pu Bia as a base, and the Lao Liberation Army and Vietnamese troops carried out bloody punitive operations against them in the late seventies. These battles scattered the Chao Fa but did not eradicate them. And while they posed no real threat to the government, they were a menace to the populace, ambushing vehicles and killing anyone who crossed their path.
Nowadays, unlike the situation posed in my novel, it is fairly safe to travel just about everywhere in Lao PDR, but there still remnants of the secret army still living in the jungles. You can read a fascinating article by an intrepid NY Times reporter who in 2007 tracked one group down deep in the forested mountains by clicking on this link
Many of them have come down from the mountains and surrendered to the Lao government, while others found their way to refugee camps in Thailand. In 2008, however, a repatriation agreement between the Thai and Lao governments resulted in a mass forced deportation of the people in these camps, and reports of atrocities committed against them by the Lao military spurred activist groups to try and persuade the Thai government to keep granting asylum to the refugees, but to no avail. You can read more about this on the website There is also a link to a very interesting YouTube video "Still a Secret War", which shows the desperate plight of people still waiting for the US to save them and give them a home in America
Is it too often to submit to write by definition and should I shout on the formatting of one conflict essays on the secret river game.
In recognition that there were many other factors that may have contributed to the U.S’s involvement in the conflict in Vietnam, this essay will largely focus on these three factors....